Zamrock: The greatest music genre you’ve never heard about
If you think AIDS killing Freddie Mercury was out of pocket, you’re not ready to hear about how it killed an entire music genre in the 1970s.
The creation of Zamrock was really the perfect storm. The country had just gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and was able to gain control of its biggest industry and export. Copper mining. This catapulted the economy of the country like never seen before. This meant they could afford to spend less time at the office and more at clubs and parties, and with parties comes music. Lots of music.
Despite Zambia being independent, much like today's South Africa, they had many upper-class British people living in the country. This allowed the local population to get their hands on instruments and records from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and many more. A whole bunch of young people in the country now had the time, money, and influence to pursue their own rock star dream, and that’s just what they did.
The economic boom kept booming and people started hosting Zamrock artists for their events and other gatherings. Even the Zambian government supported this, foreseeing how much it would aid the economy going into the future. 90% or more of all Zambian radio had to be Zamrock, with a platform this big nothing could go wrong, right?
So before we get to the tragic end of Zamrock, let’s take a look at its peak. The two bands WITCH and Amanaz are the most memorable of the bunch. They dropped a couple of albums you can put up next to a lot of European and American psychedelic rock artists who ruled the music scene at the time. They were honestly that good and when I first listened to them myself by accident I thought I was listening to some underground British psych-rock that never made its way to my ears.
So let’s get to the sad part of the story. The downfall.
Nothing lasts forever, and that also applies to copper mining. The industry took a huge hit globally, and Zambia really did not have anything else to export except copper. Less money meant fewer tickets, which resulted in fewer rock concerts. On top of that neighboring countries were in constant conflicts so the artists could not tour as they did before.
Zamrock was on its knees, barely alive when the nuclear bomb of bad news came dropping down. The AIDS epidemic broke out in 1984 and by the end of the 80s, it had killed 13% of their adult population. Due to the lifestyle of rock artists, a lot of them passed away due to the virus. The ones who survived were the few who got out of the country to pursue a career in Europe or the US. One of the main reasons Zamrock lives on today is because they could tell their stories and share their music.
This sparks an interesting question; How many more amazing artists and music genres would we have if a gigantic continent like Africa and its people would have an actual platform? The only reason Zamrock found its way to the world today was because of a lot of fortunate factors happening back then and still today. Sadly most successful Africans end up leaving the continent because the money is centralized in other places in the world. And this does not just apply to music but also sports and art.
Have you ever found a “hidden” music genre or artist?