W.I.T.C.H. (We Intend To Cause Havoc) / Habibi
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(We Intend To Cause Havoc)
LIVE at The Bell House
$20 ADV / $25 Day of Show / 21+
WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc) was the first band in Zambia to release a commercial album, in 1973. Blending the Rock and Roll sounds of the Rolling Stones together with more traditional, African rhythms, they created a new genre dubbed Zamrock. During their brief, yet prolific existence, WITCH released 7 albums and was the most revered band in the country. When the 1980s rolled around tied with an economic crisis, music became a luxury few could afford, thus resulting in the end of the scene. Together with the economic crisis, the 80s brought in the AIDS epidemic, which took the majority of Zambia's artists to the grave, leaving a very limited number of them to continue holding the Zamrock torch. Amongst these, Jagari Chanda, the WITCH's lead singer, who in the meantime found God and started working in a gemstone mine. In 2012, his music was rediscovered and reissued, bringing outside of Africa for the first time ever. In 2016, Dutch musicians Jacco Gardner and Nic Mauskovic followed a documentary crew that was filming the WITCH's story in Zambia and played a gig with Jagari, reviving songs that hadn't been heard live in more than 40 years. A few years after this initial concert, they met again in Europe and toured the continent twice to enthusiastic crowds and sold out shows in the majority of places they went.
In a time fraught with political turbulence and cultural unease, having a voice has never felt so important. For Habibi this comes at a crucial moment. The quintet just released ‘Cardamom Garden’ their first EP in over four years; significantly, the first one with lyrics recorded in Farsi. This new direction has been a long time coming for the band who are acutely aware of music as both a natural part of their heritage and a representation of their own identity: “Middle Eastern culture is very heavily influenced by the arts,” shares Iranian-American lead singer Rahill Jamalifard. The EP combines her culture’s flair with a finely tuned vocabulary of widely appealing tracks structured in a new pop approach: engaging and highly danceable while eschewing typical formulas.
Featuring three original songs, and a Farsi cover of 60s classic “Green Fuz,” 'Cardamom Garden' was recorded in Brooklyn and mastered by Heba Kadry (Björk, Slowdive, Future Islands). Bringing their sound even closer to its middle-eastern roots is Tehran-born Yahya Alkhansa, who contributed tonbak percussions.
Both Jamalifard and Habibi guitarist Lenny Lynch originate from Detroit, although neither met until both were living and playing shows in the local Brooklyn scene, where they intuitively fostered a shared connection over their love of Middle Eastern psych music. The two recruited Karen Isabel (drums) and Leah Beth Fishman (bass), fellow musicians who were also friendly through the same DIY music hub, though both also had roots as far away as Puerto Rico before all landing in the common ground of New York City. They were quick to receive critical accolades, with their self-titled 2013 full-length debut heralded by The New Yorker as “stunning.”
“I see you walkin', walkin’ down Woodward / tryin’ to catch a ride,” Jamalifard sings in live favorite “Detroit Baby,” a reference to an avenue in the Detroit of their youth that could similarly apply to the place in Ridgewood, New York where she currently resides, or any other street in America or across the globe. Habibi have proven to be capable of showcasing authentically crafted music that is both uniquely its own yet able to traverse borders in its overarching appeal. This ethos is clear even in the band’s chosen name: “Habibi” translated to English means “my love”-a universal language that makes them easy to embrace.
The Bell House
149 7th Street
(Between 2nd and 3rd Ave)
Brooklyn, NY, 11215