A Diary Of Rosa Lee Brooks: Alignment with Jimi Hendrix
In 2001, when I met a Blues artist named Rosa Lee Brooks on Blackplanet.com, I had no idea what an enormous legacy I had encountered. We were all in a music forum that supported Black Rockers. She was always the sage-voice that kept us educated and informed. In 2002 she personally inboxed me (what they now call DM) to simply give support to the birth of my Rock career. I went to her page to read her bio and witnessed an eye full of narrations that changed my perception of what I thought I knew about Jimi Hendrix and it left me pondering: who is this Rosa Lee Brooks?
When she invited me to perform at The Gaslight in Santana Monica, CA I went to Los Angeles ready to learn. “Let’s go to the way back machine”, as Rosa would say.
Rosa’s story captivated me. She blossomed creatively as a child planted in music, with the overflow of musicians in her household then and now. Some how she was always aligned with guitar energy that started with her dad and brother. Rosa was a child prodigy. She played piano and took to the guitar as well. Being amidst the best musicians in her community introduced her to the legendary Johnny “Guitar” Watson at the age of 15. He heard the gift of her voice and she instantly became his protégé. He took Rosa to her first Blues gig, which helped to set the stage for her intriguing future.
In the early 60’s Rosa was a dancer and recording artist; igniting her career with chart climbing songs. She sung with Los Angeles girl group The Ribbons and worked/co-wrote with the Legendary Willie Hutch (Soul City Records). As I connect the timeline, Jimi Hendrix was playing with bands like the Isley Brothers and soon Little Richard around that time. I’m starting to see how the Universe planned this meeting that would shift both of their journey’s. They were state lines apart sparkling flames of musical passion.
The alignment prevailed New Years Eve going into 1964. Little Richard was in town with his show featuring Jimi Hendrix on guitar. That fate driven night led Rosa Lee Brooks to the Ike and Tina Tuner show in Los Angeles, CA and destiny allured Jimi Hendrix there as well. Once their paths crossed, an instant connection was made and they rode off into the Sunset Blvd.
Yet again the guitar drew in the captivating bliss of Rosa’s voice. This time it was transformed into butterflies and heart shaped emotions (at the Wilcox hotel where Jimi was staying) that gave birth to “My Diary” and “Utee” (that displayed Jimi Hendrix first Rock solo) by Rosa Lee Brooks and Jimi Hendrix. She goes down in history as the only woman he ever had a relationship with and recorded music with. They wanted to be the next Ike and Tina. It was a brief, yet potent meeting of souls and music that lives in Rosa to this day. You can see it at her shows. She still performs in Los Angeles, CA, doing her famous jam session with notable musicians worldwide. You can feel that vibe on West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (released November 16, 2010), where her songs with Jimi Hendrix now live, but most of all it’s under the turquoise stone over her heart.
Rosa went on manifesting her-story by starting her first band in 1966. She has been in a working band ever since. She also pays it forward by mentoring artist worldwide (including myself). Jimi Hendrix went on to New York City, started his legendary career in London with the Experience and Band Of Gypsys down the line. An abundance of life happened between them and separately. November 18, 1970 Jimi (James Marshall) Hendrix passed on (may he continue to Rest In Power). The majestic connection Rosa Lee Brooks had with Jimi Hendrix motivates her to uplift his legacy, while continuing to live in her historic truth.
Follow Rosa Lee Brooks on her social media channels. Get in formation with all the “Jiminess”, as she calls it. Next time she has a show in L.A. you have to have to check her out. Her long-running band The Brooks Project is phenomenal!
As an ARTivist I am inspired to share inspirational stories. I created this village for community builders as a support center. What can we do to help, uplift and motivate each other? If we move together, we grow together. Check out the narrative of Titus Augustine Omaojo of Kogi State, Nigeria. His organization is in need of funding before September 9th. Go here to contribute to my Susu Connection: https://theculturerockgriot.wordpress.com/2020/09/02/blog-community-builder-fund/
Titus Augustine Omaojo
Samantha Hollins: What is the sole mission of your organization?
Titus Augustine Omaojo: Students for Liberty is an international libertarian non-profit organization whose stated mission is to educate, develop, and empower the next Leaders in Africa.
Samantha Hollins: What role do you conduct?
Titus Augustine Omaojo: A Local Coordinator of Africa Students for Liberty (ASFL).
Samantha Hollins: Tell me a little about your background? Where were you born and how a program like this could benefit the children of your environment?
Titus Augustine Omaojo: I am a graduate of Kogi State University (Anyigba, Kogi State Nigeria), Second Class Upper Division from Sociology Department. Having grown from a poor family and suffered injustice, my passion is to help build a humane society where every child’s destiny will be determined by his or her competency.
