The video stream for this lecture can be watched here.
He’s one of the few survivors of a scene that’s largely undocumented, so it’s a good thing Emmanuel Jagari Chanda likes talking. The leader of WITCH – that’s We Intend To Cause Havoc, for the uninitiated – was a prime mover in the Zamrock scene, a hard-edged amalgamation of Rolling Stones, funk and African rhythms. Here he discusses both the whole scene and his own group’s circumstances, including the reality of making music on a shoestring and why regional turmoil and the growth of disco meant the end of Zamrock.
RBMA: We only have a limited amount of time to cover a great amount of ground, so I’m going to start off with a summary here. This man Emmanuel Chanda, who we call ‘Jagari’, has worked very, very hard to get here from the Republic of Zambia in almost the southernmost portion of Africa. He’s come here to discuss the music that he created in the 1970s with the band that he co-founded and led for quite a long time called WITCH. It’s an acronym and it stands for ‘We Intend To Cause Havoc’. Looking at you now, my man, I can’t see you causing much havoc. You look very calm, distinguished and collected. But I imagine you’re going to fill us in on some of the stories from the ‘70s. Here’s your microphone. It should be on, try it out.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, I’m ready.
RBMA: But beyond the WITCH and the five albums that Jagari created with them, we’re going to talk about the scene that WITCH helped create, which is the Zamrock scene. It’s a term coined to describe the movement taking place back then after independence. This is a movement for which there is very little documentation and it’s only an oral history from people like Jagari, and there are not many people like Jagari left. Jagari’s the last man standing from the WITCH band. I can tell you, having bought many records from Jagari and the last remaining progenitors of Zamrock, that the majority of people who created this music are dead. They died in the ‘80s, many from AIDS, and their stories are lost with them. Their families don’t know much about the music they made, they know they made some music. But if you talk to Paul Ngozi’s son – Paul Ngozi is a very famous Zamrock musician, we’ll play some of his music later – he can’t even tell you about the early stuff ‘cause he was born in the ‘80s and this all happened mostly between 1972 and about 1979. So we have an opportunity here to delve into this and we’re going to play not only music he created, but also the music from some of his contemporaries, so he can give us a bit of an insight into who these men were, who these bands were, and attempt to draw a path that has been obscured for a long time. So with that I’d like to give a warm welcome to Emmanuel Jagari Chanda.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Thank you very much. I prefer to call you guys because you’re artists. For him it’s natural. Even fathers are guys in America. “Hey you guys, when are we leaving?” You’re talking to your fathers as guys. In Africa it is not like that (laughs). The big guys are dads. And now it’s an interesting thing for me to be here; I know someone called Devil didn’t want me to be here. I was left by the plane two days ago. But I forced my way in yesterday, the visa was denied about three times, and I knew there was something big waiting for me here. When I got here today finally I couldn’t find my luggage, so it’s somewhere in the air. It’s a lesson to you guys – when you’re focused do not allow anything to distract you. Music, arts, those are not simple things. Talking from my own experience and especially from Africa, we don’t have facilities like you guys do. There are no formal schools per sé where people go and learn and discover who they are musically, whether they are vocalists, which keys suit them, which instruments they should use. They get to a studio like this and they tell you: “I want that sound,” ‘cause they have heard someone play it. Halfway through the song they say: “No, no, no, I don’t want that sound. The other one.” You understand? They don’t know what the cello is, the flute and other things. Probably they are partly to blame, they don’t take time and improve their abilities. Partly music in my country, maybe worldwide, survives on two things: the population of the country. First of all, you have to start with your home ground and the economic situation of that country. If there are 80 million people in that country and they are not starving, you just need one good song and it will help you to find money to buy your privacy so you can create better music with that privacy. But the situation at home is different. We don’t have peace, because most of the time you’re walking around looking for money. Now, when you find that money, I buy a bag of mealie-meal, that’s our staple food, or I go and buy a CD. I go and pay someone to teach me at the expense of my family eating. So we have such problems. However, talent is there, like everywhere else in the world. Now, there’s another addition – our young generation today are totally dependent on the computer. They all want to be solo artists and they’ll go in the backyard, sample something, press somewhere and sing over that and say: “That’s my composition.” This machine is welcome, the computer’s welcome, it’s here to stay. But the computer does not feel the music and the music is about feelings and thoughts, emotions. Now, if you leave that to the machine you’re limiting your own creativity. This is what is happening with the youngsters, they depend on the machine that can’t feel for them. Maybe for rhythm, as long as there’s power in the house I’ll set a certain rhythm and go down, go anywhere I want, and find that rhythm going at the same tempo. That’s the advantage it has over human beings. The human will tire at one point and slow down the tempo. Now, having said that, we have situations and an opportunity in my country that is not being utilised. We have music from birth to death. There’s plenty of music. We have nine provinces – soon there will be 10, the new president wants an additional one. And in those nine or ten provinces we have 73 ethnic groups, tribes and dialects. Every ethnic group has got its own unique type of music and instrument. But we musicians down there do not utilise that opportunity to research and improve on what we think we know musically. Everyone wants to be Tupac, there can never be two Tupac’s. There can never be two 50 Cent’s, there is only one of each. My barber tells me we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, everyone is unique in here. So if you want to be somebody else it becomes difficult. We have a lot of influence – I’ll be jumping here and there as long as the story is going. In my time very few went to secondary school, that is your high school, but they were talented musicians and that brought a problem of language. Maybe I can play a song or two. They are going to ask: “What are you saying?” Sometimes we killed the nice music by singing wrong words, sometimes it happens. Now we are influenced. The time when I was growing up we had certain music, we had influence from Europe, from America, from South Africa, with rock and pop music of the West. Then we didn’t know how to fuse that. But one of the radio DJs coined the [term] Zamrock – Zambian and rock, rock ‘n’ roll if you like, Zambian rock.
RBMA: Here’s a question before we get into that part of it. I don’t mean to gloss over anything he said because he said a bunch of profound things that people of privilege – and I consider myself a person of privilege – don’t take seriously. I don’t take seriously whether or not I’m going to be able to buy food or a musical instrument or a record, or at least I haven’t in a long time. But even when I did it was more of a selfish concern. This is a human concern and it’s why there are no records in Zambia. This is why the mastertapes from his scene are gone for the most part. It’s a human concern to eat in a place where rampant inflation led to strikes in the ‘80s as people couldn’t afford food. Imagine being a star – and this man was a star, the WITCH ensemble was a humungous deal there and they played heavy, heavy music – yet he, like everyone else, is trying to find his way in a country that’s been devastated. So I don’t mean to gloss over that, but to talk about Zamrock in particular I think we really need to hear some of the music, unless everyone here is familiar with the WITCH. So can we play a song?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Let me just explain how that comes to Zamrock. Either we used local language played on a foreign instrument and then try to probably sound like Rolling Stones, Beatles, something like that, which wasn’t possible, but we didn’t realise that. So in the end we created something different. It was good though, but it was difficult to accept in terms of quality because then we didn’t have many studios; even up to now we still don’t have international standard studios. As I explained, it’s a backyard with a computer and things. Anyway, maybe play something.
