Zamrock lives again.

Author:Koloko, Leonard

The great Anglo-American rock, funk and soul genres of the 1960s and 70s had massive followings in Africa. In Zambia the genres were 'localised' into a unique sound, Zamrock, which sadly went into decline around a decade later. Now, however, the unique sound has been revived by international fans and is making a glorious return to the continent of its birth. By Leonard Koloko *

The Anglo-American rock, funk and soul music scene that rocked the world in the 1960s & 70s did not bypass Africa. The three genres had huge followings on African soil.

Resonating powerfully among the youth in the former British colonies, such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia were popular global icons such as Elvis Presley, James Brown, Taj Mahal, Otis Redding, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grand Funk, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath. The African youth not only emulated their great sounds but also embraced the Flower Power' culture of the era.

In Zambia this stirred many socio-cultural concerns, leading the then President--Dr Kenneth Kaunda--into passing an edict that 90% of the music played on national radio should be Zambian.

The musicians' immediate reaction was to crossbreed traditional folk music styles with Western rock rhythms, thus giving birth to a new genre which was immediately given the moniker Zamrock by a University of Zambia medical student cum radio DJ--Mannaseh Phiri.

By then the famous British multicultural outfit, Osibisa, had inspired Musi-O-Tunya ('The Smoke that Thunders'), a Zambian band that had already taken East Africa by storm with their Afro-rhythms (circa. 1972/73).

Another popular band, WITCH (acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc), with its vibrant vocalist Emmanuel 'Jagari' Chanda, drew inspiration from the Rolling Stones and Deep Purple. In fact Chanda derived his nickname from the Rolling Stones front man, Mick Jagger.

Other big acts were Paul Ngozi and Ngozi Family, Mike Nyoni, Doctor Footswitch, Amanaz, Black Foot, Musi-O-Tunya's founder Rikki Ililonga and his fellow multi-instrumentalist solo artiste, Keith Mlevhu.

Zamrock lasted about 10 years and by then Zambia was shattered by a number of socio-economic woes which included plummeting copper prices, a high cost of living and an escalation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic--the latter sadly leading to the rapid demise of a number of prominent musicians in the late 1980s and mid 90s.

Whilst foreign genres like Congolese rhumba and disco music also became...

To continue reading