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Zamrock is a musical genre that emerged in the 1970s in Zambia. It is described as a combination of traditional African music with psychedelic rock and funk.

It has been described as the combined sound of Jimi Hendrix and James Brown.[1] Many Zamrock bands were also influenced by the heavy repetitive riffs of bands like Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, and Cream.[2]

Rikki Ililonga and his band Musi-O-Tunya are generally credited as the creators of this genre. Other notable artists include WITCH,[3] The Peace, Amanaz, Chrissy "Zebby" Tembo, and Paul Ngozi and his Ngozi Family.[4]


Zamrock's roots can be traced back to the 1950s, with northern singers from the Copperbelt Province such as Stephen Tsotsi Kasumali, William Mapulanga, and John Lushi.[2] Zamrock as a musical movement came of age in the turbulent first decade after Zambia's independence from British colonialism, rising and falling in tandem with the country's economic success.[3][1][5] Zambia's boom from its copper mines led to a bust when copper prices fell and the country was devastated by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.[1]

After the country announced its independence in 1964, then-president Kenneth Kaunda decreed that 95% of music played on radio stations had to be Zambian in origin.[1][2] The rush to urbanization in mine-adjacent regions meant a variety of new artistic styles.[6][1] The country's newfound wealth brought with it urban sensibilities and a surge in interest in electric guitar use.[1] Zamrock player Paul Ngozi of the Ngozi Family is credited with creating the kalindula sound, a rhythmic pop music sound with fuzzy electric guitar leads centred around the bass guitar of the same name.[1]

While the price of copper fell and Zambia's economy crashed, Zambia found itself surrounded by political turmoil in neighbouring states. When the country offered to shelter refugees, Zambia's power stations were bombed. Once-prosperous cities were at the mercy of blackouts and curfews.[4] Musicians were reduced to playing unstable sets during daylight hours while their ticket prices became unaffordable for most.[4][7] Every member of WITCH except Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda died of AIDS by 2001.[4]

A resurgence of interest across the globe in recent years, including reissues in North America and the production of a documentary, has allowed some Zamrock performers, including Jagari, to tour, perform, and record new material.[1][7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h S, Henning Goranson; Press, berg for Think Africa; Network, part of the Guardian Africa (2013-07-22). "Why Zamrock is back in play". the Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  2. ^ a b c "Salt & thunder: The mind-altering rock of 1970s Zambia". Music In Africa. 2015-12-11. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  3. ^ a b WITCH on Dusted Magazine (Apr. 15, 2010)
  4. ^ a b c d "We're a Zambian Band". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  5. ^ "Announcing: Welcome To Zamrock!". Now-Again. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  6. ^ Smith, Chris (2014-08-05). "We're a Zambian Band". The Appendix.
  7. ^ a b "Zamrock: An Introduction". Retrieved 2017-05-25.

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