RBMA: This is the song “Introduction” from the first WITCH album, Introduction. I told you he was the bandleader, he’s also the lead vocalist on this track, he introduces the band. This is the first commercially released record in Zambia, privately pressed by the band and their manager. Three hundred copies and hand-sold by their manager at shows. This song is called "Introduction".
(music: WITCH – Introduction)
RBMA: Ah yeah, that’s “Introduction” with Jagari Chanda on lead vocals.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Let me say thank you very much. You notice the language there I talked about. You have to really pay attention. What did we say? Manager? Because this is what we heard on foreign records, instead of saying ‘manager’ (in African accent). So we wanted to sound like foreign artists. We did have no experience. My band was the first band that recorded a commercial record in that country in 1972 or ‘3. We had nothing to look to, to say, “You should do that like that.” We just imagined big bands, how they behaved. Now, how many know The Police band? They stole my music, I’m accusing them now.
Because they did “Message In A Bottle” with that chord progression, I remember very well. I was in Europe at that time, I said: “We share the spoils, this is my idea.” (laughs)
RBMA: How would they have heard a record of which 300 copies were pressed and distributed mainly in one city at your live shows? How would they have heard it? Were you hanging out with Sting back then?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: It’s just some coincidence (laughs).
RBMA: I was just kidding, man. There’s a certain reverence for British rock ‘n’ roll that you hear on that record, but throughout the first two albums, Introduction and the follow-up album, In The Past, there’s a certain irreverence too. You hinted at that earlier.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, yes. But if you notice there was eventually some progress from the Introduction album to the In The Past album. There was some improvement. I’m not trying to boast, but I tried to show my friends that we needed school in addition to our talent. Apparently, they were coming up and in terms of our arrangement we added a few things that just (sings) and it goes on like that. But there were some parts where we changed some things and we put a bit of… Let me play something for you guys. (picks up guitar) This is when we were changing from Introduction to something with a bit of an arrangement and it’s called “Living In The Past”. (plays guitar) So we decided to add a bit of harmony to that and it was... (sings / applause)
RBMA: Just briefly, ‘cause that’s an amazing song, the title song, let’s hear the way it sounded on the record. This is “Living In The Past”, 1973.
(music: WITCH – Living In The Past / applause)
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Thank you. So you can see we moved a bit from the obvious three or four chords to some changes, trying to bring in some dynamics, even though I didn’t understand what dynamics meant at that time. I came to learn that later when I went to study music at college.
RBMA: So with the release of these two albums you have Zambian youth, something made by Zambian youth, something they could buy, a product of their own country. They didn’t have to rely on imports or the Lusaka Radio Band or any of these other bands that had broadcasts.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Well, it wasn’t just for the youth. Every Zambian wanted something by the local group, so even the older people bought the music, except we didn’t have a company printing records in Zambia at that time. I had to fly with my manager to Nairobi, they were printing records there at Sapra Studios or something. I went there twice, but with limited… I was bringing the records in my bag, like hand luggage or something, to take back to Zambia. My bandsmen, including myself, were very excited to have 300 kwacha in everyone’s pocket after we sold the first batch. I could buy my bed, my fridge and a suit from that. So it encouraged not only us as bandsmen, but all other musicians around. Everyone wanted to compose and have something to call their own, but there’s a trick to how we organized eventually. Allow me to just jump a bit. We changed managers twice, ‘cause the second manager didn’t want us to sign a contract. He misconstrued it as mistrust. “I do things for you guys, and now you want to sign a contract ‘cause you don’t trust me. I’m taking back my instruments.” So eventually, we found a serious recording company from South Africa called Teal Record Company. We had a difference with the manager so he took away his instruments and then an idea dropped. I said: “OK, you can keep your instruments but this is not your music. You only sponsored the recordings so can we have our music back?” We fought a bit but eventually he gave in and we shared 60-40% of the mastertapes, which we sold to Zambian Music Parlour.
RBMA: You just mentioned a very important record company in Zambia, the Zambian Music Parlour, which was run by the late Edward Khuzwayo. And the first two WITCH albums received a repress in 1974, so the records you might have seen reissued, if anybody here has seen a reissue of Introduction, their first album, it was based off the artwork from the second issue of the record. It’s had quite a few press runs, I can document four myself, so it must have had quite a success in the country. And it did inspire other bands, including a very famous band called Musi O Tunya. They recorded an album called Wings Of Africa, shortly after WITCH released Introduction and In The Past. I wanted to see if we can play a song from that so you can fill us in what some of your contemporaries were doing then.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Maybe, yeah. I’d like to say how Musi O Tunya came into it.
RBMA: Please, please.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: There was a very serious band in the UK from West Africa, called Osibisa. When they toured our country, we were the curtain-raisers at that time. I saw something about the way they organized themselves, actually they were more professional than any of the local bands. Their music inspired me in two things: being curtain-raisers for the band we were allowed to be backstage. I saw how they were into their songs, into their music, even before they got to the stage. When they were changing, they were wearing their stage gear, and of course they had weed, I’m sorry to say but this is what I saw. As they got ready, if their first song started with a drummer, the drummer left the changing room first, with a cowbell (mimics cowbell) and he walked to the stage, which was about 200 metres from the changing room, it was in a stadium like a festival setup. So if the song was followed by a bass player, the bass player gets ready and followed. When the drummer got to the stage he started the song right away (mimics beat), then the bass player goes (mimics bass). Others are coming and the song is introduced. When it’s full-fledged, that’s when it kicked off. I learned something from there. As a band we used the same tactic in Malawi and it was very well received. But the kind of music was a better fusion than our fusion from Osibisa, so that was the next inspiration. I saw that they were very serious with fusing African rhythms, criss-cross rhythms, that is the strength of African music. Ours is not the harmonies; it’s you guys who are the harmonies, four-part harmonies. Ours, I could teach you a simple harmony and you’ll be able to play, sing simple harmonies but it’ll be nice. We’ll see if we have time, we will learn one and then a short call-and-response song. So this is what inspired Musi O Tunya, they wanted to follow in their footsteps. The other thing I learned from their leader, Ted Osei, I asked him: “But what makes you so good?” He said they had a diploma in music from London. I said: “Wow! So if I have a diploma in music I can go anywhere in the world.” That’s what inspired me to go to college. When I got there I was told this is not for musicians who just perform on stage. This is for music teachers, secondary school teachers. One thing led to another. I wanted so badly to get into college, so I joined the college. I was part time with a band at this time. When I joined the college there was curfew and blackout in my country, because there were liberations struggles around us – Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa – so a lot of refugees came to our country. It wasn’t easy to perform and it also spelt the downfall for my band. The performances were only in the disco and during the day, and people in my country can’t come to a show during the day. They want to drink beer and dance. You wanted to play something (laughs).
