Concert Review: WITCH

Must read

Zamrock legends, WITCH, continued their revival tour at Brighton Music Hall on June 26.

WITCH (sometimes stylized as “W.I.T.C.H.,” for “We Intend To Cause Havoc”) are living legends. Hailing from Zambia, they’re one of the founding bands of a genre called “Zamrock” and released seven albums between 1972 and 1984. The revival of this band played at Brighton Music Hall on June 26 and brought the house down.

The band’s story is truly incredible. The Zamrock genre emerged after a series of concerts by American funk and soul musician James Brown in Zambia. As a 2019 documentary about WITCH summarized:

The “rock” in Zamrock was heavily inspired by the British invasion bands of the ‘60s, who in turn were obsessed with Chicago blues musicians, many of whom in the 40s had immigrated north from the cotton plantations, and whose ancestors had been brought over by slave ships from Africa. A century-long, full circle of musical bastardizations.

WITCH in particular were renowned for their psychedelic riffs and jams, songwriting skill, and the energy of lead singer Emanyeo Chanda, also known as “Jageri” (a pun related to Mick Jagger). The group dissolved in the mid-80s, and by the 2010s most of the original members had passed away, the exceptions being Jageri and keyboardist Patrick Mwondela. In 2010, the (re)-discovery of WITCH’s music by American and European musicians led them to seek out Jageri in Zambia, where they found him working in the Zambian mining industry. This connection eventually led to the band’s reformation with Jageri and Mwondela, accompanied by several Western musicians who began to tour the globe. And in 2023, the band released their first album, Zango, in almost 40 years.

The re-formed WITCH is now an eight-piece band, with Jageri on lead vocals, two guitarists, bass, drums, percussion, and two backup singers from Zambia: Theresa Ng’ambi and Hannah Tembo. The group was absolutely electric from the outset. Their songs featured tasty grooves from Jacco Gardner on bass and Nico Mauskoviç on drums, who were completely locked in. This foundation allowed the dual lead guitarists, Stefan Lilov and JJ Whitefield, to alternate between filling harmonic space with riffs and launching into epic solo passages. The backup singers — who sang lead on a few songs too — brought a ton of energy, both with their voices and their dance moves. And Jageri, despite his age, demonstrated why he is such an incredible frontman.

Although it was difficult to tell exactly how each attendee found the show, it was clear that some knew the band and others were experiencing them for the first time. Although the crowd was a little reserved at first, after a few songs the energy of the music and performance had many dancing and grooving. Jagari also interacted with the crowd, at one point encouraging the crowd to buy merch so he wouldn’t need to swim back to Zambia. Many in the crowd must have left the evening awestruck. At one point WITCH played two songs back-to-back that left me in awe at the sheer passage of time between their releases. The first was the title track off their 1972 first album, “Introduction,” a psychedelic jam in which Jageri introduces each member of the band. The second was “Waile,” the lead single from their latest album. These two songs are over 50 years apart in time but represent the incredible story of this band and the timelessness of their music.

More articles

Latest article