Samantha Hollins: How does your job reflect the outcome of the youth in furthering their chosen career path?
Titus Augustine Omaojo: Africa as a continent has overtime endured bad leadership. This has vast consequences on the development of the continent at large. With the right leadership and a freer society, Africa will achieve her full potential.An African society where a Son of Nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody. I have dedicated my knowledge and skills to fight for the liberty of all in Africa.
Samantha Hollins: What can everyday people do to assist in these current times of financial uncertainty?
Titus Augustine Omaojo: Your small financial contribution would help me to actualize this dream of a freer African society.
If you are enjoying the content here feel free to contribute. A huge portion of the funding will go towards supporting our “Hardcore Community Builders” segment (that will be featured). There are many organizations that are dear to me globally. There are just as many struggling artist in the Rock music world that need support. We will focus on bringing attention to them. We are immensely grateful for your support and contributions. We strive to give you content that will entertain, educate and culturally move your soul. For everything that is given, we will pay it forward.
Introducing São Paulo, Brazil’s Punk Warriors Punho De Mahin
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
I love discovering new bands in the world that are keeping the roots of Rock pervading. On July 23, 2019 I reached out to a sister by the name of Juliana Aparecida of Metaleiras Negras (about Black women/Black people in Rock’n’Roll and Heavy Metal) in São Paulo, Brazil. I told her I was interested in putting together a show in São Paulo with other Black women in Rock and she pointed me in the direction of Punho De Mahin. After checking them out, I was amped AF! The power of their Punk Rock is unapologetically raw and conscious. I needed to know more about this band I would be rockin’ with once this “new normal” allowed us to tour again. Thanks to technology Portuguese and English translated into the language of Rock-n-Roll!
Samantha Hollins: Welcome to the Culture Rock Griot. Please introduce the band lineup, each position they play and the gear they use.
Punho De Mahin: First of all thanks for the invitation and know that we follow and admire your work. You are without a doubt an excellent musician.
The band consists of:
Camila Araújo-guitarist-Eagle Stratocaster
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Dú Costa-Bassist-Cort B5
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Samantha Hollins: I love the name of your band and what it represents. Please explain why you chose Punho De Mahin?
Punho De Mahin: The first time we met, we all received the same idea of referring to a name. It had to be something that made reference to a woman, a quilombola revolt or some revolution. We began to study several revolts that took place during the slavery period and to discover the powerful figure of Luiza Mahin, a Muslim woman who would have been a princess of the Ivory Coast, of the Mahi tribe in Africa. Brought as a slave to Bahia (State of northeastern Brazil), with her intelligence and articulation she was one of the main leaders of the Malês Revolt – one of the most emblematic revolts of the period. In Brazil and in the world, a dominant White elite has always acted to erase Black history, its victories and achievements, so there is information about this fascinating character in our history.
Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock’n’Roll?
Natália Matos: I believe that around the age of 14 or 15, I started listening to radio specific to the genre.
Camila Araújo: Around 12 years old when I bought my first Nirvana CD.
Dú Costa: It was the influence of the older brother who woke me to the sound of Black Sabbath in 1986.
Samantha Hollins: Is there a mainstream market for Rock’n’Roll in São Paulo? If so tell me more about the representation of Melanated Rockers? If not tell me your thoughts on why not?
Punho De Mahin: There is no specific music market for Black Rockers. There are spaces in São Paulo for Black people with different cultural activities, and that may include Rock or not. There is no commercial interest for the Rock in Brazil. There was a golden period in the 80s and 90s and it gradually disappeared. The music industry is fully focused on the popular styles. But it does not affect us. We have an appreciation for the Underground that has proved to be a space of resistance with the appearance of several bands with Black members, with Black women, bands composed of gays, lesbians, transsexuals and all with strong political and social content.
The Rock Houses are mostly open to Rock bands that do tributes and covers by established bands. There are not many places for the Underground. The mainstream of Rock is just another means of entertainment, while the Rock made in the underground scene, for the most part, has political and social appeal in its lyrics and posture.
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Samantha Hollins: Your sound is so raw and very authentic. What influenced you to create your style of Punk Rock?
Punho De Mahin: We have Punk Rock as a school within Rock; varying among other aspects. The four have other distinct musical influences and all together is what forms the style of Punho.
Samantha Hollins: Please finish this sentence? Punho De Mahin’s lyrical content will make you:
Punho De Mahin: Our ancestors, that due to a condition called slavery were reduced to nothing, must have their values, memories and great deeds somehow restored. Therefore, in order to do so, PUNHO DE MAHIN recalls this history and transmutes the ancestry presented nowadays
Samantha Hollins: What is the energy like at a Rock show in São Paulo?
