The term ‘Zamrock’ loosely describes a brief, but powerful, musical movement that swept Zambia during the 1970s. As with much of the world at the time, Zambianswere listening to the work of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who and Cream, and were eager to begin experimenting with these exciting new sounds arriving from overseas.
In the early days of Zambian independence, a drive towards focusing on domestic talent pushed then-President Kenneth Kaunda (himself an amateur musician) to pass a law that decreed that a minimum of 95% of the music played on Zambian radio stations had to be of Zambian origin. While this initially launched with the aim of bolstering local musical traditions, an unintended side-effect of the law resulted in the incorporation of international musical styles into Zambia’s musical lexicon.
With an Afro-centric, anti-colonialist message that resonated across Africa, Zamrock shone as a brief glimmer of hope in a content only barely just emerging from the grips of western imperialist forces, and in this time a number of groups emerged including WITCH, Paul Ngozi, The Peace, Dr. Footswitch and more.
However, by the late 1970s, inflation and unemployment in the wake of a collapsed copper industry eventually led to the economic demise of Zambia, and along with it the disbanding of many of Zamrock’s pioneering groups, who sought other employment in order to survive in the new economic landscape. Alongside this, the age of music piracy also aided in the downfall of Zamrock, with pirate stations and bootleggers in neighboring countries making money from duplicating and selling Zambian music. The musical landscape eventually shifted with the arrival of new genres like reggae, R&B, and hip-hop.
Though the age of Zamrock was short lived, the genre lives on due to the hard work of passionate teams of archivists who have rediscovered much of this wonderful music, allowing groups like WITCH (pictured in main image) to remain active to this day.
Check out DJ George Comodino’s full mix below:
Born Free - ‘Mad Man’
Dr. Footswitch - ‘Otenta’
Fire Balls - ‘Umwana Wakusanga Mung’Anda’
WITCH - ‘Introduction’
The Peace - ‘Black Power’
WITCH - ‘Strange Dream’
Paul Ngozi & Ngozi Family Band - ‘Heavy Metal’
Photo Credit: Times of Zambia