DESERT DAZE SOUND
Chances are you’ve heard the term “Jamrock,” thanks to Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley’s GRAMMY-winning song (and album) Welcome to Jamrock, released nearly two decades ago. But you probably haven’t heard of “Zamrock,” the strain of psych-rock that hails not from Jamaica but Zambia.
WITCH were—and are—indefatigably trying to bring broader appeal to the loosely defined Zambian genre, which also incorporates elements of blues and funk. The group formed in 1972, quickly becoming the country’s biggest band, working in musical styles ranging from soul to disco to kalindula (a bass-centric sound popular in southern-central Africa). WITCH dissolved the following decade due to the country’s political and economic turmoil. Then they re-formed in 2012 thanks to reissues of their albums sparking a new wave of popularity. And, by recruiting musicians from various European countries, WITCH effectively reconfigured themselves into a broader acid-funk ensemble.
After noticing the success of their reissues, WITCH finally created Zango, their first collection of new material in 39 years (take that, ABBA, Parliament, and William Shatner). Despite all the lineup changes over the years—not to mention technological advancements—WITCH set forth on a record that’s coherent, far-reaching, and composed—not just in terms of songwriting, but in the musicians’ relaxed delivery throughout the listen. Giving the band its gold star, Zango also showcases the fluidity with which they segue from genre to genre, often on the same song. “Avalanche of Love” includes a passage that calls Black Sabbath’s rhythm section to mind. “These Eyes of Mine” is, simply put, a really fun tropicália tune.
The album closes with “Message from W.I.T.C.H.,” which acts as a cheat sheet of sorts for those who don’t get what Zango is all about: “Zamrock has resurrected from his decades-long slumber into new mixes,” lead vocalist Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda says. “The message our music carries is sharper than the mightiest sword, hits deeper than any bullet can. It unites beliefs, conquers xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism—embraces every race. It’s blind to color. It is sweeter than honey. The word, or message, is ‘love.’ Taste it.”