To say that WITCH’s debut album disappoints because of its lack of “Zambianness” is to veer towards a dangerous coveting of an “other” musical culture. Of course the record was Zambian. It was made in Zambia by Zambians. The fact that it sounds like a mixture of Hendrix-inspired rock, funk, and general psyche-fuzzness should not necessarily bar it from being considered special, any more than the fact that it is a combination of instrumental numbers and songs with English lyrics. So far, so Seventies. However, because it is mostly competent and only occasionally brilliant, the listener cannot help but listen for that something extra—call it novelty or innovation—that will raise the band above any number of others around the world making similar music.
This, ultimately, is what forces us back to “Zambianness”, to some kind of deterritorialization of the rock norm. Global products can acquire local significance by being re-contextualized in new spaces, and there seems little doubt that this was the case for groups such as WITCH. To be playing rock and funk music in that place at that time was to be taking part in all kinds of innovation (WITCH’s name, after all, was an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc). Zamrock, a name coined for fellow Zambian Rikki Ililonga and used to describe other groups in the scene, suggested a need for something more than this even then. To speak to us nearly forty years later, Introduction really needs that extra something, which it does not possess.
Even the liner notes to this collection are not unique, having been excerpted from the longer text accompanying Now-Again’s superior Rikki Ililonga set. Those wishing to get a sense of what made Zamrock special are directed toward that compilation. Something about WITCH seems to have excited record collectors outside of Zambia, but in a world where rareness, exoticism, and commodity fetishism become peculiarly intertwined, one hopes that it is more than just the rarity of the commodity that is being valued.
// Notes from the Road
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