In his time, Emmanuel Chanda, more commonly known as the African Jagger, “Jagari”, played to sold out stadiums across Africa. Jagari fronted the Zambian psychedelic rock band WITCH, an acronym for ‘We Intend To Cause Havoc’. WITCH had a sound that was a fusion between Western rock ‘n roll and African rhythm and blues. It was by far one of the biggest and most influential psychedelic rock bands that toured across Africa in the 1970’s. Since then, the picture hasn’t been so pretty. All the band members passed away except Jagari. He fell on hard times and became a gemstone miner, sleeping in a tent and working in an open-pit mine near the Congolese Border. In 2010, Jagari was discovered again. Since then, he has rocked stages all over Europe, most recently headlining at the 2018 Endless Daze Music Festival hosted just outside Cape Town.
Jagari, with a new European band behind him, is picking up his guitar and ensuring he lets everyone know what they’ve missed out on. Arguably the best performance at Endless Daze, WITCH knocked the main international acts out of the park. The eclectic sound produced by the performers on stage, combined with Jagari’s relentless energy, had everyone moving and grooving with soul from the start. Cape Town truly saw and felt a piece of what Africa could be. The feeling in the air was one of complete awe and inspiration, praising a man that had once been forgotten. I’d be tempted to say the most memorable moment of the festival was when the entire crowd followed Jagari in soulfully singing “Baby, it’s all right.” There was just this feeling in the crowd that made everyone think ‘Maybe it will all be alright in Africa?’ Because that’s just sometimes what we all have to think to get through the hard times.
WITCH knockin’ the international acts out of the park with true African rock and soul (Photos: Joshua Stein and Chelsea Peter).
The psychedelic rock movement in Zambia, coined as ‘Zam Rock’ grew out of the celebratory fever in the air after Zambia’s independence from the British Empire in 1964. Just three hours before independence was declared, the Zambian Government negotiated a better stake in its copper mines. Following this, the President Kuana began an ambitious nation building plan, constructing schools and making 95% of Zambian music compulsory on the radio. Many British instruments were left behind in Zambia and the combination of Western Rock and African Rhythm was born. Jagari commented on it saying: “When you combine different things, you can call it what you want. We called it Zam Rock.” Quickly, a fresh new sound, Zam Rock, began to fill the alleys and streets of Eastern Africa.
Heavily influenced by the sounds on the street, Jagari says: “We grew up in a multiracial, multicultural mining area. On weekends, we’d attend functions where we experienced Tanzanian rhythms and folk music that we really liked.” While still at school, his friends said he should join WITCH and told him they were holding auditions that Friday or Saturday. They took him to the tuckshop and bought him whatever he wanted, in an attempt to bribe him to join the band. At the audition, the band asked him to play ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ by the Rolling Stones and Jigari’s first thought was “Ah, that’s an easy one.” He nailed it and they continued to play a few more songs until they felt he could be their leading man. The band manager drove him home that night and gave him about 16 Kwacha, equivalent to about 16 pounds at the time. Jagari immediately went to the shop, bought psychedelic shoes and pants with the money and walked face first into the Zam Rock scene.
A collection of photos of WITCH performing in the 1970s (Photo: WITCH Facebook Page)
In 1973, the band recorded its first album called ‘Introduction’ and became the first band in Zambia to release a commercial album. According to Mark Demming from All Music, ‘their first album was fuelled by marijuana and Western rock and soul.’ The band quickly grew in popularity and Emmanuel Chanda, the lead singer soon took on the nickname ‘Jagari’. He got the nickname after crowds at gigs would chant “Jagger, Jagger”, because of how he embodied the stage presence of Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Initially called Jagger, Emmanuel change it to Jagari and quickly became known as the African Jagger. The band hit its stride in 1975 when it released Lazy Bones which sold 7 000 copies in its first week….a feat that seemed impossible for any African band in the 70s. The album has been described as “a masterpiece – not just of Zamrock, but of psychedelic rock in general.” In true rock n’ roll style, Jagari recalls the band being broke, saying “We were given cash for flights but because we weren’t getting paid for our record sales, we kept the money and took the train instead.” Jagari recounts touring Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe saying “By the way, we were being exploited. I only know now from traveling that shows are generally an hour. We were playing for four to five hours at a time!”
The WITCH’s touring van which they used to travel around Africa to play shows (Photo: The Appendix)
At the same time, many ANC Freedom Fighters from South Africa were hosted and trained in Umkhonto we Sizwe camps in Zambia. The South African apartheid government responded by bombing power stations and causing general havoc in the country. Jagari says “We would see lots of victims of bombs being transported to the mortuary or hospital.” Following the bombings, the Zambian government began to run out of power and introduced power cuts and curfews. To make the situation worse, the once booming copper mines in Zambia began to dry up, crippling the economy.
This put a lot of strain on Zam Rock culture with bands having to play daytime shows to avoid the night curfews. Many of the bands in Zambia faded away and while WITCH kept going for a while, it eventually disbanded. Jagari became a music teacher and converted to following the word of God. The rest of the band mates, Mbwebwe, Muma, Mulenga and Sinkala continued to live the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. Following the worsening economic state, the country was hit by the AIDS epidemic which killed all the band members besides Jagari.
Jagari finished his music degree and became a music teacher at the local college but was then falsely arrested for smuggling mandrax. Jagari rejected accusations that he was involved, but was jailed. After coming out of prison, he joined many others in the gem mines in the hopes of getting enough money to pursue his goals in music. “I thought my destiny was to make enough money from gem stone mining to one day start a music school.” In 2010, his fortunes changed again when Chris Smith (a film maker) and his friend, Nick, found Jagari working on a gemstone mine on the Congolese border. He’d been forgotten by the majority of the country and the world, but through it all held strong onto his musical dream.
Since then, he’s toured Europe twice to sold out shows, with the new bass guitarist Stephan Lilov recalling: “When we went to London, the show was sold out. People were singing to the songs. The songs never went out of Africa so for Europeans to sing along to them 45 years later, I could hear they were very emotional.” Jagari describes the situation saying: “Destiny is a funny animal, it keeps following you like a shadow. If God says you’re going to be president one day, you’re going to be president one day.”
WITCH performing to huge audiences on their European Tours (Photos: WITCH Facebook Page)
The new members of the band include Jacco Gardner on Bass, Jay Whitefield on lead guitar, Nic Mauskovic on drums, Stefan Lilov on rhythm guitar and Patrick Mwondela on keys. Patrick first collaborated with WITCH in the late 1970s when he introduced a disco element to WITCH’s music. He has joined the band again because he says: “I felt like we really needed to put something down to inspire future generations in Africa.” The band is as tight as anything, shredding sounds like it’s back in the 1970’. Currently the band is working towards a documentary on Jigari’s documentary coming out in 2019. Thereafter the sky is the limit as they continue to collaborate, tour and produce more music.
Jagari’s story is one for the history books. A man that is the last pioneer for a psychedelic movement that should have rocked the world. He’s a man that’s got heart and for sure a man that has soul. He still feels as passionate as ever about his music saying: “You can only delay a revolution set by God. You cannot stop it. You must let it come out.” And a revolution they are starting, one that screams the soul of Africa to the world and let’s everyone know that Africa is on its way up.
Writer: Sebastian Daniels
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