WITCH is a rockumentary which celebrates the rich history and present-day sitch of Zambian rock band WITCH.
Rockumentaries have a tendency to conform to type, a consequence of there being little difference between most bands’ stories. Even when artists triumph against adversity that usually just means they end up hating each other or telling Paul Giamatti to fuck off. That’s where WITCH (an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc) stands out; an unconventional tale of success in a country whose economy was devastated by the declining copper industry in the 1970s, and whose AIDs epidemic killed several of the band’s members.
Director Gio Arlotta travels to Zambia to find the group’s frontman Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda (“the Zambian Mick Jagger”) now working as a gemstone miner, essentially making this Searching for Amethyst Man. Jagari recalls with infectious warmth how he got to quartz rock from Zamrock; a funky, fuzzy fusion of African music and psychedelic rock, the completion of “a century-long full circle of musical bastardisations” that went from slavery to American blues to the Rolling Stones then back to Africa.
Alongside this musical and cultural history is a 2017 European tour, like this year’s reggae documentary Inna de Yard (but without the unnecessary subtitles) with a similar sense of music’s unique ability to bridge cultural divides. In the decades they’ve been gone WITCH have picked up a new generation of Western fans, and seeing Jagari back doing what he loves is nothing short of inspiring. This is music filmmaking at arguably its most valuable, when it’s intended to cause rediscovery.