Punho De Mahin: São Paulo is a megalopolis with more than 12 million people from various backgrounds and this is reflected in the shows. There are several audiences in the same style. The public tends to be more critical, observant and attentive to the lyrics and performance artists. There is an audience that likes to watch shows only from established bands or bands that play covers (the vast majority) and there is an audience that honors new bands that are on the Underground circuit. Both of them transmit a lot of energy to both the player and the audience.
Samantha Hollins: I am interested in learning about a typical meal you would eat before or after a show?
Punho De Mahin: There is actually no specific meal before the show, but junk food for sure (lol) before and after the shows.
I happened to play hungry due to lack of time, lack of places to eat or even from taking food from home, but in general it will depend on the region we play. Our guitarist Camila is a chef and has worked in famous restaurants in São Paulo and we will propose a pre and post show menu (lol).
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Samantha Hollins: Tell me about the vibe at band rehearsal?
Punho De Mahin: As well as the shows being energizing our rehearsals are too, and it is always guaranteed fun!
Ideas flow naturally.
We like to talk about our experiences, as this also helps in the creative process of the band.
Samantha Hollins: Describe the process leading up to a show?
Punho De Mahin: The shows are often organized by collectives, some producer in partnership with the concert halls or houses of culture. We also organized some events, so we encountered some difficulties, but the result is always satisfactory.
Samantha Hollins: With so much creative activism in your music, what is Punho De Mahin’s mission?
Punho De Mahin: Awareness and confront “AFROntar” the structurally racist, sexist and fascist society in which we live. We want to highlight our ancestry and make evident the stories of conquests and struggles of Black men and women who gave their lives for freedom and equal rights.
Samantha Hollins: Being that your band formed in 2019 where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
Punho De Mahin: We hope to have reached as many people as possible with our message, playing in various regions of Brazil and with at least two recorded albums. Who knows? Maybe play in other countries?
Photo By: @Sigarciasi (Simony)
Samantha Hollins: Are there any cultural rituals deep rooted in your music or live performances that is totally a Brazilian thing?
Punho De Mahin: The predominant style is Punk, with all its variables. However, the band is not limited to traditionalisms, so that in some songs we introduced some rhythmic elements typical of northeastern Brazil and it was really cool. These rhythmic possibilities can and will be further explored when we rehearse.
Samantha Hollins: Thank you so much for your time. Do you have anything coming up that you would like to share with the Culture Rock Griot audience?
Punho De Mahin: I would like to thank the public and you for the space for the interview. We expect you here in Brazil soon to play on the same stage.
Samantha Hollins: What lessons have you learned that you would share with young Rockers of African descent coming up in Brazil?
Punho De Mahin: We would like to tell these young people that they should not in any way let someone say what they should be, what they should do or question their ability. And say that the Rock is theirs. Rock is Black. PUNK WAS BORN BLACK. The subversive music is Black and they should occupy all possible spaces so that everyone can hear your voice!
Samantha Hollins: You are very welcome Punho De Mahin. I will be counting down to the moment I get to feel your revitalizing sound live. Your interview is confirmation, that no matter where people of African descent dwell in the world, the struggle is the same. Punk Rock is merely one of your weapons of choice. Your creative ARTivism is much needed and appreciated. I am practicing my Portuguese, so Obrigado para você Punho De Mahin!
Check out Punho De Mahin on their social media channels:
August 30, 1969 Santana’s self titled album released a cultural ambiance of traditional African rhythms fused with a Classic Rock edge. As I hold this album that is older than me (given by my mother), I’ve grown to appreciate the vibration even higher.
The sound of timeless music will pervade over bridges of eternity, reminding us of a definitive moment in time. I remember my mother playing “Evil Ways” over and over again when I was just a child. When “Soul Sacrifice” came on I felt an subconscious ancient connection. This majestic masterpiece “Santana” is more than an album, it’s a huge part of my musical DNA.
Discovering the personification of true art can be like digging in the crates at the record store. Once we find that rare artist that is mint condition it is imperative that we take care of them and give them their flowers. The mainstream is not the only stream that is overflowing with creative genius.
Honeychild Coleman is an underground Rock Queen that sprinkles majestic guitar energy, visual words and ancient vocal charms worldwide. She encompasses a sterling punk, yet abstract genre blending musical experience like nothing you’ve ever heard. This sister’s career is what legends are made of.
