WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc (2019) | Directed by Gio Arlotta
Colour | 88 Minutes
Written by Gio Arlotta, Tim Spreng | Starring Emmanuel Chanda, Jacco Gardner, Nic Mauskovic
At the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (otherwise known as PZYK) I was introduced to Zamrock – a musical subgenre that combined African rhythm and sound with psychedelic rock – and arguably the most successful Zambian band of the 1970s: WITCH (an acronym for “We Intend To Cause Havoc“).
Under the leadership of charismatic lead vocalist Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda, WITCH dominated the PZYK stage from the moment the band re-introduced themselves during ‘Introduction’. Zamrock, as the name suggests, originated in Zambia during the 1970s; influenced by both American and British bands of the era, like The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc is a rockumentary in the style of Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man. For the uninitiated, Searching for Sugar Man told the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a musician who recorded two albums in the early 1970s. Rodriguez’s music, which had never achieved success in the United States, had become very popular in South Africa – serving as anti-apartheid anthems – and yet, Rodriguez himself was unaware of this success until the mid-1990s through dedicated fans.
Jagari’s story follows a slightly different path… Zambia’s independence in 1964 enabled Zamrock to flourish in the 1970s. The economy was strong and creative freedom could be expressed through fuzz, funk, and psychedelia! WITCH was at the heart of Zamrock and their success was unrivaled. Fans would shout Jagger towards the stage prompting Jagari to give himself his nickname; a playful tribute to Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. There was even talk of a European tour! But by the early 1980s, Zambia’s economy began to collapse; the country’s independence overshadowed by political turmoil and increasing authoritarianism.
Curfews were introduced, so bands were forced to play during the daytime leading to dwindling revenue. WITCH (sans-Jagari who had decided to focus on his family during this time) attempted to reinvent itself; first by incorporating more Disco elements (affectionately known as “Disco WITCH”), and then by incorporating the kalindula musical style. But as the AIDS epidemic swept across Zambia – leaving Jagari as the only surviving member of the classic lineup – WITCH and Zamrock was no more; their fate tied to that of their home country.
Decades later, Zamrock had become largely forgotten by Zambia’s Generation Z and virtually unknown outside of South Africa. But through the efforts of a few dedicated record labels, like Now-Again, western fans of psychedelic rock are beginning to re-discover the subgenre. Indeed, director Gio Arlotta was blown away when he heard WITCH for the first time, and wanted to get Jagari and the band the recognition they deserved.
“I had no idea where Zambia was, or how such incredible music could be recorded there, by what looked like a bunch of misfits.”
In WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc, Arlotta, alongside Dutch musicians Jacco Gardner and Nic Mauskovic, document their search for Jagari in Zambia – found keeping as strong as an ox working as a gemstone miner – and the subsequent reformation of the band. Now a multicultural WITCH, featuring Gardner and Mauskovic, Jagari enlists the help of Victor Kasoma of The Oscillations – wildly regarded as Zamrocks’s Jimi Hendrix – to perform at their first concert in almost 40 years.
This Zambian reunion concert of sorts was the catalyst for Jagari’s return to music. Now joined by Patrick Mwondela of Disco WITCH, the band set up the European tour Jagari had always dreamt about; ending with their performance at the aforementioned Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia.
“My hope has never faded because now I understand how much God loves me. My career doesn’t consider age so much. It’s like wine: the older it is, the better.”
Like Searching for Sugar Man before it, WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc is an essential documentary that not only re-introduces WITCH, but an entire subgenre to a new generation. Arlotta touches upon the history of Zamrock and Zambia’s political landscape in the 1970s/80s, but this is very much the story of Jagari’s personal, often tragic journey and his incredible return to a career he thought he had lost. It is a story of hope and I’m grateful that I was able to experience it through PZYK and Gio Arlotta’s documentary.
Bulldog Film Distribution presents WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc in select cinemas and on demand 2nd July.