Witch – We Intend To Cause Havoc
“I was running a label called Stones Throw at the time, and one of our artists – a Canadian named Koushik – told me about a friend of his who lived outside of Toronto named Adam, who had spent time in Zambia. He had this crazy melange of records he’d found, from folkloric music recorded with drum machines to Paul Ngozi’s proto-punk” – Eothen Alapatt (Now Again Records)
The way in which we discover music is always interesting. It can be through your parents’ record collection, a friend from work or in the depths of a night out in some sweaty club in Berlin. Eothen Alapatt and Gio Arlotta both discovered the music of Zambian Rock gods ‘Witch’ through a friend, but both would play an integral part in bringing the sound of 1970’s Zambia to a younger, western audience. One would reissue the record and the other would go on to direct the documentary focussing on the trials and tribulations of the band and its lead vocalist, Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda.
We caught up with Gio Arlotta a few days before the premiere of his debut documentary, ‘Witch – We Intend To Cause Havoc’.
“Well, basically it started in 2012. Randomly a friend of mine sent me a song by Witch. The song was, “Strange Dream”. I heard it and I was completely blown away. I listen to a lot of psychedelic rock and stuff like that but that sound had something different that I couldn’t quite place. Then when I saw it was made in Zambia, I didn’t even know where Zambia was or that such music could be created there in the ’70s.”
A few years later work would find Gio travelling across Africa documenting the launch of a new car and it just so happened that they would be going through Zambia. He’d spent months tracking down the members of the Witch only to find out that there was only one surviving member, Emanuel “Jagari” Chandri. The rest of the bad had fallen victim to Aids throughout the ’80s. A true African tragedy.
Eventually, Arlotta would make it to Zambia and spend a few weeks with Chandri. They explore the music, places, and people who were significant to the rise of Witch.
New instruments being introduced into the country just before the end of colonial rule, social upheaval in neighbouring countries and the first president, Kenneth Kaunda issuing a decree that all music on Zambian radio must be of Zambian origin were contributing factors to the creation of the ‘Witch’ sound.
Witch’s live sets were the thing of legend. The country was going through a particularly fruitful period and many people had money to spend on going out. Witch would play from 8pm to 4am. In the late ’70s, Disco came along. People stopped going to see live bands and would just go and watch a DJ. You could say Disco killed Zamrock.
Upon returning from Africa, Arlotta spoke with friends in the film industry about the story. They agreed, it was a story worth exploring. It would take years to realise the dream of turning this email into a documentary.
The documentary debuts on the 8th of May at the Lisboa Film Festival. Arlotta hopes that one day you will be able to see the documentary and then, like him, dance to Witch.