Samantha Hollins: I first learned about you in James Spooner’sAfro-Punk. When it was released how did it impact you and your career?
Honeychild Coleman: First of all it was life-affirming to hear how similar the path to being Black and loving Rock-n-Roll was for many of us; how we had all felt so alone for so long. Even though many of us in the Black Rock and Punk scenes here in New York had found each other long before James’ film, it was wonderful to feel recognized as legitimate in my lifestyle and choices. I did receive a bit of press and some interviews as the film gained momentum with awards and film festivals…and thanks to the iconic portrait taken by my then roommate, stylist Karen LeVitt, my image was featured in nearly every interview and review of the film.
Photo By: Ed Marshall
Samantha Hollins: You are the epitome of a true artist. I would like know what is the core of your inspiration?
Honeychild Coleman: I stand on the shoulders of some strong creative forces in my family. My mother, Doris Martin Coleman was a writer. My father, Alfis Coleman SR, managed bands, including the band of my cousin Doug Miller (Third World Edition). My grandfather, Joe Coleman, played banjo and mandolin. My grandmother, Henrietta Bell, painted. My cousin, Michael Morrow, exposed me to his amazing music collection and singing at an early age…and my uncle William Martin was a bit of a psychedelic artist. I grew up taking it for granted that people had multiple creative outlets and interests….and I gravitated towards making a life on that path.
Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock ‘n’ Roll?
Honeychild Coleman: I was definitely young…before I was even old enough to attend grade school…the first rock I remember hearing was the Beatles, Jan and Dean, The Kinks, The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, and The Monkees, which I watched DAILY. My mom and my aunt were serving you Mod and Supremes (who i was obsessed with) vibes in their musical tastes and fashions so there was plenty of Motown in rotation on the record player. Then I saw Chuck Berry, Tina Turner and my hero Bo Diddley on television and that sealed the deal.
Photo By: C. P. Krenkler
Samantha Hollins: How did the guitar land in your hands? And do you play any other instruments?
Honeychild Coleman: I think my dad really wanted us to be a family band like The Jackson 5. He came home one day with amplifiers and guitars for my brothers. My brother Don was already playing upright bass in jazz band but otherwise I was playing clarinet and my brother Al was playing trumpet. Al and Antonio both picked up the electric guitar and when they were out with their friends down the block I would shyly ask if they minded if I played them (they never did!). I thought nothing of it, plucking away at The Go-Go’s and Devo tunes and carried on with my life as a visual artist. I went off to art school and many years later started to seriously consider guitar.
Samantha Hollins: When you moved to New York what was your cultural transformation? Did you bring a piece of Kentucky amidst your creative offering?
Honeychild Coleman: It was a BIG change! I moved to Manhattan from an all White (at that time) suburb in Louisville, KY called Okolona that had no public transportation or even sidewalks outside of the neighborhood. I already loved walking but here everything was faster; walking…talking…creative ideas. By Christmas break I was beginning to lose a bit of my Southern accent because folks in New York couldn’t understand my fast-mumble, ha ha! I thought I would move here and just blend into the shadows because the city is just full of cool and fabulous people. One day on the way to Parsons I was standing on 14th street with my hair spiked and gelled to the high heavens and someone yelled at me from a passing car that I looked like Nona Hendryx. That’s when I knew I was in the right city.
Samantha Hollins: You are extremely diverse with the projects you’re evolved with. Can you please tell the Culture Rock audience about the bands you are in?
BACHSLIDER (Feminist and Women’s Issues focused heavy post Punk/Psych-Rock trio ) with Annu Lilja(Lionel Rocks) and Ramsey Jones (Funkface/RZA/MAAFA/Rebelmatic) – Independent
DEM (solo Electronic/Dub project) – 8RM Brooklyn USA
GKA (politically driven Electro-Punk duo) with my partner Crito Thornton (Crit3rion/2MAD/Brooklyn Beats)
HEAVENSBEE (Spooky Reggae/2-tone project) by Marco Wasserman and Roger Apollon (Bigger Thomas/Rude Boy George), with Dunia Best (Agent 99/Dubistry), Olivier Rhee (The Boilers), and various guest vocalists – Independent
HONEYCHILD COLEMAN (solo Dream-Pop and Punk) Invisiblegirl Records (UK) and Matteite Records (Italy)
THE 1865 (Blues-Punk quartet) with Musician/Filmmaker Sacha Jenkins (Fresh Dressed /Of Mics and Men), Flora Lucini (MAAFA) and Jason “Biz” Lucas (Dragonz of Zynth)-Mass Appeal Records
Photo By: Thomas Appel
Samantha Hollins: Out of all the stages you’ve performed on, what venues intrigued you the most sonically?
