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Review – WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc

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Director Gio Arlotta’s WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc walks the path set up by the likes of Anvil: Story of Anvil and Searching For Sugarman. It doesn’t have the dramatic highs and lows of the former or the mystery of the latter. But the heart of the film is the story of WITCH frontman, Emmanyeo “Jagari” Chanda, and his long, tough road back to performing. The charismatic band leader’s moniker comes from a love of The Rolling Stones, and his Jagger-esque stage presence.

The film tells the story of starstruck Arlotta and two young European hipster musicians Jacco Gardner and Nik Mauskoviç tracking down Jagari to bring WITCH back, first in Zambia and then to the west.

But let’s rewind a second and introduce the band. WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc) was a “Zamrock ” band that played during the 70s and 80s in Zambia. Like the Brazilian Tropicalia music of the late ‘60s, Zamrock fused regional music with western psychedelia, rock, and a brief, seemingly divisive disco period. It also served as a soundtrack to the turbulent time of change in their home country.

Although the band was beloved at home and had some records distributed internationally – making a living as a musician in Zambia has been pretty much impossible. The film touches on the timeline of socio-political shifts in Zambia including independence from the UK in 1964 and an economy bolstered by copper export. But by the ‘80s economic collapse, an AIDS epidemic and authoritarianism took a heavy toll – when food became scarce, most people didn’t own record players.

After WITCH split in the ‘80s, Jagari spent some time in prison, joined the Pentecostal church after marrying his wife Grace, and now lives in the Zambian countryside, gemstone mining. “I find myself mining gemstones, instead of making music,” Jagari reflects. The tough, manual labour means he is probably physically fitter than the young lads who come to find him.

Grief hums low in the background of the film too. Both of Jagari’s musical dreams, and the loss of most of his former bandmates and other fellow Zamrock musicians. He is reunited with another of the scene’s survivors – Oscillations guitarist Victor Kasoma, who has spent most of his life in a wheelchair due to childhood polio. Kasoma is a virtuoso on lead guitar, who gets a star turn as the two old friends rehearse and perform with Jacco and Nik to a home crowd.

Some time later, fired up from the Zambia gig, this unlikely crew of international, intergenerational psyche-rockers head for Europe, minus Victor. The new, extended lineup includes some beardy white musicians, and former. disco-era WITCH member Patrick Mwondelawho now lives in Essex.

The film is a bit uneven tonally and stylistically. Understandably, due to limited archiving from the national TV company, very little footage exists of WITCH’s raucous live show. The gap is plugged by a few talking heads and some animations. But, when we do see the rebooted, WITCH takes to the stage – there’s no doubt that Jagari is exactly where it needs to be. But it leaves a few loose story threads. We briefly meet Jagari’s wife Grace and get the story of how they met but there’s not much more on his personal life.

The documentary is also kind of a parallel story about where the lines between fandom and becoming part of the story blur – along the way, Gio Arlotta becomes the European Tour Manager to WITCH.

Despite its flaws, the joy this unlikely collaboration unleashes in its major players is infectious. It’s a true hidden gem about getting the band back together, resilience, resistance, and keeping the faith.

WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc is released on 2 July in cinemas and available to stream

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