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25 Nov 2016

Amanaz “Africa” 1975 Zambia Psych Rock The Zamrock masterpiece

Amanaz  “Africa” 1975 Zambia Psych Rock The Zamrock masterpiece
Take a cursory look at the core of African pop music in the 1970s, and Zambia’s “Zam-rock” scene might seem a bit out of place. With township music to the south; Afrobeat, highlife, and juju going on Northwest; and soukous thriving just over the northern border, there’s something bluntly Western about some of the music that came out of cities like Kitwe or Lusaka mid-decade. But then, considering the European post-colonial influence that still ran through the country at the time, Zam-rock’s fuzzed-out, psych/proto-metal bent shouldn’t be that surprising. Neither should the fact that so little of it actually came to the surface until recently; if a dedicated ethnomusicologist is going to take a trip to central Africa, it’s probably not to bring back albums that sound like Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum. 
Which brings us to a more interesting facet about Zam-rock besides how out of place it initially seems: how out of time it actually sounds. Africa, the sole album by Kitwe five-piece Amanaz, is one of the better examples of the genre’s style, and how it was both behind and ahead of its era. It was released in 1975, rock’s weird no-man’s-land period between glam and punk, but its buzzing riffs and noodly solos place it a bit closer to 1969. That said, it’s hard to pinpoint their exact influences, and the ones that come to mind at first listen seem like some kind of projection: if few people in the States or Europe bought albums by the Stooges or the Velvet Underground when they first came out, what’s the likelihood that they made it to a Zambian audience even five years later? Yet you get a Ron Asheton wah-wah snarl in “Making the Scene”, and there’s a pretty Sterling Morrison-style lead guitar on “Sunday Morning”– which, besides sharing a title with a popular Velvets song, also sounds eerily like “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’”.But it could all just be the shared byproduct of recording straightforward, low-budget rock in an economically depressed environment. For all their cursory musical similarities with the same bands that inspired punk rock, Amanaz were fairly unassuming, even through all the fuzztone. Unassuming in this case doesn’t necessarily mean unambitious– on record, they sound like a band that wanted to ply their trade in heavy rock, folk-pop, and funk all at once– but there’s a rawness on this album that gives it a familiar garage-band appeal. Rhythms shift from minimalist plod-stomps one track to supple grooves the next; lead singer Keith Kabwe’s voice sometimes stretches past his melodic range into an off-key flatness that would be more off-putting if it didn’t sound so spontaneous, and it’s all recorded with a muddy fidelity that, if reminiscent of bedroom tape culture, doesn’t do the music any favors by turning what could’ve been a wall of guitar squall into a flimsy chain-link fence. 
Not like much of that can be helped or even really matters, since Africa is one of those albums we should at least consider ourselves lucky to even get a chance to hear. Kabwe had retired to a life of farming by the time this album was proposed for reissue, and out of the other four band members, only guitarist Isaac Mpofu still survives. So hearing Kabwe wail, “Lemme tell you something new/ About the history of the man/ He’s got nothing to lose,” in “History of Man” resonates a bit more knowing just how little was saved from the Zam-rock scene for future posterity and how close to impermanence Amanaz’s music actually Nate Patrin…… 

Liner Notes: 

Amanaz are a group of five. Namely, Keith Kabwe from the “Clusters,” which broke up in 1972. John Kanyepa from the “Black Souls,” which also broke up early in 1975 in Kitwe. Watson Lungu & Terry Mausala from “MacBeth,” which disbanded in 1973. Isaac Mpofu from the “Wrong Number,” which disbanded in 1973 in Kitwe. The band was formed in December 1973. Amanaz give their most thanks to Edward G. Khuzwayo, who sponsored the entire recording, and not forgetting Billie David Nyati, who assisted on behalf of Music Parlour Limited to arrange the songs during recording sessions. 

Leonard Koloko (Zambian Music Legends): 

This is a fuzz guitars and bass driven rock album which was released in 1975 and has since been reissued. Although the main title is “Africa,” it has nothing of the Africanised highlife and juju styles. Instead it has an internationalised style with certain African elements still being recognisable. 

Strawberry Rain Music: 

There are two original pressings of this album with completely different mixes. It’s an ideal blend of psychedelic rock and African sounds and somewhat original when you look at the Zambian scene as a whole. Maybe not the heaviest thing you’ll hear from Zambia but a great album none the less. It offers variety without losing the listener or the overall feel of the album. The original pressing has a little more separation and reverb compared to the reissue, especially in the vocals, but overall it isn’t the greatest pressing to begin with unfortunately. It seems the Zambian recording industry was hit or miss with its pressings and overall mastering. Really all over the map sonically as an industry, even within labels and individual bands. 

