OK, so you’re interested in culture, but just how much DO you really know about Zambian prog-rock? I confess I knew absolutely nothing about this musical genre until WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc landed unexpectedly in my in-tray, but if I came to scoff, I left converted; there’s real craft to WITCH, and the story behind this band is lovingly told in this lively documentary by Gio Arlotta.
Who were WITCH? The band were a big deal back in the 70’s, specifically in Zambia, but also across Africa and with admirers worldwide who dug the sound that came to be known as ‘zamrock’. Formed with the influence of The Rolling Stones to the fore, WITCH showed remarkable staying power, demonstrating mastery of various kinds of rock, and even going disco as the 80’s progressed. Gio Arlotta sets out to find the remaining members, and sets up a reunion concert, which turns into a tour, and generally allows us to enjoy the kind of musical come-back that only a beloved band can hope to enjoy.
It certainly helps that lead singer Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda is fighting fit; taking a lead from the perennially lithe Mick Jagger, he’s been working in diamond mines for decades, and seems strong as an ox on the evidence here. Other members have sadly departed this earth, but a few friends and connections remain, and part of the charm here is the ‘putting the band back together’ vibe. It’s also interesting to see Arlotta digging into tv archives to find old footage from Zambian tv show, unearthing some vintage James Brown in the process. One of the most enjoyable cinematic events I ever presented as a compere was the comeback tour of mighty rockers Anvil, who played live after the screenings of Sasha Gervasi’s documentary about their wilderness years; finding myself rocking on-stage with the band gave me a retro rush, and even though WITCH were not part of my own musical education, they’re a similar blast from the past.
An essential documentary about Zambian psychedelic rock, Gio Arlotta’s film takes you from novice to expert in ninety minutes. It’s a fascinating, upbeat story about a ground-breaking 70’s musical sensation that you were almost certainly unaware of, but even if you don’t fancy the big screen right now, with this film just a few clicks away on digital demand, there’s no excuse for failing to get down with WITCH, and burn, baby, burn.
Bulldog Film Distribution presents WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc in select cinemas and on demand 2 July. Thanks to Witchfinder PR for early access.