RBMA: Yeah, but I’m learning so much. I can’t tell you how difficult it’s been to speak to Jagari over the few years we’ve known each other. Sometimes I call for days and he’s in the bush, mining for gemstones, his current profession. Phone’s off, can’t get him; email once every three weeks. Conducting an interview takes a tremendous amount of work on his behalf, a tremendous amount of work. So there’s a limited flow of information about this stuff, which is why I’m enjoying hearing you speak about this and the free form in which it comes to you. But I did want to play a Musi O Tunya song because this is a band that existed as a peer to the WITCH but was inspired by them. Wings Of Africa came out after Introduction and In The Past. This song, “Mpondolo”, is that how you say it?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, and could you also play immediately after this song the WITCH, “Nazingwa”, after you play Musi O Tunya. You can see how Osibisa influence both Musi O Tunya and the WITCH.
RBMA: Let’s do this, let’s start off with Musi O Tunya.
(music: Musi O Tunya – Mpondolo)
That’s Musi O Tunya with “Mpondolo”, Rikki Ililonga on the guitar.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: He’s saying: “Mine are finished, but yours are still there. What is the secret? I’m suspicious.” That’s the message in there. Tribal wars and things. Now you can play ours.
RBMA: Yes, we’re going to play “Nazingwa”, which is actually from the WITCH’s fourth album, Lukombo Vibes, which is in many ways an answer to the same question that was posed by Osibisa when they toured in Zambia. Here we go, “Nazingwa” by the WITCH.
(music: WITCH – Nazingwa / applause)
“Nazingwa” by the WITCH, Jagari Chanda on vocals. You were saying about the harmonies and how they weren’t of primary importance to you in your country and we just heard two songs in which rhythm plays the primary role. Can you explain a little bit more about what you meant?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: In our traditional music he is saying: “I’m stranded” – Nazingwa means, “I’m stranded, I don’t have money for bus, my shorts are worn out.” Things like that. So the harmonies are meant to be sad harmonies, it’s a melancholy feeling, even though it sounds danceable. But the mood, if you get the words, it’s supposed to give you a lonesome feeling. But our traditional harmonies are spontaneous, there’s no arranged harmony parts in things. If you find people playing drums and singing along, anyone, whether they come from a beer hour or something, if they like it they will just come and join. It’s up the crowd to say: “You’re not singing well, move out.” But they will want to sing the loudest, maybe. But if you analyze – after I went to college I was able to analyze some harmonies. We usually analyze in thirds, do-me, do-fa or sometimes do-so; rarely in octaves. The fourth is for a certain group of people in the southern part of my country, the Tongas. They only harmonize at cadential points, like they’re stopping and then… (sings). If they don’t know the words they’ll just… (sings) as long as it’s harmony. But it’s simple harmonies and it’s not restricting, if you feel this part is too high for you, you can sing the part that fits in, as long as it’s not off-chord. But the strength, even a small child like this, when they feel the music they will dance right, because that is the strength of the African music, it’s dance music. Usually, we don’t have instrumental music on its own, where people just listen to instrumental music, except in very rare cases. Probably when a xylophone is played while the chief is backing while getting onto the boat. Maybe you’ve heard of Kuomboka. The chief of the Lozis has two palaces: one, when it’s rainy season, he leaves that palace to go to dry land. They call that Kuomboka. They play music, xylophone, to accompany his movements. They’re the parties in the north-western part of my country, among the Lovales, Kaondes and things, they play what they call cocachas. One man can play a set of seven drums, he’s playing rhythm and solo in there by himself (imitates drums), but it’s very rare. Our music is usually vocal, there are some voices. Also we use it a lot for therapeutic purposes; when somebody’s possessed we lay drums with different rhythms and those demons or whatever they’re called are evoked, so when they’re manifest they’re cast out. I’m sure in the Bible David was playing for King Saul. So music plays in a role in healing spiritual problems.
RBMA: So how about those rhythms we heard in those two songs there? Are there similarities, are there differences?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: What you heard, ours was more on the rock ‘n’ roll side, Musi O Tunya was a bit more on traditional side, it wasn’t so much… (sings) That movement… (sings). The movement is actually African, different from our type, but they’re both Zamrock stuff. Someone’s trying to fuse something in that music.
RBMA: And the lead singer of Musi O Tunya, Derrick Mbao, he’s not singing in English. You sang your first two albums exclusively in English.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: That’s what we got from our influences from Europe and English is an official language in my country. Because we have about 72 dialects it’s difficult to influence people. Where we grew up on the Copperbelt, the main language there is Bemba and English, so we were trying to touch more people by singing in a language they’d understand.
RBMA: What was Derrick singing in on that “Mpondolo” song? What was the language?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: The language is from Eastern province, Nyanja. Nyanja is not actually a language per sé, but it’s a combination of eastern languages. Senga, Ngoni, Timbuka, they come up with Nyanja, which is a town in Ngoni.
RBMA: We skipped a little bit in our WITCH discography, we went from In The Past via Wings Of Africa, the Musi O Tunya record, to the Lukombo Vibes, which is their fourth. But they had a third album called Lazy Bones, and it’s a very special record. In it, in my opinion, you guys hit the psychedelic rock zenith for Zamrock. I just want to play a quick song from that, one of my favourites.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: The title song “Lazy Bones” sold 7,000 copies in three weeks. It helped us redeem the loan we had from our record company. After we parted company with our two managers, we got a loan from Teal Record Company and we bought some equipment. We had sold two mastertapes to Khuzwayo and then we added something so we had our own transport, our own equipment. It was 15.000 kwacha for the equipment, which is equivalent to about $1.500 that time. No, $3.000.
RBMA: This is a special album, a very special album.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I also like what I wrote on “Motherless Child”, ‘cause this came to happen later.
RBMA: I actually like the entire album. “Lazy Bones” is the obvious choice ‘cause it’s a single.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Play the title song then.
RBMA: Shall we play it? You wanna hear “Lazy Bones”?
(music: WITCH – Lazy Bones / applause)
“Lazy Bones”, Jagari Chanda on vocals. From the mastertapes, this man had the wherewithal to preserve his mastertapes since the record was released in 1975.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: What happened was when piracy set in my country, Teal Record Company decided to go back to South Africa and they were courteous enough to give back the mastertapes to the Zambian musicians. So I took advantage and I kept the mastertapes ‘cause I was the only one alive at that time. Which has resulted in what we are talking about today. If I’d lost the mastertapes you wouldn’t have got anything to refer to. I salvaged the mastertapes and took them to South Africa to be transferred onto DATs.
RBMA: Was Lazy Bones a popular album when it came out?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, it sold most.
RBMA: The album? Not the seven-inch.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, over a space of time. When we signed with Teal Record Company the contract said an album per year. That was the idea, that we should release an album a year to redeem the loan. The band lived on live performances, all the royalties went to Teal. This was the first album that Teal sponsored under a new contract. Within three weeks it sold 7.000 copies and they were very happy with us, so they were quick to sponsor us to go back to Nairobi. This was done in Lusaka, but we were sent to Nairobi where Musi O Tunya was at that time.