CBGB’s for the legendary history AND sound, hands down
The Cooler NYC (also, sadly, no longer open) – too many great shows to list – wonderful sound
Meow MIx NYC – it was our LES paradise, all women run, great sound – recorded my 1st solo CD there
Coney Island High – had everything from Punk and Glam Rock to Drum and Bass nights
Arlene’s Grocery – impeccable sound and local feeling – easy to pack the room
Max Fish – The 1865 has a monthly there called The Rock House (with MAAFA, Rebelmatic and a special guest band) – Super Punk, great staff and fun walk in crowd
The Wetlands – I did a weekly open mic there run by Christo “Gonzo” Gonzales (R.I.P.) first saw Toshi Reagon among many other great talents -Koncrete Jungle was also there for a spell
Samantha Hollins: When you take flights how do you prefer your guitar to be handled?
Honeychild Coleman: FRAGILE! Carry on and gate-check only. Ideally stored in front of plane if not overhead. If I fly with a soft case I stuff it with clothing to cushion my guitar (usually merch shirts ). I am a bit of an instrument packing novice. On my last solo tour in Europe I picked up an amplifier in Ireland which I had bubble wrapped then shrink wrapped to my suitcase to save on the baggage fees.
Photo By: C. P. Krenkler
Samantha Hollins:DJ Sugar Free is another side of your artistry that I think is so awesome. What made you start spinning? What genres do you play?
Honeychild Coleman: I began spinning as DJ SugarfreeBK because aside from my fellow Sistagrrl Maya, AKA Mother Goddess, at that time no one else was really spinning Rock-n-Roll in the East Village. I also wanted to spin the music of my friends to turn people onto it. I had the good fortune of falling in with a women-run DJ crew called Table Manners lead by my friend Petal. They were spinning strictly Drum and Bass and got tired of always being the special guest or treated like a novelty. So at this party the men would be the guest DJs. I was singing with their sets doing freestyle vocals and asked if they would let me spin during happy hour to warm up so I could learn how to use the mixer and turntables. It worked in my favor because if anyone was running late I had extra time to hone my craft. And so it began. Soon I was introduced to SupaJen by our mutual friend Joshua Lorr, who had been designing these awesome DJ bags for us all at Yak Pak. He and Jen had a party going on St. Mark’s Place at Open Air Bar. Once we met and talked about records they invited me to do a guest tag team set. Jen and I hit it off and started our own party. Then DJ Shakey heard we were looking for a permanent spot and invited us to try a few nights at Botanica Bar. We spun everything from Metal to Electro to Grunge to New Wave and Punk. So much fun! I mainly focus on Rock and Ska now and Indie Rock but still have a soft spot for Electro Funk and Freestyle.
Photo By: The late great Mike Brodie aka Laidback Mike Photography
Samantha Hollins: What’s a day in the life of your writing process? What instrument do you create with? Do you write sheet music?
Honeychild Coleman: I played clarinet from 5th to 7th grade, then eventually I stopped reading music. My varied approaches to writing include keeping several lyric books going at all times, rough recordings of ideas on the fly, free flow writing and playing. I write basic guitar and bass tabs, which helped immensely when I picked up the Baritone guitar, but mainly still play by ear. Sometimes I sit down with a concept in mind and write from there, as was the case with writing the album with Sacha and The 1865, and also our process in my band GKA.
Samantha Hollins: Since you have such a brilliant way of making a song sound visual, it seems that it was such a natural progression for your music to transcend to film. What is the story behind your song “Echelon” featured in the Sundance award winning film “Pariah”?
Honeychild Coleman: Perhaps coming from a visual background helps in my writing. I dream songs as well so having music in film has been thrilling. “Echelon” was written before “Pariah”, and in the scene where the song plays out, I was overcome at how well it fit. I wrote that song about feeling out of social class access to someone…entering uncharted territory emotionally and understanding what those barriers are. I had a similar reaction in the scene featuring another song I wrote, “Parallel”, with my old band Audio Dyslexia. To witness the protagonist go through the emotions on screen gave the music a new life and energy. This soundtrack was the only real release of any music Audio Dyslexia had ever recorded.
Samantha Hollins: How does an acoustic set conduct your energy versus an electric set? What’s the difference? What’s similar?
