I recently stumbled upon a video, which my friend shared, on the good old Facebook and I was completely launched into a whole new sonic realm that got my toes tingling and my brain darting all around the place (in a good way). The video was a three minute long strikingly directed and constructed trailer for an upcoming music documentary called ‘We Intend To Cause Havoc’ starring Emmanuel ‘Jagari’ Chanda, lead singer of the Zamrock band WITCH and directed by Gio Arlotta. Zamrock is a genre that emerged on the Zambian music scene in the 1970’s. The sounds of Zamrock could be described as the Lovechild of cadenced traditional Zambian rhythms, Jimmi Hendrix infused acid-rock and James Brown’s funkadelic sounds. I guarantee silky smooth sounds will be emitted from your speakers (should you follow the audio links).
We Intend To Cause Havoc catalogues the musical journey of Emmanuel ‘Jagari’ Chanda as frontman of one of Zambia’s most renowned rock bands. You can click below to give the trailer a peak.
As I mentioned earlier, I was completely immersed in the telling sounds I was hearing and naturally, my curious Gemini disposition took hold of the wheel and almost instantly was tap, tap, tapping away into my Google Search bar trying to learn more about Zamrock. Believe me, when I say I’m a slave to pleasant tunage. I absolutely love music and I love the rich, dynamic culture and stories of my Motherland and when those two merge and make magic, best believe there’ll be an ecstatic little brown lady shouting about it from the mountain tops.
To further my newly gained insight on Zamrock- I got in touch with the director of the film to delve deeper into the realms of his mind and thus explore his creative vision and on the project as a whole;
INTERVIEW WITH GIO ARLOTTA
What was it that attracted you to this project? How, when and where did you discover Zamrock? We Intend To Cause Havoc is a music doccie- so it’s clear music must mean a great deal to you- could you elaborate on what music means to you?
1) Music has always been an integral part of my life. Growing up, the stranger and more obscure the music and background in which it was made, the more interested I was in finding out more about it. The first time I heard Zamrock was in 2012 when my friend Victoria sent me what is still probably my favourite song by the WITCH, Strange Dream. I was blown away by the sounds that I heard on that song and couldn’t believe they were made in the 1970s in a country I couldn’t even place on the map! I then started seeking for more music from the area and discovered the great Paul Ngozi and his Ngozi Family, Amanaz, The Oscillations, Chrissy Zebby Tembo, The Peace, Salty Dog, Mosi-O-Tunya and many more. I think what it is that attracts me the most to Zamrock in general is the very Do-It-Yourself attitude young Zambians had towards making music and creating a scene. Their abrasive sounds, unlike any other created in Africa at the time, were the product of an obsession with the heavier bands of the time: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Santana and Deep Purple were Zamrock heroes and the bands tried to emulate them in any way they could imagine. This resulted in the raw attitude the bands had, together with their dress sense, lyrical content and outrageous electric sounds that ushered in a new way of thinking to the newly liberated Zambian Youth. In a way it was basically African Punk Rock. The live shows, which I’ve only heard about (no recordings survive) were absolute madness with performers jumping from balconies into crowds, singers walking out of coffins onstage and police officers having to control riots at gigs – The WITCH even spent a night in jail for playing too loud at a club!
The WITCH- Strange Dream
Could you say the moment you heard Strange Dream travelling out of your speakers impacted you or your life in any way?
2) Greatly. This project has become an integral part of my life for the past three years. The Zamrock attitude, as well as Strange Dream, stayed firmly stuck into the back of my mind up until a couple of years after I first heard about it. In 2014, I was invited as a photographer by Taurinorum Travel Team on a Cross Continental African Trip aboard two Iveco trucks. Once I discovered we were passing through Zambia I simply had to find out more. Whilst passing through Kitwe I met Jagari Chanda, lead singer and last surviving member of the WITCH and started my interview process with him. We then spent another two weeks together in Lusaka at around the time of the Zambian Independence Jubilee in 2014, where I got to learn more about his life and his music. Once I returned to Europe and started showing my footage around it became clear that the story and the music were something that needed to be told in the most compelling way possible. I then partnered up with Prague based production company Pantheon Pictures and creative director/cinematographer Tim Spreng, together with whom we started planning to go back to Zambia. At around the same time I met up with Dutch musician Jacco Gardner with whom I had previously worked and who shares my passion for African music from the 1970s. Shortly after, he joined our trip to Zambia together with his drummer Nic Mauskoviç, which resulted in a gig in Lusaka playing the WITCH songs with Jagari Chanda, a collaboration that we’re bringing to Europe in September.
Jacco Gardner for Is Your Clam In A Jam
How would you describe your work style? And what would you say goes into your creative process?
3) I guess you could say that my work-style is quite DIY and experimental. I don’t like using the word psychedelic as it’s a word that seems to have completely lost its original meaning (mind-manifesting) but in that original sense it is definitely something that I try to allow to come through in anything I do. I want the audience to share the visceral reactions I’m experiencing in real time. I also enjoy trying new things for the sake of trying them and warping images and colours to make them look like something else. For instance, I shot some of the material in Zambia in VHS, a medium in which I started my video career 3 years ago, as well as in Super 8 to contrast with the super high definition RED footage that my cinematographer, Tim Spreng beautifully captured.
Have you done this kind of work before? Any kind of creative project involves intricate and dynamic processes which often yield growth in a plethora of manifestations – What lessons or new things have you taken from working on this film (about yourself and your line of work)?
4) No, this is the first project of this scope that I’ve ever done and it’s a constant learning curve. Luckily I’ve surrounded myself with a team of people that not only I greatly respect in the professional sense, but who have also become close friends in the process. We all share the same vision and they’ve helped me turn it into a reality. I’ve learnt so much from them and couldn’t have ever done it without them! We’re still not done with the project so I’m sure I’ll still be learning a great deal before we’re done!
It’s no secret that the creative industry is often times depicted as ‘brutal’ and as a result is extremely daunting to dip Ines goes into. What advice would you give to creatives trying their hand in the film sphere?
5) Well, to give you a little background on how I made my way here: I started a music blog called Is Your Clam In A Jam? (Link it) a few years ago and after crafting mixtapes and writing pieces on songs, I decided to expand and to start shooting video sessions of artists that I liked that toured through my city. The first step was getting a camera, and rather than getting a mediocre digital camera, I found a top of the line VHS camera for a cool €30. After finding the right band to shoot and watching a brief Final Cut tutorial on Youtube, there I was! My advice to anyone starting out then would just be: Go For It. Choose doing over not doing. If you have passion and a dream, just believe in yourself, follow your heart and you’ll end up right where you need to be!
Gio’s First Video:
Whilst filming “We Intend To Cause Havoc” in Zambia, Gio collated and created LUKUNGU: A Rare Zamrock Mixtape featuring the legendary likes of Paul Ngozi, The 5 Revolutions and Dr. Footswitch. All the records in this mixtape were bought whilst roaming about the warm, bustling and vibrant streets of Lusaka. Wishing you the same waves of inspiration.
You can keep up to date with the upcoming project here:
Facebook: We Intend To Cause Havoc Film
Love and Light