It’s 1972 in the central-southern African country of Zambia, it’s 8 years since president
The music playing came to be categorised as ‘Zamrock’, a destinctive style of Psychedelic Rock written, performed and recorded by bands based in the country’s Copper Belt. Their influences came from artists they were exposed to by British settlers such as James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as well as bands like The Rolling Stones and The Who, all of whom are clearly heard when you tune in to the sounds of the Zamrock scene.
What can’t be measured is the character that is contained within these recordings. These aren’t just regurgitations of some of the worlds most imitated artists, but a whole genre on its own, one that takes influence from traditional Zambian instruments, occasionally uses local dialects (Nyanja, Bemba) and tackles social issues.
We take a look at, arguably, Zamrock’s three biggest bands by way of introduction to this rich and deeply interesting scene. Sit back and enjoy.
Also known as We Intend To Cause Havoc if you not into that whole brevity shit, could be considered the fathers of ‘Zamrock’. Formed in 1971 in Zambia’s second largest city of Kitwe, under a different name, they were the first band to release an EP titled WITCH, triggering a number of Zambian labels (Teal Records, Zambia Music Parlour) to start signing up local bands.
The WITCH line up changed frequently in the early days and featured and
WITCH’s records have an amazing raw, honest ‘surf rock’ style, with shredding guitar riffs, rich, melodic guitar solos and rhythmic keyboard lines all backed by simple but fitting driving drum beats. Records like ‘Introduction’ showed off lead singer Emmanuel Jagari’s distinctive voice and vamp influence from the king himself James Brown.
One of Zamrock’s more psychedelic bands, The Peace, as the name would suggest possessed a free, 60s, ‘summer of love’ influence which they match with poignant lyrics often commenting on the issues of the time. Formed in the early 1970s in Kitwe with ex-members of WITCH and The Boyfriends their only record Black Power was released in 1975, a time when the countries copper trade had suffered as a result of the global commodity price
The final track, which you’ll find below on the accompanying mixtape, ‘I Have Got No Money’, wouldn’t feel out of place coming from any British or American band in the mid-60s. It’s a gorgeous long and lingering track which, despite this, still seems to end too soon. With an incredible melodic vocal hook, it tells the story of broken love, likely reflecting the countries hard times, whilst the much faster paced second track on the mixtape and title track from the album Black Power demonstrates much more energy and vigor but without losing any of the band;’s beautiful musicality.
Ngozi Family, ‘Ngozi’ meaning danger, is again comprised of a number musicians who crop up in other bands or solo projects, bandleader, singer and lead guitarist Paul Ngozi, who would later go on to record his own solo project, Chrissy Zebby Tembo, whose name sometimes features in the band name on some recordings, on drums, Peter Bwalya on rhythm guitar and Tommy Mwale on bass.
Ngozi Family have a frantic, lo-fi, abrupt and almost Punk quality to their records. Paul Ngozi sings in both local dialects, like the fourth track on the accompanying mix ‘
Their musicality is somewhat simplistic with basic, fuzzy and repetitive guitar riffs, uncomplicated drum beats and catchy vocals, almost embodying the danger reference in their name. There is an honesty to all the recordings on their album Judgement Day that you would expect coming from a scene with a history like that of the
But, we could go on for hours about the ins and outs of what could be one of the most underrated sub-genres of music but it’s best to just plug in and listen to the sound of Zambia from the 1970s.
By Jake Schneider