Honeychild Coleman: Acoustic sets for me are more emotionally bare. You can really tug at the audience dynamically as they can hear and process the lyrics as well as direct all of the focus towards you. Playing acoustically can feel more personal and sometimes fragile. The rawness of emoting sound alone can be powerful. When I was on tour with Apollo Heights and we had a residency in Paris, we played at this wine bar called Les Rendezvous des Amis. We sat around on wine barrels as there was no real stage…no microphones…no amps. It was very intimate and relaxed. Otherwise I tend to play semi-unplugged; guitar is electric but no other sounds – and some effects, but rarely fully clean or acoustic. Even stripped down I like the guitar or mountain dulcimer to have a little growl – a little twang.
Samantha Hollins: What is the overall mission you would like to set in stone as an artist?
Honeychild Coleman: My parents not-so-secretly raised me to be an activist and involved in my community. I like the idea of utilizing art and creative expression as a way to reach people and connect while also sharing information; having a message. My creative mentor Hank Shocklee gave me a valuable piece of advice. He said people need to feel hope. So I try to do all of these things while also having fun. To be authentic, fearless and yet also allow myself to be human because the standards often put on us as Black women can feel impossibly inescapable. Music and art help rise above it.
Samantha Hollins: Are there any projects that we should check out past, present or future that will let us dig more into the legacy of Honeychild Coleman?
All hail this flaming hot new song entitled Demon Grave by Botswana’s hardcore lords Overthrust! The static of fury steadily rises from the dead, possessing a wrath of wicked intonation tangled in the web of this mosh pit anthem! Demon Grave digs up a heavier seed of brutal sanctuary for the undertaking of Overthrust fans. The volume of my energy is on extreme overload as I rock out to this massive banger!
All Music W&P by Overthrust
Lyrics written by Vulture Thrust
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Jethro Harris at Milestone Studio, Cape Town, South Africa.
Artwork courtesy of Luke Stroebel Designs
Rhythm guitar – Dawg Thrust
Lead Guitar – Spencer Thrust
Bass/ Lead Vocals – Vulture Thrust
Drums – Beast Thrust
Go here to purchase one of the hardest songs to thrash on my ear drums in 2020 so far:
ZamRock Came To Philadelphia In The Form Of W.I.T.C.H.
On October 19, 2019 I stood front and center at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia (performance venue) awaiting W.I.T.C.H.; pioneers of Zambia’s ZamRock scene of the 1970’s. As the lights were cast down, we were bedazzled by the arrival of the band spaced out in their own zones. The new brew of musicians mixed extremely well with longtime band member Patrick Mwondela. The iconic keyboardist was stationed like a chemist in his lab creating the most invigorating soundcraft. They wore hats like symbolic wide-brimmed crowns and vintage attire straight out off of a ZamRock album cover.
Photo By: Chris Nelson from W.I.T.C.H. concert in Philadelphia October 19, 2019 (First Unitarian Church)
The right frequency of mood conjured living legend Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda to the stage (last living member of the original band). His magnetic life force had the audience entranced! His vibrant, youthful spirit danced over and under every musical note. When Jagari chanted “Introduction ” (from the album released in 1974) it felt like the room expanded into a stadium and as if the spirits of the original band flew in. My favorite performance was when the band took us on an astro-ride with “Black Tears” (off of the album Lazy Bones!!). After years of researching ZamRock (a musical genre manifested in Zambia fusing Rock with their traditional music) I felt privileged having the opportunity to witness the ultimate Culture Rock sensation W.I.T.C.H.
My Roxsploitation bandmates Ronin Ali (drums), Chris Nelson (keyboards) and I grooved our rhythmic souls; holding on to each song tightly. Just as I started whipping my hair, Jagari emerged in front of me handing me his cow bell. Call and response gave me a treasured moment; rockin’ out with my Zambian Rock heroes. They played hit after hit! Yes, HITS! If the audience knows the songs word for word, then we the people certify them as hits! It was hardcore. It was funky. It was psychedelic and it was the embodiment of Zambia’s rich musical heritage. W.I.T.C.H totally lived up to the meaning of their stage name: “We Intend To Cause Havoc”.
Samantha “GhettosongBird” Hollins with her Roxsploitation Bandmates Ronin Ali & Chris Nelson with W.I.T.C.H. after concert in Philadelphia.
Meeting W.I.T.C.H after the show was the profound energy that connected me with Patrick Mwondela. Check out my interview with the keyboard maestro.
Introducing Patrick MWondela:
Samantha Hollins: What role do you play, past and present, with W.I.T.C.H.?
Patrick Mwondela: I’m the keyboard player that joined in the second W.I.T.C.H. band lineup in 1979. I was head-hunted with my guitarist friend Emmanuel Makulu.
Samantha Hollins: Primarily, how did you start playing with Zambia’s Rock royalty?