RBMA: In terms of rock being the favourite type of music for a certain subset of the Zambian music-buying population, were you aware of how singular that was in Africa? When I think of all the countries in Africa that I know of in ‘70s music, only Nigeria had a rock scene to speak of and that was largely due to Ginger Baker and his arrival there. Whereas in Zambia, this landlocked country in the southernmost part of Africa, you’re releasing this incredible rhythmic music at a time when what we now call yacht rock was taking over the airwaves in America and other parts of the world.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: We didn’t have so much influence from other people because there were independence struggles within our neighbours. So migration was limited. We were not allowed to go to South Africa or Angola or Mozambique because of the wars. So we depended on radio stations and some record shops like Piano House, which was in Kitwe within the proximity of where we lived. Then we had a place in Mozambique called Lorenzo Marrakesh. “This is Lorenzo Marrakesh.” And they would play top 10, top 20, top 50, just like in Germany. We used to listen to it and read Melody Maker and I’d imagine, ‘What would the singer of “Satisfaction” be doing? What would he be doing to interpret “Satisfaction”?’ So I was imagining sometimes, ‘If I was singing for The Rolling Stones, what would I do?’
RBMA: So with the exception of Osibisa you weren’t listening to any other African rock bands or black rock bands in general? Were you listening to Jimi Hendrix, for instance?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, every guitarist in my country started by playing “Hey Joe” (laughs). That’s how we’d know whether they were serious with their guitar things.
RBMA: So besides The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix and Osibisa, who else was influential?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Hollies – I liked their harmonies – and we had local musicians, but they didn’t have albums, we just listened to the radio. Tolamil Walya, Isaac Makpikwe, they were social commentators, they talked about social evils in the country, many different subjects, so they were very influential, also in the way they played.
RBMA: Let me ask you about a musician I mentioned earlier who released his debut album the same year that Lazy Bones came out, Paul Ngozi. Can you tell me a little bit about Paul Ngozi?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Paul Ngozi, in himself he was a rocker, he was like us. But he never went to grade 5, grade 6 in terms of education, so he was very limited in writing English songs. So they advised him to just sing in local languages. He became influential ‘cause he could also play guitar with his teeth and in a place like that at that time everyone was: “Ah, look at Jimi Hendrix…” Musically, he had maybe three or four chords repeated but what he took and sang along those was what fascinated people.
RBMA: Let’s play one song from Paul Ngozi and the Ngozi family’s debut album, called Day of Judgment and this song is called “Hiya Baby”, recorded and released in the same year as Lazy Bones. To give you guys some context.
(music: Paul Ngozi – Hiya Baby / applause)
The attitude with which Paul Ngozi and his three other bandmates conveyed that message, it’s only when they get to the bridge they’re talking about peace and this man next to you is your brother, but mostly he’s talking about going to his tailor and meeting chicks in the morning. If you guys could see the cover to this record – I wish I’d brought it with me – it’s these Zambian cats in capes and platform boots and dreadlocks. And the design is by a guy named Stoned Frog, and “Day Of Judgment” and the tile track is all about how the sinners are going to go to hell and some Christians are going to go to paradise. It’s an amazing album and that record, raw as it was, was released in the same year as they released their third album. We’re kind of splitting hairs here as we’re going through a very short amount of time, but this was a country in flux, a music scene in which anything could go. Was Paul Ngozi successful with his first album?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: At that time anything that was Zambian musically people were just buying. The records were cheap, there were 6.000 kwacha, about 20c. So unlike today, where the CDs are $10, at that time they could afford them. Usually, it was the youngsters that had just joined the mines, the railways, they used to have free money and that’s where we got most support. Eventually we took our shows where the nurses were training because they served as an attraction to the men. So if there was a nursing school somewhere and there was a big hall near there, that’s where we took our concerts so people would be: “Ah, there’ll be nurses there, maybe I can…” etc etc.
RBMA: In the same year the man who we discussed when we were discussing Musi O Tunya, Rikki Ililonga, the lead guitarist from Musi O Tunya, released his first album, called Zambia. Was there a certain amount of pride that just came in being Zambian after independence?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Rikki Ililonga and Keith Mlevhu were competing, who is the better lead guitarist. They actually pioneered the solo scenario, where the musicians wanted to release albums by themselves. There was Rick Mbanda, Rikki Ililonga, Keith Mlevhu, two or three other musicians of the time. When the bands broke, they didn’t want to regroup, they went to do their own things, including Paul Ngozi. He was a guitarist for Musi O Tunya, Rikki Ililonga was a guitarist for Musi O Tunya.
RBMA: So that Zambia album, which contains songs not only in English, but Bemba, Nyanja, all these other languages…
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Lozi.
RBMA: Was this a popular record for Zambians? Did it give them a sense of identity?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: One song stood out (sings). That one played a lot on radio.
RBMA: Rikki said it was the slow songs that always succeeded for him.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: It was a good song.
RBMA: But in the Zamrock context, I wanted to get into Rikki Ililonga and Keith Mlevhu, who both recorded all of their own instruments in multitrack studios when they became available. And within a year of Lazy Bones, Rikki’s first solo album came out and so did Keith Mlevhu’s.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: We were the first to sign with a record company seriously. They were very happy with the outcome, the results they got from us. A lot of other musicians went to Teal Records to do the same thing. Three or four bands were sponsored and Rikki Ililonga was one of them. There was another promoter called Chris Furnitures, who also promoted Chris Mbewe’s solo album. And the Strictly Pongoswas under Chris Furniture.
RBMA: A furniture store produced records?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: No, the proprietor was promoting music.
RBMA: Well, let’s play this one Rikki Ililonga song. He spoke earlier about how instrumental music wasn’t as popular. This is not only instrumental, it’s kind of out there. This is “Hot Fingers” from Rikki’s first record, Zambia.
(music: Rikki Ililonga – Hot Fingers)
So that’s Rikki Ililonga. Let’s play a bit by his competitor, Keith Mlevhu, also an interesting guitarist, as Jagari said. This one’s “Love And Freedom”, Keith Mlevhu.
