Legendary Zamrock originators WITCH share the b-side of their latest 7” vinyl Waile: “Waile (Midnight Version)”.
WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc, to give them their full name) released seven albums during the ’70s and early ’80s and were the biggest band in Zambia throughout that era. They founded the ‘Zamrock’ movement, which mixes traditional African rhythms with heavy psychedelic rock, blues, funk, and garage. The reformed band features original lead singer Emmanuel ‘Jagari’ Chanda and the synth wizard responsible for their 80s disco resurgence: Patrick Mwondela.
WITCH veterans Jagari and Patrick, both now in their musical prime in their 70s, returned to the studio in 2021 with an international consortium of players from their new live band. They include Dutch multi-instrumentalist and solo artist Jacco Gardner, drummer and fellow Dutchman Nico Mauskoviç (Mauskoviç Dance Band), Bulgarian guitarist Stefan Lilov (L’Eclair), and German guitarist Jan Weissenfeldt – aka ‘JJ’ Whitefield (Poets of Rhythm). “Waile” bears testament to the band’s phoenix-like rebirth into its current supergroup-like state — and the spell of Zamrock has lost no power despite its years of dormancy.
“Waile (Midnight Version)” was created while touring the UK in 2022 between soundchecks. Jacco Gardner takes up the story: “To do it fast, we basically just muted some of the original stems and tried some stuff on top of that with the tools we happened to have with us while being on the road. We wanted to keep it close to the original song, while adding a bit of an edge to it.
Nico had just bought an electronic bongo unit he found in an instrument shop we passed by, which had some cool electronic drum sounds. I had a small analog synth module with me, hoping to make some new sounds on the road. We did a first take with these and then added the other instruments on top with the rest of the band. Patrick added some of his regular epic virtuose synth shredding, and after a week or so of very sporadically doing 10 minute recording sessions it was done, and I just had to mix it all. I feel like some of the UK atmosphere we felt definitely made it into the track.”
The single “Waile” is built on a xylophone groove, with feverish bass, storm-cloud fuzz and funk guitars conjured around it. The track marauds through percussive rhythms into guitar solos and heavy snare fills, with powerful female choral refrains shifting the mood from triumph to anguish. Jagari’s lyrics touch on the struggles entwined in the histories of migrants in Zambia, Angola, the Congo and other nearby countries: “there’s a lot of death, sickness, poverty, and misery,” he says. “The song is lamenting that pitiful situation, that’s the Waile — it’s a word in the Lunda and Luvale language.”
“Waile was one of the songs that I brought to the WITCH when I joined in 1978” continues keys genius Patrick Mwondela. “While it was played live often back in the day, it was never recorded until the new formation of the band picked it up 43 years later during a rehearsal on an island in Kenya, where the band embraced it and made it their own. A few months after that, they gave it a new lease of life by recording it in Lusaka’s legendary dB Studios (site of the original WITCH 70s recordings). Sang in my native language Luvale, the subject matter is a nostalgic wailing for home of ancient African tribes that would eventually settle in Zambia.”