Patrick Mwondela: I was in a youth band called Guys & Dolls and we “stole” a show at a concert with other bands including W.I.T.C.H.. W.I.T.C.H. band was looking for new great talent. Hence the invitation to later join the band.
Samantha Hollins: Were you a fan prior to solidifying your role in the band?
Patrick Mwondela: No I was not particularly a fan. I was a keen observer and saw myself as a rival musician. We were very competitive and had our own band pursuing a different musical path.
Samantha Hollins: What was your initial feeling when you got word that you would be touring with the new line-up of W.I.T.C.H.?
Patrick Mwondela: I was so thrilled I couldn’t believe it was going to happen. I had the initial idea to have a concert in 2014 in memory of deceased Zambian musicians that were part of ZamRock. Footage was taken from the concert which later resulted in production of a music documentary of the W.I.T.C.H. band through Jagari Chanda.
Samantha Hollins: How did playing your first show with W.I.T.C.H. impact you?
Patrick Mwondela: It brought back a lot of memories. At one point I was touched to hear sounds from the other musicians that I heard all those years ago! It was and is always amazing each time we perform.
Samantha Hollins: You seem to zone out into your own world that connects you with your bandmates internally. Where does the music take you once the stage lights and music fills the concert venue?
Patrick Mwondela: I suppose it’s like an actor: you play the character you are on stage. We were musicians that played from the heart. Hence the emotions fans feel when we perform. We tend to bring something that touches hearts. On numerous occasions fans have expressed feeling a ‘warmth’ in the atmosphere.
Samantha Hollins: What influences do you take into your performances?
Patrick Mwondela: I’ve developed my own styles and I don’t recall the origins. I’ve learnt to express my musical ideas through my instrument. In the forming years the influences were from Motown music, Deep Purple, Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, to name a few.
Samantha Hollins: Can you tell me what is the response ratio of new and old fans at shows?
Patrick Mwondela: That’s hard to work out….we certainly know that most of fans have discovered the band in the last ten years! The music is appealing to the younger generation as well; people who were not even born when all the original band existed.
Samantha Hollins: What is your musical life like when you are not touring?
Patrick Mwondela: I have another profession. I’m a Data Protection Consultant and I work part-time with NHS (National Health Service). I advice NHS organisations on matters relating to Data Protection and GDPR compliance.
Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock-n-Roll?
Patrick Mwondela: I think I just embraced Rock-n-Roll from an early age when I was learning to craft my instrument. I started on guitar and clarinet then self-taught on keyboards. I suppose a greater appreciation came with joining the W.I.T.C.H. band.
Samantha Hollins: Can you describe the chemistry between the band and Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda during your 2019 tour?
Patrick Mwondela: I would say we just picked up from where we left it in 1979-1980. It felt like “business as usual”. The only difference is that we bring a different attitude and approach to our performance. Both of us had God encounters that have profoundly changed our lives.
Samantha Hollins: If I went to Zambia today would I find a thriving Rock scene?
Patrick Mwondela: Yes. I believe and have heard that there are some bands trying to rekindle the Rock scene in Zambia. We believe we’ve settled the music history records. Future Zambian musicians have a legacy they can look back on for inspiration.
Samantha Hollins: Much gratitude Patrick Mwondela for this epic interview. Sound travels so rapidly that the W.I.T.C.H. influence is now charming the world with their potent vibe; seeping into the history of Rock culture.
To be continued as we continue to explore the dose of ZamRock’s past!
To learn more about the documentary “We Intend To Cause Havoc” (Directed by Gio Arlotta. Written & Produced by Gio Arlotta & Tim Spreng), W.I.T.C.H. discography, future shows and more go here:
Steven Johnson, Grandson Of Legendary Blues Artist Robert Johnson, Sets The Crossroads Straight!
When I reached out Robert Johnson’s grandson Steven Johnson and he agreed to do this interview I went back to where I first met his presence in my room, through my 48” television screen. Rewatching ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads (released April 26th 2019) about Robert Johnson on Netflix was extremely fascinating. I immediately took detailed notes. Google wasn’t enough for my research palette. I wanted to jot down words from the mouths of Robert Johnson’s kinfolk.
While many were surmising what they believed happened, the most powerful part was watching his grandsons put all of the myth and truths on the table to be sorted out.
Samantha Hollins: As I listened to you speak so fluently about your Grandfather I would like to know who was your griot that passed down these profound stories to you?
Steven Johnson: Stories about my grandfather, Robert Johnson, was passed on by my grandmother, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Honey boy Edwards ( both performed with my grandfather), Ike Zimmerman ‘s daughter ( Ike mentored my grandfather) and blues historian Bruce Comfort.