Shadoks Music: 

Amanaz was formed in 1973. Three songs are in the native language Bemba and nine songs are in English. Musically, it goes in the same direction as BLO, WITCH and Question Mark but this album is way cooler and stoned with amazing fuzz guitar all over, which sounds like an African version of early Cream. The cover makes it look very traditional but after a few spins you are aware that this one is very special. It’s so cool, so tightly produced and easy to compare with UK underground albums with a touch of African beats. 

Now-Again Records: 

Issued in 1975, this is the articulation of Zambia’s Zamrock ethos. While other albums – Rikki Ililonga’s Zambia, WITCH’s Lazy Bones!! – are competitors, it’s hard to best this album as it covers each major quadrant of the Zamrock whole: it came from the mines; its musicians were anti-colonial freedom fighters, it envelops Zambian folk music traditions, and it rocks – hard. Africa was issued in two separate mixes and two separate presses in 1975: one version is dry, with the vocals and drums mixed loud, the other slathered in reverb, with the vocals and drums disappearing into the mix, and with the guitar solos mixed much louder……. 

Amanaz distinguishes itself in a similar way as Witch, as a fuzz-guitars and relaxed but also melodic bass driven rock album. With two instrumentals, songs by different lead vocalists and a rather subtle rhythm section, it gives most often a relaxed feel, somewhat urban-like, with a diversity of solid songs, with emotionally rich singing and playing, and although the main title is “Africa” it has nothing of the Africanized high life and juju styles a general public still wants to hear from Africa. This is real personal song music of a somewhat internationalized style, although certain African elements can be recognized. On the title track, one of the few non English tracks, African rhythms are played by the rhythm guitars. This track also features some nice harmony vocals. Some songs are slightly melancholic which distinguishes the band even more. Just some of the last tracks express a bit more raw, expressed vocals, we also know from the Chrissy Zebby album. One of the most enjoyable albums, I have heard from the African rock scene so far. 

The back cover says Amanaz is a quintet with Keith Kabwe (vocals, maracas, tambourine) from Klasters who broke up in 1972, John Kanyepa (lead and rhythm guitars, vocals) from the Black Souls who broke up in early 1975, Watson Lungu (drums, vocals) and Jerry Mausala (bass guitar, vocals) from MacBeth who disbanded in 1973 and Isaac Mpofu (lead and rhythm guitars, vocals) from the Wrong Number who disbanded in 1973. Amanaz was formed in 1973. …….. 

A gem from Zambia’s 70s “Zamrock” style, half sung in English and half sung in native Zambian “Bemba”. Fuzzy guitar, groovin beats, stoned chants, its just what you wanna hear on this Sunday evening……… 

“Armanz” were based in Ndola. There are still two living members of this group. Keith Kabwe (drums/vocals) is now a Penticostal Pastor in Mbala, a town in the Northern part of Zambia, while Isaac Mpofu (lead guitar/vocals) is now a farmer in Chongwe, a suburb east of Lusaka. Your other info on the band is correct. There were many other Zamrock/Pop groups around that either recorded one LP or never recorded their music for one reason or the other, e.g. Oscilations, Mkushi, Fire Fballs, Sentries, Explosives, Upshoots, Salty Dog, etc…… 

Issued in 1975, this is the articulation of Zambia’s Zamrock ethos. While other albums - Rikki Ililonga’s Zambia, WITCH’s Lazy Bones!! - are competitors, it’s hard to best this album as it covers each major quadrant of the Zamrock whole: it came from the mines; its musicians were anti-colonial freedom fighters, it envelops Zambian folk music traditions, and it rocks - hard…………… 

Vocals, Maracas & Tambourine: Keith Kabwe 
Lead/Rhythm Guitar & Vocals: Isaac Mpofu | John Kanyepa 
Bass Guitar & Vocals: Jerry Mausala 
Drums & Vocals: Watson Lungu 

A1. Amanaz (Mpofu/Mausala) 
A2. I Am Very Far (Kabwe) 
A3. Sunday Morning (Kanyepa) 
A4. Khala My Friend (Mpofu) 
A5. History Of Man (Mpofu) 
A6. Nsunka Lwendo (Mausala) 

B1. Africa (Kanyepa) 
B2. Green Apple (Kanyepa) 
B3. Making The Scene (Lungu) 
B4. Easy Street (Kabwe) 
B5. Big Enough (Mausala) 
B6. Kale (Lungu) 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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