WE INTEND TO CAUSE HAVOC: THIS IS ZAMROCK
Gio Arlotta is a 32 year old Italian film director who also happens to be a self professed music geek. Around 2012, his good friend Victoria sent him a song by the WITCH called 'Strange Dream' - and he was instantly drawn to its musicality and was curious to know its backstory, especially in a part of the world he knew very little about. Two years later he found himself in Zambia on a cross continental journey promoting 4x4 trucks with some friends. He started shooting videos for his blog, Is Your Clam In A Jam?, a couple of months before leaving for the trip he thought that since the chances of him being in that particular part of the world again would be... well, slim, he should seize the moment and satisfy his curiosity about these funky guys standing cool on a raft wearing heels!
Thank you Cem Serter, an executive producer on the film + another music buff, for arranging this wonderful interview with Gio and for introducing me to the funky sounds of Zamrock music.
Before we get to the interview- what exactly is 'Zamrock'?
Zamrock is a musical genre that emerged in Zambia in the 1970’s that can be described as traditional Zambian rhythms combined with Afro Acid- Rock ( I prefer the word " acid" as the word 'psychedelic' is often overused these days).
Gio What were some of the challenges of getting this production made and some highlights?
Well, I've taken almost every day in the last three years as a challenge to bring this vision to fruition, and I definitely had those sleepless nights questioning myself and what I’m doing - luckily those are in the past!
Although we're still not done shooting the film (we're very close!) the challenges so far have been as varied as digging through rooms of archive film looking for any footage of the WITCH in the 1970s, spending a night in the Zambian bush after driving in the back of a pickup truck for 6 hours; bringing Jacco Gardner and Nic Mauskoviç to Zambia and organizing a gig for them and Jagari in Lusaka; and organizing a Jagari's first European Tour this September.
What are Your greatest inspirations or influences GIO ?
I guess what has always fascinated me is the counter-culture and its roots. Whether it's in music, film or fashion, to me it's when people think for their own, find their own voice and create something new and different from the status quo. In terms of film, some of my favourite directors for those exact reasons are;
I guess you could definitely draw some similarities between 'Searching For Sugarman' and ' We Intend To Cause Havoc', and I have certainly seen that film and kept it in mind, but have for the most part avoided watching documentaries since I began working on the film. I don’t want someone else’s choices to influence any creative decisions or direction that I may have.
What kind of reaction do you expect people will have to the film?
Apart from learning more about a beautiful country, its people and its music, what I’d like for the audience to take away is the inspiration to get up and follow their dreams, because you can never know when they will come true.
Why did you decide to shoot some of the footage in VHS and Super 8?
Well, I'm mostly really attracted to distorted, yet unobtrusive lo-fi aesthetics and sounds - whether it's a fuzzed out guitar recorded in a basement in 1966 or a warped image captured through a faulty tape. Not being a digital native, you could consider my attraction to VHS a nostalgic one, it reminds me of strange colours and shapes when your VCR jammed up and the effect that had on my childhood imagination. Those moments stuck, and through my videos I always try and tease that sensation. We decided to shoot some footage in VHS and Super 8 in Zambia mainly because analog film is the medium that I love best, and to give it an analog psychedelic feel that's closer to what could have been achieved in Africa in those days.
DUring production, Gio created LUKUNGU: A Rare Zamrock Mixtape featuring Paul Ngozi, The 5 Revolutions and Dr. Footswitch. Gio can you tell me how you got your hands on the music and anything interesting that might have happened during your search?
First of all, it’s essential to understand that music shops don't exist in Zambia. In the 90s the music industry sadly took a massive hit and disintegrated, with Teal Records, the main record company, leaving the country and leaving a void that has since been filled by piracy. The Golden Era for Zambian music was the 1970s, when the Zamrock craze swept the nation and you could go to virtually any town in the country and find a packed live concert. Many albums were recorded then, but once cassettes and CDs came along, most vinyl albums were just thrown away. I spoke to some people that told me they used them as frisbees! For these reasons, digging for records is very difficult in Zambia. Most of the records I got were either through personal contacts, newspaper ads, or by walking through markets and just asking people. One of those is my friend Mwape who is an elderly man that repairs watches on a cardboard stall on a busy street, but somehow manages to find me records from time to time!
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