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Digging Deeper - An Interview with Emmanuel 'Jagari' Chanda of WITCH

For this week's 'Digging Deeper' Heather had the opportunity to speak to Emmanuel (Jagari) Chanda from the legendary Zambian rock group WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc).

WITCH took the stage in the 1970's, finding fame in Zambia and the surrounding Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Tanzania. Following the release of five albums, and three 45's, the band ventured in to funk and disco, before going their separate ways in the 1980s. 
Thanks to Now Again Records, the WITCH LP's are available once again. WITCH has regained popularity in the West, teaming up with Jacco Gardner and Nic Mauskovic for festivals and tours around the Globe. Jagari is the last surviving member of the original WITCH line-up. 

Mr Bongo Digging Deeper - WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

- First of all let’s talk a bit about you, for those aren’t familiar with Jagari Chanda. What role do you play in WITCH and how did the group form? 

In the band WITCH I was the front man, I still am in the reformed WITCH (vocalist). I was a composer and co-writer of most of the WITCH songs. The band came from its fore-runner "Kingstone market". Two members carried on (Chris Mbewe and myself) – other members came to join in from other bands (John and Gideon came from the Boyfriends - later to be known as "The Peace”, Boyd came from "The Black Souls", while keyboardist Paul was ex-drummer for "The Up Shoots"). As for the present WITCH that I am currently touring with; I played with Jan in Germany and France in 2011/12; Patrick is a former member of the later WITCH line up, and Jacco, Nic and Stefan were coordinated and brought-in by Gio (Filmmaker of the WITCH documentary). 

- For fans of Zamrock, WITCH are a household name. What other bands were you playing with around that time?  

During the Zamrock era there were a lot of bands, many of them never made any recording of their works, but even those that did the number was quite big – especially those with only an album to their name. Here are some of them:

Ngozi Family, Mosi-o-Tunya, Salty Dog, Tinkles, Five Revolution, Black foot, Peace, Sentries, Amanazi, Dr. Foots Witch, Oscilations, Broad Way Quintent, Cosmas Zani, Keith Mlevu, Rikki Ililonga, etc. 

- The sound of WITCH is so recognisable - partly thanks to the lo-fi recordings of the tracks. Where did you record the WITCH records? What sort of equipment did you use?

Witch recorded at three different places. The first two albums were recorded at Malachite Studios in Chingola. We recorded Lazy Bones plus three 7’’ singles at DB Studios in Lusaka, while the 4th and 5th albums (LUKOMBO VIBES + WITCH including 'Janet') were done in Kenya at Sapra Studio in Nairobi. We used an analog system (the first two albums in mono while the rest had a bit of a stereo touch). Lazy Bones sold the most, Introduction and In The Past were pressed in Kenya with limited copies flown into Zambia for sale and. The master tapes were later sold to Zambia Music Parlour. The royalties from the last three albums went to redeem the loan the band got from Teal Record Company which was used to purchase the bands gear and light van for transporting the band and the equipment. By Zambian standards The WITCH were a success story even though our fame was not synonymous with the money we got out of the career.

Mr Bongo Digging Deeper - WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

- I’ve heard the name ‘Jagari’ came from a Africanisation of Mick Jagger’s name due to the energy you put in to performances. How much was Western music an influence in WITCH’s sound, and what drew you to it? 

The music of the time was named 'Zamrock' because of the fusion of the Western Pop and Rock and Roll music which almost all bands listen to especially on radio and vinyl records. There were very few TV sets in the communities where most musicians grew up. Later on music magazines started coming in e.g. Melody Maker – so we started to read about top of the pops both in the USA and UK. We didn’t have Western rock bands touring Zambia though. I am particularly more attracted to both soft and hard rock with good arrangements and two to three part vocal harmonies - the skills in the Western bands are quite amazing. 

- Recently I’ve been lucky enough to watch you live twice in London, thanks to reforming of WITCH with brilliant musicians like Jacco Gardner and Nic Mauskovic. How did you meet?

For Jan and his band in Germany – Eothen (of Now Again Records) and Antoine of France linked us up. As for Jacco, Nic and Stefan – It's Gio who linked us up during his pursuit of Zamrock, WITCH, Jagari documentary film. 

Mr Bongo Digging Deeper - WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

- Did you ever expect such a worldwide love for WITCH and the back-catalogue? When did you first become aware of it?

The back catalogue and the tours undertaken they are all a pleasant surprise – I believe its  God’s doing and I am grateful to Him for this opportunity – it feels like a new lease on my life and career. I learnt about the Witch music’s world interest through my good friends – Rikki Ililonga and Eothen Alapatt who informed me about SHADOCKS’ piracy activities in Germany in 2010.

- What are your plans for the future and the WITCH catalogue?

 I hope we can make new recordings with the reformed WITCH for continuity and future plans. 

- Lastly, and the question I’ve been most burning to ask, how did you eat a whole lemon on stage at the Oslo in Hackney? I think that was the most impressive live set I’ve ever seen. 

Were you at Hackney as well? Great, I actually do not plan on what to do or wear in advance on stage for each gig – it’s usually random ….. the victim was the lemon that night.

Mr Bongo Digging Deeper - WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

With the release of ‘We Intend To Cause Havoc’ the story of WITCH is finally being told to the world thanks to director Gio Arlotta. Keep an eye out on the full documentary release, and upcoming tour dates on their Facebook and Instagram.


 All photos credit to Tim Spreng. Many thanks to Gio Arlotta and Emmanuel Chanda.