We’re honoured that highly renowned film writer and lecturer Mike Catto (BBC Radio Ulster) has chosen to preview a selection of Docs Ireland titles. Next up is, ‘WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc’.
‘WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc’
Directed by Gio Arlotta
My total and complete knowledge (i.e., virtually nothing) of Zamrock, was hearing some of WITCH’s music on the radio and learning that the band’s name is an acronym for “we intend to cause havoc”. That’s why I just had to watch the screener of the 2019 film.
The term Zamrock covers a relatively short period in the 1970s when indigenous Zambian musicians fused something fresh out of listening to imported UK R&B, funk, psychedelic sounds, early Garage and adding local flavours. In Zambian terms, WITCH were superstars, and as the country itself lurched from one political crisis to another in the 70s, Zamrock became even more popular. The scene evaporated in the 80s due to imported disco music on record.
In 2014 the Italian photographer Gio Arlotta had an epiphany on hearing old albums by WITCH. He and two young Dutch musicians travelled to Zambia intent on rediscovering the scene, the best known group and making a ‘re-discovery’ doc.
Problem. Several members of the original WITCH line up were dead. The very much alive, vibrant lead singer, Emanyeo Chanda (stage name ‘Jagari’ in honour of a certain Mick J.) had subsequently served jail time, had had a religious conversion, and was working as quartz miner.
Another problem for Arlotta, was that no-one could find any original footage of WITCH’ sell out gigs. Sound, YES, moving pictures, NO.
This perhaps explains why this film (happy ending, Jagari and a ‘new’ WITCH lineup get a successful European tour) is a bit of a dog’s dinner. Jagari and a few old mates remember (sometimes) the Good Old Days. Young Zambians form a new line-up and almost have to be taught Zamrock from scratch. And the lack of visual material ( other than original LP cover art and posters) from WITCH’s heyday doesn’t help. At times it’s almost like some of those still playing 60s groups who maybe have one original member left, crossed with, ahem, a WITCH tribute band.
But despite all that there is a boisterous energy to hearing the old music and what the new band are making.