With the election of Richard Nixon, the hippie era had come to a screeching halt; however, just as the hippie era ended in the States, young people across what was then known as the white minority ruled Rhodesia — now known as Zimbabwe — had created a rock ‘n’ roll counterculture that drew inspiration from the hippie era’s message and ideals, as well as the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and others. And unsurprisingly, the young folks in their scene had dubbed their music “heavy” because they felt and believed in its impact — and their music began to resonate across to its neighbor in Zambia and as far North as Nigeria. And at its peak, in the mid-1970s, the country’s heavy rock scene had united thousands of young progressives across all racial and social backgrounds, openly defying the country’s harsh segregation laws and secret police, while making a bold stand for democratic changes that would benefit all.
As I’ve mentioned frequently on this site, including as late as yesterday, the technological advances brought forth by computers and the Internet have made discovering new and extremely rare, lost music from known and little known artists much easier. And it’s also contributed to a proliferation of extremely niche-based labels, who are willing to take careful, thoughtful and taste-making risks. As a result, a number of these labels have spent at least a portion of their time introducing and re-introducting artists, whose work was either so far ahead of its time, that audiences at the time just couldn’t grasp it upon its initial release — and yet, now has proven to fill in a historical gap; or the work of regionally favored artists, whose work should have seen a bigger audience but somehow just never broke out; and in the case of “world music,” releasing work from artists based in regions and countries that Westerners being biased Westerners hadn’t been paying attention to and really should have been. To add to my point, at the time of Zimbabwe’s heavy rock scene’s existence, a quartet by the name Wells Fargo was at the forefront of their homeland’s scene — and for the first time ever will be released the band’s renowned album Watch Out outside of Zimbabwe.
Interestingly, Watch Out‘s first single, album title track “Watch Out” was largely considered their counterculture’s anthem and while clearly drawing from Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland-era Hendrix, there are hints at 60s garage rock and folk-leaning blues and while pointing out the dangers of what was clearly uncertain and fucked up times for them, there’s clear sense of hope and possibility; after all, the storm that’s coming over the horizon will inevitably end. But with some strange days ahead for us here in the States, let the example of these Zimbabweans be a reminder that music and art are weapons — and when you have them on your side, you wield incredible power, the sort of power that wannabe autocratic demagogues like Donald Trump actually do fear. So artists, go out and lead the charge!