Zambian psych-rock quintet Witch, the name an acronym for We Intend to Cause Havoc, are an act whose catalog has languished in obscurity for more than three decades, only recently unearthed with the reissue of second album Lazy Bones!! in mid-2010. Chalk this up to the small distribution, low budgets and unknown names of the 1970s Zambian rock scene, which only recently has even been acknowledged for its curious discoveries, if not historical significance. Yet that Witch’s music is being released at all is a step in the right direction, as the newly reissued first album Introduction clues Afro-rock enthusiasts and newcomers alike to just how greatly the Zam-rock scene differed from the disco, Afrobeat and highlife circles happening in neighboring countries.
Witch’s Introduction, which kicks off with an acid rock jam called “Introduction,” is far less indebted to the highlife or palm wine roots so deeply embedded in African music of the era. Instead, Witch is most strongly influenced by the British Invasion and psychedelic rock sounds of 1960s U.K. and America, and feature vocals exclusively in English, for that matter. In fact, given no information about the band, one would be hard pressed to identify this as an African band based on anything other than vocalist Emanyeo Jagari Chanda’s accent.
The lo-fi, scrappy nature of Introduction gives it a raw, garage rock feel, and any number of the tracks included here could fit in comfortably on a Nuggets compilation, or a mixtape with the Rolling Stones, Os Mutantes, the Sonics and early Pink Floyd. Despite the album’s fidelity, however, its songs are simple, yet fun, driven by jangly guitars and trippy organ riffs. “See Your Mama” carries along with good-time swagger, while “Like a Chicken” features the catchiest hooks of this nine-song set. Particularly noteworthy is “No Time,” a hard grooving standout that closes the album with a heavy, mesmerizing bassline and fuzzy riffs aplenty.
Introduction is the product of low-end studio recordings and a much smaller budget than those of Witch’s predecessors, yet with these humble means, the band still turned out something worth restoring and savoring 37 years down the line. North America’s discovery of Zambian pop music has come slowly, but with gems like Introduction arising after years of pop culture excavation, the continuing search is certainly paying off.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.