(music: Keith Mlevhu – Love And Freedom)
That was Keith Mlevhu, “Love And Freedom”, and Rikki Ililonga with “Hot Fingers”. You mentioned there was a song on the Zambia album that was a hit for Rikki, but was Keith popular? This is underground music, we’re delving a bit deeper down the rabbit hole here.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I was in school when these people were established musicians. Keith Mlevhu used to play for a band called The Rave Five. The vocalist from Musi O Tunya, Derrick, was the bass player for a band called Earthquakes. When they broke up Derrick went to form Musi O Tunya. When Rave Five were Dr Footswitch, Keith went solo. So these were two big bands, they’d started music way before I did, but they never recorded anything, they were just playing copyright music. We gave ourselves a task – we had one secret; two secrets maybe. When we rehearsed we rehearsed from Monday to Thursday, from 9.00am to 1.00pm. At 1pm we broke for lunch. So in the morning we were playing copyright, in the afternoon we’re composing our own music. Then we told ourselves no girlfriends in the rehearsal room for a simple reason (laughs). The simple reason is when someone says you’re not singing right or playing right, it’s misunderstood that you’re trying to embarrass them or they’re not good enough. But rehearsal is where you correct things. If you don’t play right that particular time it doesn’t mean you’re not a good player. You can make a mistake there even if you’re a good player. But people misunderstood, we said: “No girlfriend, no mother, you meet them after rehearsals.” It helped us a lot.
RBMA: Was this popular music, were these people able to make a living selling records?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: For us, it was slightly different because we did get the royalties. It took about two or three years. The third album, that’s when we were able to redeem the loan. We had no royalties from Teal Records, we lived on the money collected from the live performances. But Paul tried, I think, because sometimes he took his records in his car and wherever he performed he sold records as well.
RBMA: You’re talking about Paul Ngozi?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes. I don’t know about Musi O Tunya because Musi O Tunya’s album was released by Teal Record Company, the first one, I don’t know about the sequel.
RBMA: I’m thinking things must have got kind of desperate at one point, because you said that Paul Ngozi was sponsored by Chris Furniture, which released records under the name Chris Editions. But at a certain point he started bootlegging his own records on his own label at the same time they were released on Chris Editions. So things must have been kind of crazy. He didn’t just do it once, he did it numerous times. Different variations of the cover, slightly different mix of the record, but on his own label.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: As much as we did have facilities, even managers didn’t know what they were doing. Only Khuzwayo was an individual running a record company. These others, they had other businesses which they concentrated on more than music promotion. So sometimes musicians just thought, ‘I can do this, I can sell my music’. So they went and printed music, especially when we found out it was cheaper to go and print your own records in Nairobi and take them back to Zambia. So some people went to Nairobi, printed their records and brought them to Zambia and they sold. And they saw they were not answerable to anybody. The issue of contracts was new in that country. No wonder the former manager said to us: “You don’t trust me. Why do you want a contract?” It worked for some time, ‘cause it meant getting royalties twice a year, whereas if you sold your records there and then you had cash in your pocket.
RBMA: You mentioned again Edward Khuzwayo.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: He’s Zimbabwean.
RBMA: He’s the man with Zambian Music Parlour who released the Paul Ngozi record, the Rikki Ililonga record and repressed the first two WITCH albums, but he also dealt with a band called The 5 Revolutions, who would go on to be quite a big deal in the country.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: He managed a few other groups, The Tinkles, 5 Revolution, Blackfoot and John Mwansa, a few other groups. Afterwards he was an agent for Teal Record Company and he signed some people on his own label. That’s when Music Parlour became established as a parallel to Teal. But Teal pressed records for Khuzwayo.
RBMA: You talked in an interview we did earlier this year about kalindula. Can you explain a bit about what that is and how The Five Revolutions transferred from Zamrock to this musical form?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Kalindula is one form that is recognised in Zambia as authentic music from a rural setup. The central part of Zambia, up to near Congo, that is the kind of music they play. It is for sundown serenades, when they have a social evening after harvest, after they succeed in something, people brew beer and make music in the evenings, especially under the moonlight. So this is the type of music they call kalindula. It’s just one of the types of Zambian music, it’s not the only Zambian music.
RBMA: I’d like to play one Five Revolutions song from the mid’70s ‘cause it’s a very interesting style. I don’t know how to pronounce this, "Chebele Bensay"?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes.
RBMA: By Five Revolutions, also released on the Zambian Music Parlour imprint.
(music: Five Revolutions – Chebele Bensay)
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: There’s a bit of my song there (sings). This is slightly slowed down, but most of the stuff is similar, except this one is using a funeral song, ‘I’m crying for my mother’, something, something.
RBMA: You mentioned a melancholic quality in the Nazingwa song, but in a lot of Zamrock songs I find this melancholic quality. Is there a reason, did it have anything to do with the economic conditions at the time, the struggles you guys were gong through? What you saw in neighbouring countries?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: This came to light after I studied music. Before that it didn’t click that it could be melancholy or something. But I think the situation in a country influences the music. Take Jamaican music, it’s a protest music most of the time. South African, the Apartheid period did something to them they weren’t happy about and that was expressed in their music, to show they weren’t happy with what was going on. So it has some influence, if your surroundings or your country are in some kind of trouble, going through change, it spills over onto the residents of the place including the musicians.
RBMA: There’s one song I want to play by Paul Ngozi’s drummer, Chrissy Zebby Tembo, who was able to release his own music in the late ‘70s, around the time you released your last album with WITCH, awkwardly titled With Janet (Hit Single). But this song is Chrissy Zebby Tembo with the Ngozi Family and it’s called “Born Black” and I thought it would be an appropriate song to play, given what he’s just said.
(music: Chrissy Zebby Tembo – Born Black)
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: What I learned from Paul Ngozi’s bandmates is that at one point he refused to share the money from his own compositions. So he told them: “I’ll back you up, record your own compositions, I’ll help you record and you can have your own money.”
RBMA: So he allowed Chrissy Zebby Tembo to record under his auspices. Did you guys understand what he was saying? “I am born black and I’m poor, a laughing stock.” He goes throughout asking very simple questions: “When will I be happy? Why can’t I be like other people?” Was this a common set of questions for your generation?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Very few people understand the changes in the world now, which transcend across colour now. Our generation, thank god, they don’t regard colour. Before that there was a problem. Even today, I’m sorry to say I was the only one asked many questions at the airport. They came to me two, three times and I could tell it was my colour. “Have you been here? Let’s see your passport. What year?” They came back, “OK, OK.” I got to the next point, they’d fish me out. “Have you been here?” I know this takes time to go away, but it’s there, whether we want it or not. We can’t deny it. That was worsened during our time. There were very few people who’d find employment and live on it; either they were miners, labourers or something. The blacks generally haven’t excelled in economic terms. Maybe this is why.
RBMA: Why didn’t WITCH sing songs as Paul Ngozi and Chrissy Zebby Tembo and the Ngozi Family did?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Well, we regarded ourselves differently and I’m not trying to boast, but I’m trying to emphasise a point here. At that time, we thought we were better musicians than Paul was, so we couldn’t play music like Paul was.
RBMA: I didn’t mean the style, I meant the social commentary.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Oh, we had the social songs. “The Black Tooth”, “Tooth Factory”, we have a few songs like that.
RBMA: Can you name one that we could maybe play?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Maybe “Motherless Child”.
RBMA: Yeah, tell us a little bit about that song.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: First let it sing.
RBMA: OK, fair dos.
