Zambian rock’n'roll – the forgotten story of Zamrock
Zambia’s recent sensational victory in the Africa Cup of Nations made us think of another glorious – but little known – era in the modern cultural history of Zambia: the days of the Zamrock.
The brief history of Zamrock goes like this:
”By the mid 1970s, the Southern African nation known as the Republic of Zambia had fallen on hard times. The new Federation found itself under party rule. Zambia’s then-president engaged what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in a political fencing match that damaged his country’s ability to trade with its main partner. The Portuguese colonies of Angola to the West and Mozambique to the East were fighting their own battles for independence; conflict loomed on all sides of this landlocked nation.
This is the environment in which the catchy – if misleadingly – titled “Zam Rock” scene that flourished in 1970s Zambian cities such as Lusaka and Chingola emerged. Though full of beacons of hope it was a tumultuous time and it’s no wonder that the Zambian musicians taken by European and English influences gravitated to the hard, dark side of the rock and funk spectrum. From the little of the Zambian 70s rock and funk music that has been spread via small blogs and bootlegs – the likes of Chrissy Zebby, Paul Ngozi and the Ngozi Family, and the devastating Peace – we learn that fuzz guitars were commonplace, driving rhythms as influenced by James Brown’s funk as Jimi Hendrix’s rock predominated, and the bands largely sang in the country’s national language, English.”
This is how Now-Again records, the LA based label, describes the history of Zamrock. Luckily, in the past years Now-Again has reissued several of the Zamrock gems, including “Dark Sunrise”, an anthology of the work of Zamrock pioneer Rikki Ililonga as well as several Witch albums.
While Witch was without doubt the most influential of the Zamrock bands, our favourite among the 1970′ies Zambian releases is Amanaz’ record ”Africa”. The psychedelic tracks on the record are excellent and the lyrics is sung both in English and Bemba. This is truly an eclectic mix of African tradition and modernity and post-colonial Western influence.