October 17, 2023

WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc)

Mistletone is honoured to present Zamrock legends WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc), making their glorious debut with a sold out Australian tour!

THURSDAY MARCH 7: MELBOURNE – BRUNSWICK MUSIC FESTIVAL @ Estonian House with special guests Squid Nebula. SOLD OUT!
SATURDAY MARCH 9: GOLDEN PLAINS FESTIVAL, Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre. 
SUNDAY MARCH 10 + MONDAY MARCH 11 @ WOMADELAIDE, Botanic Park / Tainmuntilla. Tickets on sale here.

WITCH is back, and the magic of its wild Zambian funk-rock, ‘Zamrock,’ is intact” – CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“The Zamrock pioneers still sound like the future” – PITCHFORK

Once upon a time, WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc) ruled Zambia. Dubbed ‘the Beatles of Zambia’ in the 1970s for their immense popularity, the band responsible for pioneering ‘Zamrock’ — a riotous rock’n’roll sound infused with heavy African percussion — often needed police to control the crowds riled up by lead singer, Jagari (whose name is an Africanisation of Mick Jagger’s).

As the AIDS crisis destroyed the country’s flourishing music scene, WITCH fell apart. The iconic ensemble is survived by Jagari, who, after decades in obscurity, was brought back into the public eye following a discography reissue by Now Again Records. Since 2017, the frontman has been returning WITCH to the stage and reviving and re-invigorating Zamrock with a new lineup that is international and inter-generational., . The brilliant new WITCH album ‘Zango’ — which perfectly soundtracked this and all summers — was their first in nearly four decades.

Spearheaded by WITCH, Zamrock fuses influences from the Rolling Stones to Black Sabbath and James Brown, mixing them with traditional African rhythms and bush village songs.

Jagari is the charismatic sole surviving original member of the band. When things fell apart, Jagari retreated to a life of quasi-anonymity as a university music professor, before being wrongfully arrested during Zambia’s toughest hour. He spent much of his 60s mining gemstones, hoping to strike it rich, with the band being just a nostalgic memory of his youth; until WITCH finally got the exposure they deserved in the 2010s.

The most incredible thing about the mighty WITCH is that the story isn’t over yet. To recap the story’s beginnings in the 1960s; As idolisers of British and American rock stars, Jagari and his friends clung to copies of Melody Maker, as the sounds of British radio permeated cities like Lusaka. By the mid-’70s, they were at the centre of an explosive scene performing their own brand of riotous rock-and-roll music, infused with percussive African rhythms and a world-is-ours mentality. WITCH became infamous for their seven-hour live shows and incendiary on-stage antics. The band fizzled out in 1977, and had a brief disco-inspired metamorphosis in the ‘80s, but by the mid-decade, that too was in decline. And Zamrock —still an obscurity in the West —was already but a figment of the past.

The unexpected revival came in 2011, when Now-Again Records reissued a career-spanning collection of WITCH’s music. It would be the first time their work was widely available outside of the band’s native Zambia —though, sadly, by this point, most of the original line-up had died from AIDS and other illnesses.

Crate-diggers and connoisseurs went wild, inspiring filmmaker and fan Gio Arlotta (today the band’s manager) to journey into Africa to find the original band’s last surviving member. Gio’s subsequent film, titled ‘WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc’, was released in 2019 —it documents the reincarnation of the band with a new line-up ahead of their first-ever live shows in Europe and America.

With great acclaim received from international festivals and cinema audiences, and with the new WITCH fulfilling Jagari’s long-harboured dream of performing to fans all over the world, this Zamrock legend finally confirmed its place in rock’s history books.

That could have been the end of the story — but, incredibly, there’s now a new chapter. Empowered and inspired by the rapture at shows in London, Los Angeles and Lusaka — and festivals like SXSW, Desert Daze and Green Man — WITCH veterans Jagari and Patrick, both now in their musical prime in their ‘70s, returned to the studio in 2021 with an international consortium of players from the new live band. The album ‘Zango’ tells the story of the band’s phoenix-like rebirth into its current supergroup-like state —and the spell of Zamrock has lost no power despite its years of dormancy.

In a move that mirrors Jagari’s guest appearance on her new album ‘As Above, So Below’, Zambian rapper Sampa The Great provides vocals on the sensational ‘Avalanche of Love’. Keith Kabwe, former bandleader and vocalist of Amanaz — another beloved band of the era — is another notable guest. In that sense, ‘Zango’ sees WITCH come full circle —offering an inter-generational meeting between some of the most important Zambian musical artists past and present.

Album closer ‘Message from WITCH’ sees the band come full circle in another way. The song is effectively a sequel to the self-titled opening track of the band’s first album ‘Introduction’ —which introduced listeners to bassist “Giddy King” Mulenga, drummer “Star MacBoyd” Sinkala, keys player Paul “Jones” Mumba, lead guitarist Chris “Kims” Mbewe, and rhythm guitarist John “Music” Muma in 1972. This 2023 sequel now speaks of erasing homophobia, shattering anti-semitism and conquering xenophobia. Zamrock resurrected.

“You feel a huge responsibility with the weight of this musical history on your shoulders,” Jacco concludes. “I mean, it’s a WITCH record –it’s a huge honour to be able to do this project and actually be a part of the creative process in Zambia with local musicians. It’s something we feel enormously grateful for and inspired by.”

Of course, it is this melting pot of ideas, experiences and musical tastes that really makes this album so rewarding on the whole. “We tried to accept everyone’s ideas, to pool them together, experiment, and see what happens,” says Jagari. “The new players have their own taste, their own feel, and their own experience to match with the old-school Zamrock. The result is what you hear on Zango.

“And that’s where the album’s title comes from — Zango means ‘meeting place’,” Jagari explains. “Every village [in Zambia] will have this central place, where villagers meet to prepare for work, where youngsters go to learn, where the young ones learn from the elder folks, and where the visitors come and converge. It’s an institution, a place where people are welcomed, and where people come for research. It speaks to our band and its various backgrounds and countries. We are at our own meeting point with our music.”

More than just an apt descriptor for the album itself, Zango confirms WITCH’s rejuvenation and triumphant re-emergence. As Jagari says himself on the album’s closing track, it’s “like the story of the phoenix, the bird from the ashes“: Zamrock has resurrected from its decades-long slumber.

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