(WITCH – Motherless Child / applause)
“Motherless Child” from Lazy Bones. So now you can explain?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: This is an observation I made in the society. When the family bonds were breaking we started to have street kids. Before that, there were no street kids in Zambia because every child was a child of the society in which they lived. Maybe the aunties and uncles would take over looking after the children if they lost their biological parents. Unfortunately, there’s not enough money coming into the family, so an extra mouth was a burden. So they are trying. This boy has no future living, he’s a motherless child, but let him hang on to dear life, you don’t know what he has in the future. I’m encouraging the mother… (sings). Those were terrible things. There’s crime – crime is brought about ‘cause people don’t have enough food. And they don’t care if they are shot while stealing, ‘cause it’s either die starving or they are killed ‘cause they have stolen from somebody. They are bad eggs in society. The kids that grow without parents, they are a time bomb. When they grow up they will need to have their own families and if they have no steady income, no jobs, the result is disastrous. This is what I was trying to say in that song.
RBMA: You were limited in your means to record and promote your own music. And to tour, because the only tours that you did were basically in the neighbouring countries when there wasn’t a conflict going on. Yet, you were able to maintain a career in music for a good stretch and put out an incredible amount of albums in a small amount of time. Did you regard yourselves as fortunate? Did you look at these other artists whose music you heard on the radio or read about in magazines and thought to yourself, ‘Why can’t I be like that?’
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: The first thing I can say personally, ‘cause I can’t speak for other people, it started with trying to be famous and becoming independent financially. I didn’t choose to become a musician, someone just forced me and said: “We’ve seen you perform at school. You can join a band.” So I joined three, four bands, local bands, and they said: “Why don’t you just join a band?” And I had one year to go at high school. This manager of the other band, two of the band were classmates, the band was called Black Souls. And the manager of the forerunner to the WITCH was Christopher Kaluba. He owned a band called Kingston Market. The drummer there at one time kept waiting for me at 12.45pm when I knocked off from school. “My manager wants to see you.” We used to keep songbooks in class; sometimes the wrong words, but we could sing. There was an Indian teacher we always teased with that and when he came we would sing (sings). Then I’d perform when the teacher wasn’t there and they’d say: “But your style! You can do it.” And that’s how I was discovered. Then one time he came, waited for me and gave me 16 kwacha. That was a lot of money for a schoolboy. I bought a pair of shoes and I bought the whole class some sweets and drinks. That’s how I got influenced.
RBMA: So when you say you wanted to become famous, does that mean you only wanted to become famous in Zambia or did you want a bigger presence? Did you want to travel and perform throughout the world? What were your aspirations during your time with WITCH?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I wanted to be famous like The Beatles. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, those were the bands we listened to. I said: “Everywhere you go there are Beatles songs playing, I want to be like that.” Afterwards, before it clicked with me that fame would go with money, because we didn’t have magazines like you people have, someone driving a Rolls Royce. I wanted to be financially independent and famous, but after some time I was uncomfortable with the fame. I couldn’t hide and do my private things, everybody was looking. So I didn’t like that aspect.
RBMA: The last album you did with the WITCH, With Janet (Hit Single), was that the biggest album the band released?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: No, almost everything we did with the WITCH sold in Zambia. There was a time I found a small magazine from South Africa and we had a song called “Sweet 16”. A group from Malawi had played it, a female group, and it was a single, but we had no means to go and pursue that case in South Africa. But everything the WITCH did sold highly in Zambia.
RBMA: Can we pay one song from this last album with the band? “The Way I Feel”, how about that one from the last album Jagari did with the WITCH?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: This was written by my drummer, Boyd [Sinkala].
(music: The WITCH – The Way I Feel)
RBMA: “The Way I Feel”, that’s a marvellous-sounding record.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Thank you, like I told you we worked hard to improve and if you listen to the introduction there’s some change to the quality of the music.
RBMA: And the quality of recording.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, this was done at Sapra Studios in Nairobi.
RBMA: So in five short years, ‘cause that record was released in 1977, we went from the very garage sound of Introduction to that very polished sound.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I should mention also there was a sixth guy in the background who contributed to the writing of the music, so his contribution helped improve the music of the band.
RBMA: What was his name?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Shaddick Bwalya. After I left they did two more albums which were disco-oriented, but they were not bad.
RBMA: You said disco-oriented.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Because that was now the in-thing. It went… (makes disco sounds), that was the way it had gone in Zimbabwe. We had gone to Zimbabwe, apparently to play in Bulawayo and then someone said: “Would you like to be back-up to Bob Marley? He’s coming to grace the occasion of the independence for Zimbabwe.” Unfortunately, our van broke down twice, we were unable to reach Harare in time. We were only able to participate in the festival that followed. We didn’t attend Bob Marley’s show, but he had come for Zimbabwe’s independence. So while there we had a contract there and we recorded one album and a single. They’d just won their independence and we did a Shona song… (sings). This country has got it, it is now Zimbabwe. That was the first single the WITCH sold in Zimbabwe, before the album Movin’ On. Movin’ On, when I left, Shaddick and the group said, “We can still go on, even if he leaves.” Which they did, they made Movin’ On and The Kuomboka before the band split.
RBMA: That marked in a lot of ways the death of Zamrock. There weren’t many bands from the early days still going. Paul Ngozi and Ngozi Family continued releasing what I’d consider Zamrock in the early ‘80s before changing markedly. But Derrick Mbao was doing kind of a jazz-fusion thing. Rikki had moved on and was doing reggae.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: There were two major issues that confused the Zamrock era: the curfew and blackout I talked about. It meant a few bands played and earned enough money to live on. Most bands were full-time musicians, so they were unable to play in the night to generate some funds, they had to do other things rather than just play music. Also, Congolese music rumba set in, together with disco. It was easier for a DJ to play different bands in this house rather than to listen to one band. The disco music was continuous, no short break. People wanted to just dance their heads off. I think those are the two things that contributed to bands splitting.
RBMA: Looking back at that short period in which you and a bunch of musicians, many of whom you inspired, created the music we’re now digging out, do you think it was sincere? Were you just emulating? At a certain point had you hit upon something unique and original? I mean, are the Zamrock musicians who are left today proud of what they’ve created?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Again, I can only say it on my own; I am proud but I am not satisfied. There is always room for improvement for anything that you pursue. Zamrock would’ve found its proper direction eventually, because we were just trying to fuse something we got from somewhere. But eventually, we were going to follow our heart and play something that came from our heart. When you play from your heart, there are thousands of musicians who ask, “What is your favourite song?” It is very rare for a composer to have a favourite song, because all the songs created are pieces of you. There’s an effort, a feeling, a lot of things put in there for that song to come out. For instance, if you asked me that question, there’s a song – I had a dream four years before it happened. It was like a prophetic thing. I dreamt my girlfriend had drowned and then after about two or three years she died when the pontoon capsized. So the song was actually almost real.
