In our collection of letters from African journalists, Ismail Einashe goes in search of some well-known glam rockers who altered Zambia’s songs scene.
A single Friday evening I found myself at the Alliance Française in Lusaka, Zambia’s money, for a stay concert by Albatross Muf Rockers – a veteran Zamrock band taking part in hits from the nineteen seventies.
Zamrock was unique and outlined musical tastes in the southern African country at the time.
Musicians in Lusaka and the Copperbelt fused common African appears with psychedelic rock and funk, drawing inspiration from nineteen seventies superstars this kind of as Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles and James Brown.
Zamrockers designed their very own extraordinary information and sang primarily in English, but also in regional languages these types of as Bemba and Tonga.
Preferred Zamrocker bands integrated Amanaz, The Peace, Ngozi Family and Witch (an acronym for “We Intend To Cause Havoc”), which was one of the most effective-known bands of the Zamrock era with lead singer Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda – frequently dubbed Zambia’s first rock star.
Witch is now making the most of broader charm with their tune Residing in the Previous – as it recently featured in the HBO superhero series Watchmen.
Afros, funk and black ability
Zamrockers made songs about the periods they were being dwelling in. Bands this sort of as The Peace, shaped in a township in Kitwe, the coronary heart of the Copperbelt, in the early nineteen seventies, explored race, ability and self-perseverance.
Their track, Black Ability, centered on a post-colonial African craving for flexibility and the lyrics spoke for “the black persons, for the negroes in The usa”, capturing that radical 1970s movement for pan-black self-dedication and economic empowerment from Africa to the United States.
It was also all about the manner – no musical movement is complete devoid of it – and the Zamrockers did not disappoint. They wore fluorescent colours, bell-base denims and daring kinds influenced by the funk-rock visible playbook complete with Hendrix-fashion Afros.
Zamrock flourished in the put up-colonial era – Zambia received independence in 1964 below President Kenneth Kaunda and sought to carve out its possess political, social and financial long term.
Mr Kaunda passed a legislation that 95% of new music performed on radio stations need to be of Zambian origin.
It turned an era of rapid transform that also saw the youthful country build its very own cultural identification.
Nevertheless the roots of Zamrock may possibly have been designed in The united states, the audio was distinctly Zambian.
Compared with its neighbours landlocked Zambia managed to avoid war and conflict and grew economically mainly because of its huge copper wealth, which noticed the country appreciate a single of the greatest per capita incomes in Africa.
This relative peace and security gave young Zambians the house to forge their possess musical identity.
But by the late 1970s this unique Zamrock scene – that was daring and dynamic – died out and disappeared into rock background.
The drop of Zamrock came speedily as Zambia expert an economic collapse from the oil disaster and plummeting copper rates.
Musical preferences experienced plainly shifted in Zambia – and in frequent with other younger Africans the musical selection now was hip-hop and R&B”
Many of the musicians vanished from the scene or went back to function – some returned to mining.
And this was all in advance of the 1980s HIV/Aids crisis, which devastated Zambia and led to the deaths of several musical abilities.
Now many years on, I required to see if there ended up any remnants of this glorious era even now visible in Zambia – any echoes of this small-lived creative increase.
A lot more on Zambia
I made a decision to go in search of Zamrock. I arrived in Lusaka on a humid night. Minor distinguished it from other key cities on the continent: there have been malls in all places, targeted traffic-clogged streets and the continual hum of construction.
It was challenging to picture that this town was at the time the beating coronary heart of Zamrock.
The sounds I heard on radios and in bars were being typically industrial dance tunes.
Musical tastes experienced clearly shifted in Zambia, where the median age is just 16.9 a long time – and in typical with other young Africans the musical selection now was hip-hop and R&B.
It was clear that Zamrock had lengthy been overlooked by most Zambians.
Outside the house Zambia there have been makes an attempt to recapture this period with file labels these types of Now-Once again Records reissuing some of the greatest Zamrock albums of the period these kinds of as people by Amanaz and Witch.
And in Zambia bands these types of Albatross Muf Rockers continue to conduct to preserve the Zamrock reminiscences alive.
Listening to them that night in the not likely setting of the Alliance Francaise – and hearing the enthusiasm with which they performed their guitars and drums – it was akin to time travel.
For a quick minute I felt like I experienced been transported back again – head banging – to the warmth and vibe of these golf equipment, bars and musical joints of 1970s Lusaka.
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