In the 1970s a cultural wave was preparing to wash over an entire nation. It wasn’t disco, the Vietnam War, or even anything to do with America. This wave of change was happening in Zambia, a country in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa. Following their independence from England, Zambia was about to create a new, beautiful style of music that was almost lost forever to the turbulent fallout of the post-colonial African instability.
Zamrock is a blend of western psychedelic rock with a strong native Zambian influence. In the time that the country had been under English rule, bands like The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd had grown popular in the UK, whose music eventually made its way over to Africa. Musicians initially learned to play the guitar through listening to this music, from which they incorporated their own style to blend the two major characteristics of the music.
After independence Zambia quickly took advantage of their ability to export copper, which allowed for a bit of economic stability in the country. As younger people found themselves with more money in their pockets, they flooded to bars and nightclubs where Zamrock musicians showcased their work. At this point the genre was so underground that the only way to hear it was to see the bands live. However, this would change as Zambia attempted to strengthen their national identity, part of which involved the mandate that 95% of music over the radio had to be of Zambian origin. As the genre grew, so did the craving for strictly Zambian music. People loved the idea of supporting something that they could call their own, and within a few years Zamrock had tied the country together through its unique and original sound.
Around this time is when the genre peaked. As the 70s progressed, Zambia saw more and more instability due to external conflict with neighboring countries, the reduced price of copper, and the outbreak of the AIDS crisis. Almost every member of the original Zamrock bands have died because of AIDS, however their legacy lives on through the work that they did to unite a country through music.
Some of my favorite Zamrock songs include “You Better Know” by Witch, “Khala My Friend” by Amanz, “Running” by Blackfoot, “Changa Namwele” by Machine Gunners, “Born Black” by Chrissy Zebby Tembo,” and “Musi-O-Tunya” by Musi-O-Tunya.
Hope you guys enjoy the tunes,