On Wednesday, May 17, from 7-10 PM EDT, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio spins ear-searing tracks from more than three dozen Zambian records released ca. 1972-78.
Bookmark the page and see you Wednesday night
"There was a kind of magic here," Emanuel "Jagari" Chanda, lead singer of the legendary band WITCH, has said of Zambia in the 1970s, when he, along with Rikki Ililonga, Paul Ngozi, Zimbabwean-born Teddy Khuluzwa, Keith Mlevhu and dozens of others recorded some of the greatest rock 'n' roll on the planet.
Heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and James Brown (who in 1970 gave culture-shifting performances in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, and in the country's copper mining center, Ndola), participants in Zambia's rock scene may have been further spurred on by an unlikely irritant: President Kenneth Kaunda's decree sometime in the mid- to late-1970s that 95% of music on the radio had to be Zambian. Unable to tune in and get their fix of British and American rock and funk, of Nigerian afrobeat, they had to create more of their own. And, once pressed, a Zambian record was virtually assured air time.
But the country's economy was dependent on copper and, when the price fell in 1974, Zambia slid into debt and living standards fell. In the 1980s, many of those musicians whose careers hadn't yet been silenced by evaporating record sales faced a much greater horror: the AIDS epidemic devastated the local music industry, taking with it the lives of a disproportionate number of Zambia's artists.
It is a history that has made preservation of the music difficult. Few playable copies of even the top acts of the era exist; not even Chanda and Ililonga, the sole survivors of their respective bands WITCH and Musi-O-Tunya, had copies of all of their records when foreigners started showing up in the aughts looking to reissue some of the defining albums.
Since 2010, working with Ililonga, Chanda and other survivors, Now-Again Records has reissued a number of boxed-set retrospectives and single-album titles from the era, including all five WITCH albums before Chandra left the group. Earlier this month they announced the release of Welcome to Zamrock! Vol. 1, with a second volume in the wings for June.
A good portion of what we'll hear on Wednesday comes from these remastered reissues, along with similar efforts by Strawberry Rain and Shadoks, but a number of the tracks we'll hear are from crackly original vinyl shared by bloggers around the world.
What we'll be hearing from:
WITCH, Introduction, 1974
Keith Mlevhu, Love and Freedom, 1976
The Peace, Black Power, 1975
Ngozi Family, 45,000 Volts, 1977
Musi-O-Tunya, Wings of Africa, 1975
5 Revolutions, Instrumental, date unknown
Various Artists, Welcome to Zamrock!, 2017
Rikki Ililonga, Zambia, 1975
Crossbones, Mweba Lume Bandi
Amanaz, Africa, 1975
Dr. Footswitch, Everyday Has Got a New Dream, 1975
Harry Mwale Experience, Harry Mwale Experience with Greg Miyanda, 1978
Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya, Dark Sunrise (The Birth Of Zamrock As Told Through The Music Of Its Pioneer: 1973-1976), 2010
Alex Kunda, Kingdom of Heaven, 1977
Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family, My Ancestors, 1974
Mike Nyoni, I Can't Understand You, 1978
Blackfoot, Youth Power, 1975
Musi-O-Tunya, Give Love to Your Children, 1976
WITCH, Lazy Bones, 1975
The Broadway Quintet, Amalume (Lekani Mowa), 1976
Keith Mlevhu, Banafimbusa, 1976
Ngozi Family, 99% Confusion, 1977
Blackfoot, The Foot Steps, 1978
Teddy Chisi, Funky Lady, 1978
Born Free, Mukaziwa Chingoni, 1975
Cosmos Zani, Humanism, 1976
5 Revolutions, I'm a Free Man, 1976
Paul Ngozi, The Ghetto, 1977
Rikki Ililonga, Sunshine Love, 1976
Ricky Banda, Niwanji Walwa Amwishyo
WITCH, Lukombo Vibes, 1976
WITCH, We Intend to Cause Havoc!, 2012
Ngozi Family, Day of Judgement, 1976
Salty Dog, Salty Dog, 1976
Crossbones, Wise Man, 1976
Blackfoot, Millie, 1976
Witch, Including Janet, 1977
Chrissy Zebby Tembo, Chrissy Zebby Tembo