W.I.T.C.H.—an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc—is a band that formed in Zambia during the 1970s. W.I.T.C.H. was arguably the most popular band in Zambia during their heyday, as they performed Zamrock, a combination of traditional African music and psychedelic blues rock.
The band experimented with disco sounds as Zamrock became less favorable in the early ’80s. By the mid ’80s, Zambia was in economic downfall, and in the midst of an AIDS epidemic; W.I.T.C.H. stopped performing, and disappeared into obscurity.
In the early 2010s, however, record-crate diggers “re-discovered” W.I.T.C.H.; when they found almost no information about the group, they set out to find the band. What followed is documented in We Intend to Cause Havoc (2019), a documentary about finding the only two living members: Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda, the lead vocalist during the Zamrock period; and Patrick Mwondela, the keyboardist during the disco period. This documentary, as well as reissues of the band’s catalog, sparked interest from fans all over the world—and W.I.T.C.H., featuring Chanda and Mwondela, is back on tour, including a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, June 24.
“I think my music journey started when I was about 6 or 7,” Mwondela told me during a recent Zoom interview. “I took an interest in the guitar, so I learned to play the guitar at school, and by the seventh-grade, my teacher actually had taught me all that he knew. When I went to secondary school, I went to a music college—just part-time evening classes—and I learned to play the clarinet. I did that for a year, and then after that, I sort of taught myself to play the keyboards, because I had a boy band. By the age of 14, I was on a children’s TV show, playing guitar, so I think that’s where the interest really started. Around 17 or 18, I had a youth band called Guys and Dolls, and we played at a concert where we actually stole the show; also on the lineup of that show was the W.I.T.C.H. band. They were always looking for new talents, so they sort of headhunted me and my friend, Emmanuel Makulu, and that’s how we joined the band. That was 1979.”
The turn toward disco helped Mwondela to contribute to W.I.T.C.H.
“I had an interest in all sorts of music—jazz, Motown—and I played a bit of Indian music as well,” Mwondela said. “We (Guys and Dolls) had a wide range of interests, and we were learning. … We were listening to (Zamrock) music anyway when we were in school, so it was a very little adjustment to make in joining the band. It just so happened that in 1979-1980, that is when disco music came on the scene. It had a huge impact on the music industry all over the world, so it sort of killed all the Zamrock music, and bands just died overnight, because people now wanted to go to disco houses rather than go to a gig. The W.I.T.C.H. band was able to reinvent themselves and produce the Movin’ On album, which was a disco album, in order to actually survive.”
Chanda has talked about the craziness of W.I.T.C.H.’s popularity in the ’70s—from wildly energetic stage shows, to drugs, to a 1974 run-in with the law that led to some of the W.I.T.C.H. members spending three nights in jail. I was curious how Mwondela felt about joining the band.
“I was a bit reluctant,” Mwondela said. “But it was my friend Emmanuel Makulu who said to me, ‘Look, these guys are a household name already; let’s join this band, go for the ride, and see, because later on, we can do whatever we want to do, but at least we’ll have that exposure.’ In a way, he was right, because that’s what he did. Eventually … he went solo, and he did really, really well. I was very loyal, and I stuck it out to the very, very end—and I think it has come to pay back now. … I sort of put all that down—but I’m surprised we’re here today touring and recording.”
Mwondela explained how the documentary came to be.
“The year 2014 was the 50th anniversary of Zambia’s independence, and I just had this idea in my head to contact Jagari, the lead singer. I said, ‘Why don’t we do a concert just to commemorate and celebrate the music, and just honor the guys that contributed this music?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea,’” Mwondela said. “So I traveled to Zambia, and in fact, Zambia and the organizers of the national program were quite interested, so it was a national event. Unbeknownst to me, Gio Arlotta, the guy who did the documentary, was also traveling. He had heard about the band, so he traveled all the way from North Africa down to Zambia to go and find the W.I.T.C.H. band, and he found Jagari. We met up in October 2014 for this concert, and then, eventually, the idea came to do the documentary. That was good, because in the ‘80s, obviously before the digital age, nothing was really documented. We had very few photographs to sort of make reference to, so I felt that by documenting it … it’d be good to just capture that history, because it was being lost. If we only did the documentary, I would have been satisfied to say that at least we’ve got something put down that people can look to, and that will inspire the next generation—but lo and behold, things have sort of spun off from the documentary, and we seem to be going in very interesting directions.”
Mwondela and Chanda represent the two different sides of W.I.T.C.H., and they work together to have the band’s live shows cover both.
“We do a little bit of the disco, but we don’t do very much,” said Mwondela. “… I think it’s good for us to celebrate the two eras. Jagari was more of the Zamrock era, because he was away during the disco era, so he’s having to learn the disco stuff as well.”
Mwondela said W.I.T.C.H.’s resurgence is still a total shock.
“I’ve actually been totally overwhelmed,” Mwondela said. “I think before the pandemic, when we did the European tour, we went to South Africa, Cape Town, Norway, Moscow—and the music was well received. I think in the digital age, people have researched and found the W.I.T.C.H. music, and have been following it for the last few years. What is really interesting is the age of the fans that we have; they tend to be between sort of the mid 20s and early 30s, and they’re keenly following this music. They’re serious fans; they bought all the releases, and they even know the words and sing along, which is absolutely amazing.
“This time around, after the pandemic—in the U.S. especially—I just found that the love for the music has gone to another level. I was wondering whether it was a combination of having been locked down, and having no entertainment for a couple of years, and then seeing this band as well. It’s been really, really encouraging, but also quite overwhelming. … I’m just so grateful to be in these times to experience this.”
W.I.T.C.H. will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 24, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-228-2222, or visit pappyandharriets.com.