|Stylistic origins||Rock, Funk, Kalindula|
|Cultural origins||1970s, Copperbelt|
Zamrock (Zambian rock) is a music genre derivative of Western psychedelic rock re-innovated by Zambian youth in the early 1970s. It was a mix of local Kalindula sounds with funk rhythms and heavy, bluesy and psychedelic rock, usually sung in English.
After Zambia gained its independence from the British in 1964, the nation's broadcaster, Zambia Broadcasting Services (ZBS) was established. As a way of promoting local music, President Kenneth Kaunda passed a law that at least 95% of music on the radio had to be of Zambian origin. This policy was instrumental in bringing many artists on the scenes and a number of bands were formed.
In early 1970s, Zamrock emerged in Zambia as a dual influence of Jimi Hendrix's psychedelic rock and James Brown's funk. Later, many of the Zamrock bands were highly influenced by the heavy repetitive riffs of bands like Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Cream. Rikk & Musi-O-Tunya are generally credited as the creators of this music genre. Other notable artists include The Witch, The Peace, Amanaz, Chrissy "Zebby" Tembo, Paul Ngozi and his Ngozi Family among others.
It was a psychedelic period marked by social upheavals, flares, fluorescent colours, flamboyant hairstyles, generational differences, and powerful music.
Style and influence
Zamrock was considered as aggressive and came to embody the economic despair that followed the 1973-1974 oil crisis, which flung Zambia into recession and exacerbated a wide range of social tensions.The music style also captured the controversy of wider politics in Africa and the world. Paul Dobson Nyirongo, guitarist and one of the founding members of Musi-O-Tunya – believed by many to be the first ever Zamrock group – and a member of the band Ngozi Family, for example, went by the stage name 'Paul Ngozi', meaning "danger". Meanwhile, one of the most loved bands of the era was called The W.I.T.C.H., an acronym for 'We Intend To Cause Havoc'.
Zamrockers were considered hippies and eccentrics: One legendary gig by the band Amanaz in 1974, reportedly saw the singer jumping out of a coffin wearing a skeleton suit with flared trousers.
By the late 1970s, the glow had faded. Inflation and unemployment spiked as the price of copper fell. Music bootlegging was on the rise, and money to record and tour dried up. People preferred to spend on their livelihood rather than buy music records or attend concerts. Tastes were changing, too, as disco spread like a plague across the country. Jagari, who had been attending college since 1977, left the band in 1980 to become a full-time music teacher in Lusaka then a miner. He married his wife, Grace, in 1983 and struggled to support a growing family on a teacher's salary.
Musical piracy hit Zamrock artists hard, and with no safeguards in place, bootleggers in neighbouring countries were able to make money by copying and selling the music of Zambian artists. Many Zamrock bands were disbanded and musicians thus left the profession to find other work to sustain themselves and their families.
The Zamrockers lived an extravagant lifestyle, but were very ignorant of the dangers of HIV and AIDS. Back then the disease was completely unknown – other than as something that only affected homosexuals. This led to the demise of most artists.
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- Documentary: ‘Zamrock Survivors’ w/ Emmanuel Jagari of WITCH & Rikki Ililonga Okayafrica, 8 June 2013
- WITCH on Dusted Magazine (Apr. 15, 2010)
- Why Zamrock is back in play The Guardian, 22 July 2013
- Zamrock: An Introduction Red Bull Music Academy Daily
- The Witch: “Up From The Underground“