RBMA: That’s about as sincere as you can get.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: If you’re a copycat you won’t go far. We have a lot of different things bottled inside us which, given the opportunity, we can bring out and a lot of other people will appreciate. The obstacle is financial independence. If someone is willing to push and make someone work with guidance, not only just providing, you need to separate the producer who’s the manager and sales manager. And the studio producer who’s keen with the ear who’ll tell you: “Those are the wrong chords for what you’re singing. That guitar string is not in tune.” You need that (holds ear), someone to tell you what the target group is for the music you’re playing, where can we sell this music. You need someone to tell: “You you can’t sing this song, give it to someone else. It’s your song, yes, but for the sake of selling it let’s give it to this person who’ll do a better job of it.” We need such people to separate the roles that come together to form this music industry. It’s not only writing or singing a song, there’s a lot more to it than just that. So sometimes we have things we can’t bring out because of situations and circumstances, so we are limited. If you asked my fellow artists they’ll tell you: “In Europe, if you look at the adverts, they’re very different from the adverts in Africa. Here people are open-minded, if they have the money they will buy the ideas. If you look at the themes of cartoons on the buildings here, most of them would’ve been shut down in Africa. You can’t bring this, what is this?” But here people say: “Are you sure you can do this? Prove to us.” If you can prove to them they’ll fund it. It’s the same with music. If you have someone who believes in you and you can prove, because it needs a lot of hard work, it’s not just looking at people going and you write a song; you must compose a song, let other people listen to it, and give you their opinion, it’s only an opinion after all. In the end you‘re going to do what you believe in. They can give you an idea and say: “Ah, it’s not sounding right, the best line doesn’t fit this.” You need such people, a lot of people working together to produce one good music.
RBMA: Throughout the ‘80s your peers, many of them died in their 30s to late 40s. Did you feel there was a certain injustice in that, these young men who recorded and released this wonderful music who could no longer release it the way that they had because of piracy and the other reasons we discussed earlier?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I think the question of justice doesn’t come in here. God’s law is straight. You do this, you die; you don’t do this, you die. There are a few who are lucky and blessed to live on, but very few. If you steal they’ll arrest you; if you are careless with your life you’ll get sick. It’s as simple as that. You know music is a risk business in terms of sexual immorality. Where we work, that’s where people let their hair down, unfortunately. That’s our office. But look at the people who wish they were you. There are so many, you’re making so many people happy and you don’t know what they’re carrying. So if you don’t check your life… I’m not saying I’m clever, and that’s why I’m alive, no. God is just merciful, he has spared my life. I think he has something bigger for me to do in life before I die. It’s not that my friends were careless, reckless, but that’s what took most of the people. To make matters worse they were living in self-denial and they didn’t have the means, the money, to go to good hospitals and see proper doctors who’d tell them what to do to deal with the condition. Having a virus doesn’t mean you will die right now, right there and then. Many things contributed. Looking at the numbers who died, by now we’d have been making different music, we‘d have matured. But unfortunately it was not to be.
RBMA: So there is sadness?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: There is, it’s mission unaccomplished. There’s a big generation gap in the country right now. A lot of people come to me and say: “You just give up music? What about we, your friends, who are missing your music?” I tell them: “I can’t sweep your house before I sweep mine.” There’s too much risk in the world of music in my country.
RBMA: Before we open up questions, the song “Strange Dream” was one of the first songs I heard in Zamrock that really spoke with a spiritual quality. I don’t mean that in a crass way, I mean there was something more than what the words were saying. I couldn’t figure it out, but you explained some of it with the premonition that led to the words of the song.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: This is closer to my heart, together with “Blood Donor”. “Blood Donor” has got hidden meaning, which maybe I can say with the artists here, because they are artists. When you compose as an artist there are two meanings. The idiomatic meaning, the idiom of the language, and the literal meaning also. Hide some meaning inside there, it’s like abstract art. You can make a lot of pictures out of the same painting. I wrote a song called “Blood Donor” and it looked normal to people, ‘cause people donate blood. But that’s not what I meant. I talked about injections, about being a doctor, but that’s not what I’m talking about, there’s something else in there. You listen to it in your time (laughs).
RBMA: Let’s play “Strange Dream”.
(music: The WITCH – Strange Dream)
A round of applause for Emmanuel Jagari Chanda.
RBMA: We don’t have much time, but we can open it up to questions if there are any.
Participant: Hi, I wanted to say you guys are so much cooler than The Beatles. But I really want to know about the output of the band, how quickly would you guys record a song? Would it take a day, a few hours, I guess more so in the beginning when you started?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: No recording took more than two days.
Participant: For one track or a whole album?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: There’s nothing like if one makes a mistake you leave them to correct it, you have to start the whole song afresh, it was like live performance. It’s a mono recording studio owned by one of the mining companies for their documentaries, but we forced our music into that.
RBMA: So you mean to say an album was recorded in two days.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Exactly, maximum.
Participant: I wanted to ask if you’re working on something new right now.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Yes, but I want to sing for the Lord now. This gap is for two reasons: sometimes you talk to people about your dream and they think you’re joking. So I went into gemstone mining, I’m doing gemstone mining for now so I can raise some funds and establish my own studio and school of music. That is my dream, so when you find me running don’t be surprised. But with the Christian music, you cannot afford to misinterpret the Bible. So it’s not as simple as just singing to people there with the right dream, and imagine they’re in love and you write a song. The simplest thing for music is falling in and out of love. Anyone can write a song about that because that happens to everybody. But to write about other things you need time and a good thought over the matter. I have some music that I’ve written already but I don’t want to go and record in a studio that will be lower than what I did with the band. I will prove nothing by doing that.
Participant: You mentioned the importance of radio and how that united transnational African rock music. Were you able to establish a strong network between other, maybe more marginalised scenes like Ghana funk or psychedelic rock in Egypt?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: At that time the facilities were very, very limited and we knew very little about other bands outside, other than the ones we listened to on the radio. But when we signed the contract with Teal Record Company, they were distributing music from abroad, so under the contract we were given every latest album released in Europe and America, we had a copy. So before playing our own music we wanted to excite people by maybe playing “We Are An American Band” and changing it to “We Are A Zambian band”. But the rest is the same: (American accent) “Come on dudes, let’s get on.” And people liked it. One of the things that carried my band were my antics onstage. That’s what gave me my name. They were calling me Jagger and I didn’t kike that, so I Zambianized it: I put an ‘I’ in it. Then I looked it up in the dictionary and it said “dark brown sugar” which fitted my description. But then later, around this time in Nigeria there was a leader called Shehu Shagari and I looked at this painting and thought ‘I can Africanize this name’. So I Africanized it to J-A-G-A-R-I, Jagari, the only one in Zambia, although two of my fans have named their children after me.
RBMA: So you had no knowledge of other music going on in other parties of Africa? Rikki told me Fela was a big deal in Zambia at the time.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Fela came about in the ‘80s. We were playing trade fairs and it’s very hard. When we wanted to rest, we’d play him “Lay Down And Stay Down”. It’s a very taxing song in terms of movement and things and things. “Lay Down” by Deep Purple, we used to play that. Instead of us playing anther fast song, probably we would bring in Fela (imitates Fela song) and the band would rest somehow.