Samantha Hollins: What was your reaction when you learned that ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads wanted to do this project and interview you?
Steven Johnson: When Netflix contacted me about doing the documentary, Remastered, Devil at the Crossroads, I was honored and humbled to speak truth on the life and legacy of my grandfather.
Samantha Hollins: Can you tell me more about your dad and his rare visits with his legendary blues father?
Steven Johnson: Actually, my grandfather came to visit my dad twice. Both times he was stopped on the porch by my great grandfather because, being a Southern Baptist preacher, he didn’t want the so-called “Devil’s Music“ being a part of my dad’s life. Each time however, he gave my great grandfather money to give to my dad.
Samantha Hollins: If you don’t mind? How did your dad feel about not having his dad around because of the “Devil’s Music” stigma and how was your relationship with your dad because of it?
Steven Johnson: Dad was raised as a child by his grandparents. Therefore, he had no problem with their decisions. After, my dad was only 6 years old when his dad passed. My relationship with my dad was solidified by his relationship with his grandparents and, later on in his early adulthood; by his mom.
Mississippi Legislators Declare 2011 The Year Of Robert Johnson (including Steven Johnson and his dad Claude Johnson in attendance)
Samantha Hollins: How many grandchildren does Robert Johnson have? How many great-grandchildren?
Steven Johnson: Robert Johnson has 5 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren living today.
Samantha Hollins: Are any of the descendants of Robert Johnson artists or entertainers?
Steven Johnson: I am an artist basically focusing on my grandfather’s music as well as my own and music from the 70’s and 80’s.
Samantha Hollins: You were singing your grandfather’s song with the embodiment of his energy. I would like to know what your favorite Robert Johnson song is?
Steven Johnson: My favorite Robert Johnson song is “Sweet Home Chicago”.
Samantha Hollins: Why is “Sweet Home Chicago” your favorite Robert Johnson song?
Steven Johnson: “Sweet Home Chicago” is my favorite RJ song because it seems to be the Universal National Anthem of the Blues. People from all corners of the world in the music industry know this song.
Samantha Hollins: What is it like to have your wife as your road manager?
Steven Johnson with road manager/wife Misheilaat A 1928 Blues Throwback Bash
Steven Johnson: It’s a blessing because she makes sure I have everything I need. She also watches out for my best interest.
Steven Johnson and road manager/wife Misheila at the 2019 Crossroad Festival in Dallas
Samantha Hollins: What is in the Mississippi air that breathed life into such a down home sound?
Steven Johnson: The Mississippi Soul felt Rhythm and Blues comes for deep within the soul . It is music like none other which paints pictures of life, both good and bad.
Samantha Hollins: From all that you know about your grandfather please tell the Culture Rock audience your take on the whole crossroads myth?
Steven Johnson: Being a preacher for over 30 years, I understand the crossroads myth to be just that: “a myth”. First of all, all souls, and I do mean ALL SOULS, belong to God. Yet he gives each soul choices. Our choices determine our destiny. You can’t sell anything you don’t own.
Samantha Hollins: Can you enlighten us about The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation and the role you play to preserve his legacy?
Steven Johnson:The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation is a 501C3 nonprofit organization established by the Robert Johnson Estate to preserve the life and legacy of my grandfather through the arts, art education, scholarships, youth music competition, mentoring and other community services. I currently service as president of the foundation.
Samantha Hollins: Listening to the stories passed down to you, do you think Robert Johnson would have still been a Blues man if he lived to be an elder?
Steven Johnson: I truly believe deep within that, had my grandfather lived to be an elder, he would have been continuously rooted in the Blues. Hopefully, he would have found his spiritual enlightenment and gospel would have been a part of who he was as well. (hint: like his grandson).
Samantha Hollins: Thank you so much for your time. This will not be the last time I feature your iconic grandfather Robert Johnson upon my Culture Rock Griot. It is extremely necessary to pay homage to the blueprint he laid down for Rock-n-Roll. I hereby induct the Legendary Blues innovator Robert Johnson in my first Culture Rock Hall Of Fame!
With this extraordinary privilege to learn more about Robert Johnson and the legend of the Crossroads, I see it more so as a metaphor. When life meets us face to face there is a sacrificial price to pay in order to understand and usher into, ones true power. What we are willing to give through consistency, hard work and determination is the reward we will receive through our ultimate gifts. Robert Johnson played hard purging his blues into a brilliant catalogue that is even more celebrated today.
Thank you ancestor Robert Johnson May 8th 1911-August 16th 1938
To learn more about how Steven Johnson is preserving his grandfather Robert Johnson’s legacy go here: