WITCHLabel: Now Again Records
NOW-AGAIN RECORDS IS SET TO RELEASE WITCH'S MOVIN' ON/KUOMBOKA ON JANUARY 21ST, 2014.
The legendary Zambian band’s disco/boogie years. Contains the entirety of their two rare albums: 1980-1984.
From the sampling of Zambian ’70s rock, funk, soul and folk music on this label — Rikki Ililonga and Musi-O-Tunya’s Dark Sunrise and Give Love To Your Children alongside WITCH’s We Intend To Cause Havoc! — we know that fuzz guitars were commonplace, driving rhythms as influenced by James Brown’s funk as Jimi Hendrix’s rock predominated, musical themes were often bleak, and that bands largely sang in the country’s constitutional language, English (though occasionally they would pepper their albums with songs in some of Zambia’s local dialects, of which Nyanja and Bemba are probably the most common). This is the music that came from the scene referred to as Zamrock.
Left out of our Zamrock investigation, for stylistic reasons as well as logistical concerns, were albums released after Zamrock’s heyday, when the music of ‘80s Zambia came to be influenced by disco and rhumba from neighboring Congo. Bands that didn’t adapt sounded outdated. Thus even Zamrock’s greatest band, WITCH, splintered, with a skeleton crew of core members embracing younger musicians to record and release two albums that found the band replacing fuzz guitars with whirling synthesizers and trying their hand at soul, disco and boogie.
According to Patrick Mwondela, the keyboardist on these albums and the only member of the later WITCH still living, the influences on the band had grown beyond the earlier pull of the Rolling Stones, Grand Funk Railroad and Deep Purple to include the Bee Gees, Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang and Michael Jackson. The band privately issued these two albums – Movin’ On in 1980, Kuomboka in 1984 – in small quantities before a dearth of gigs and the large ensemble’s overhead caused them to disband, sometime in 1985.
Zambian music researcher Leonard Koloko calls these later WITCH albums “of international standard and genius” and, superlatives aside, these recordings sound as good as anything coming out of London and Lagos’ international recording circles of the time. Though but a decade separated the first and last WITCH albums, the recording capabilities of most nations in sub-Saharan Africa by 1984 had caught up with the rest of the world. Finally, fans of the WITCH’s arch can listen to, and acknowledge, the breadth of this great band and assess for themselves the recordings of both of WITCH’s incarnations.