Live Session | Watch pioneering Zamrock band WITCH perform “Waile” on the JME Soundstage

WITCH live on the JME Soundstage video still
Emmanuel Chanda, founding frontman of the pioneering Zamrock band WITCH performing on the JME Soundstage in October of 2022 | Still from Live Session Video

The months since WITCH visited Jacksonville to perform on the JME Soundstage inside WJCT Studios have been inarguably momentous.

The pioneering Zamrock band released a new album Zango on Desert Daze Recordings via Partisan Records, a label whose increasingly eclectic roster now includes post-punk act Fontaines D.C., UK jazz-fusion outfit Ezra Collective and the catalog of Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti. The group was profiled in the New York Times, and continued touring at a world-beating clip that would exhaust artists half the age of WITCH’s founding frontman Emmanuel Chanda, 71 (who goes by “Jagari”).

That global recognition (and mainstream critical buzz), though, is something like six decades in the making.

In the 1970s, WITCH were huge stars in their native Zambia. In the years that followed, as the country suffered through economic catastrophe and political upheaval, the band faded away. In the intervening decades, however, the group maintained and even built upon its cult status; its music — which fuses psychedelic rock with funk and African rhythms and cadences — serving as an entrypoint for crate diggers interested in the broader diaspora of mid-to-late-19th-Century African music.

Originally written by Jagari and performed live by the band in the late-70s, the song “Waile” was the first single from Zango, WITCH’s first album of new music in forty years. In October of 2022, the group performed for a packed house on the JME Soundstage and “Waile” was a standout from the band’s headlining set. Watch above.

And head to our NPR Live Sessions page to watch WITCH and more local, regional, national and international artists performing in and around Jacksonville.

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