RBMA: So some of the famous musicians you did hear on the radio. Was Fela played on the radio?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: By the time we knew about Fela the records had already started coming to Zambia, but if you talk about the early ‘70s to about late ‘70s to early ‘80s, those names were not there.
RBMA: So that would mean the marginalized acts that he’s talking about didn’t make it at all?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I would say yes.
RBMA: They did not make it? Or they did?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: To influence us, that side?
RBMA: Was there a working knowledge?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Even if you listened to that kind of music and performed in public you wouldn’t record that kind of music. Even if we didn’t know copyright, we knew that was somebody’s song, we would rather perform our own. It influenced us in terms of the actual performance ‘cause you can’t just go and perform all your own songs without mixing. Our shows in Africa, particularly in my country, they are very unfortunate shows by the bands. When you’re hired to perform, it’s not like here where you have a concert for two hours. Me, I can play vocal sets in two days if it’s that easy. Two hours. There you start at about 7.30pm until about 2am, with breaks in there – it’s a very tiring arrangement. So before you reach the climax of the show, you play instrumentals, then you play other people’s music that will punctuate the speed of your music. And again, we don’t have sold-out shows like you. You go to a show, you know already people are coming, they have tickets. Our situation is different. People come in as you play. Maybe they’ll go to three or four places, then come to your show, it’s a different scenario altogether. So you need as much music as possible before you can showcase what you’d call your own. Here, if there was an opportunity, my band would’ve made a lot of money. It was a good band, people were working hard, despite of our shortcomings in terms of musical knowledge.
Participant: I have another question, if I may. Maybe you can talk about the sentiment that your circle of musicians had between finding a balance between resisting cultural and political imperialisms and still borrowing from British artistic expression.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: The musicians in my country did look at it the way you are defining so nicely. Music is just as it comes. If you upset me I sing about you upsetting me and that is it for now. The only people who had defined roles of music are the village people, the authentic musicians in the village setup. Those are political songs, they had some misgivings they noticed in the management of social life by the investors and things. But there were also songs by our traditional composers complaining about witchcraft, for instance, saying: “Why are you practising so much witchcraft?” There was a certain area in Zambia that was famous for it. I did a song from somebody’s version, it says, “qua Mununga”. Mununga is a place, “qua” means “there”. Witchcraft is they just sell, and in the end they lose lives that are important to society. Imagine you bewitch somebody who’s supposed to be the next president. What do you gain? Nothing, nothing, but it’s one of the songs alien musicians. They didn’t record, but let me play a bit for you.
(plays guitar and sings / applause)
This song is describing what they use to make the witchcraft, the concoction they use to bewitch somebody. A certain type of bird, the soil from the graveyard and things. Why do you use such things to cure people?
RBMA: Not to immediately return to what he’s asking, but are you saying that you just heard the music played on the radio, that was talked about in the magazines, you saw these guys, the way they dressed, and you took it for what it was and just liked it? It didn’t matter if they were white English or Americans. If they wore bellbottom trousers and platform boots or skinny pants and desert boots, it didn’t matter. It was just what you liked. Is that what you’re saying?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: Look at the guys now, where are their trouser belts? They are below the buttocks. No one tells them “do this”, fashion is just a fad, it just comes and it influences. But I remember one time we went to play in Malawi and the president at that time, Banda, didn’t allow people to have hair below the earlobes. And he didn’t allow any bellbottoms for teenagers. So we were forced to wear socks and Bermudas like the Bay City Rollers and such things. People had their picture, I can show you the clothes we wore. Some shoes, you can’t run in them, we had them made in Nairobi. Heels like this (holds hands several inches apart) and we called them “unkada”. They were quite uncomfortable, but if you look at the Lazy Bones album, they’re the shoes we’re wearing there. Homemade, fashionable, but uncomfortable to a certain point. I know you can’t imagine what I’m talking about. I saw a lot of traditional big guys playing for the radio station, like this song I just played now. They were very good musicians, but they were just used for political rallies. When the politicians came to address meetings, they made them sing and play music in praise of the politicians; then when people gathered the politicians addressed people. They were used as a form of attraction. Only last week, on the 24th it was our independence day and there’s a new president in my country. He was in opposition for 10 years, now he’s the one in the saddle. One musician, a young musician, had composed this song. He braved the intimidation of the former president and composed a song, “Don’t Tell Them”. Because there’s a tendency in my country, when my elections are nearby people dish out money, clothes, so they can be brought into power. Now he composed this song “Don’t Tell Them” and this is what the opposition used, it had so much influence and then the opposition won. So he was honoured last week for being so brave, he was honoured by the president, which is a welcome thing. If they can be recognized they will be encouraged to do more. But the themes for the song are endless. You can twist a topic of any situation the way you want, you know, about the lyrics rhyming and not losing the meaning. They make the song interesting, as opposed to a letter you’re writing somebody. You are free to treat subjects the way you want. That is a licence given to every artist. I wrote this song called “Blood Donor” – let me just explain it to link up to what you’re saying. I’m saying: “I’m living in a sick city” – those are the lyrics – “and it looks like I’m the only doctor, but only one injection, what a pity.” And ‘city’ and ‘pity’ rhyme and nobody would think anything else. A doctor gives an injection when somebody is giving blood. “And when I’m killing them softly no doubt they will enjoy it, but only one injection – what a pity”. And towards the end I’m saying: “You seem to be my last patient. Sticking around is my promise until we get to paradise. I’ll be your blood donor, forever your blood donor. I’ve got four patients every week” – that’s the chorus – “and I’m feeling sick and tired. I really need someone to help me out.” But that is not blood donation – you don’t donate blood every week, you’d have no blood in the body. That’s what I’m saying. “I’m just one man with one manhood machine; why do you all want me to satisfy you sexually?” That’s what I’m saying, I’m complaining. See, you can hide the meaning in there with song encouraging people to donate blood.
RBMA: That’s about as far away from the question as possible but it’s a hell of a story.
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: I moved from your question because I’m trying to share some things. We have this tendency as human beings: you can have a pretty girlfriend, you love each other, understand each other, but you’re waiting for someone to say, “Hey, your girlfriend is beautiful.” That’s when you realize you may lose something nice. We have that tendency: we don’t believe in ourselves enough to say I’ve made a choice, this is good enough for me. Musically it is the same. You think the other person is a better musician than you. You have to believe in yourself. You have to think one day you’re going to be the best. There are never two bests in any family, there’s only one star. You never have two or three in one family, even if you’re Michael Jackson, there’s only one star.
RBMA: Any more questions or shall we wrap it up? (pause) Alright, I think we’re good. Do you want to play one more song on the way out?
Emmanuel Jagari Chanda: One more song.
(music: plays guitar and sings / applause)
RBMA: Emmanuel Jagari Chanda, all the way from the Republic of Zambia. Wow!