What is your favorite thing to do when you get away from work?
I spend a lot of time seeking out and listening to new music. I’ve always been pretty obsessive about music of all kinds—from punk and metal to electronica to reggae to jazz. As such, the internet has been both an unalloyed joy and an incredible time-suck, as I’m always discovering new artists and even genres. Case in point: Zamrock, which I first heard about five years ago via an mp3 blog that specialized in obscure African music. I’ve done a number of projects in Africa and the Middle East over the years, so it wasn’t much of a leap to decide to try to find some of the guys who made this incredible music back in the 1970s.
What would be your go-to weapon in a zombie attack?
You can’t go wrong with a 12-gauge, right?
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist/writer?
More or less. It was just a question of what sort of writer I’d be. I wrote lots of terrible dystopian short stories when I was younger, followed by a period of minor-key Ray Carver ripoffs, before I found my niche as a journalist. I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing now, though someday maybe I’ll return to the dystopian stuff.
Chris A. Smith is a magazine writer, photographer, and college teacher. He has worked in the Middle East, Africa, the Caucasus, and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Something of a music obsessive, he first heard Zamrock via an obscure music blog five years ago and decided to track down those who made it. His website is ca-smith.net.
In “Ask me About Psych Rock in Africa,” Damien Scogin and Chris A. Smith tell the story of Keith Kabwe, a leading figure in Zambia’s psychedelic rock scene. If you’ve already read the story, check out this great playlist of Amanaz’s album “Africa,” or learn more from Now Again Records.
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Symbolia’s preview issue features incredible stories from around the globe, including:
- Susie Cagle’s thoughtful exploration of California’s Salton Sea.
- A look at life in Iraqi Kurdistan by Sarah Glidden.
- Kat Fajardo and Audrey Quinn on evolution and a fish called “The White Man’s Office” in the Lower Congo River.
- The bold history of Zambian Psychadelic Rock, by Chris A. Smith and Damien Scogin.
- Andy Warner and Lauren Sommer tour the millions of microflora in our guts.
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We hope you enjoy the preview issue of Symbolia as much as we enjoyed making it!
Erin Polgreen + Joyce Rice
Co-Founders, Symbolia Magazine
Keith Kabwe Khala Clip
Interview by Chris Smith
Played 19 times
"Its a friend who you love so much and you don’t want this person to take a wrong way." —Keith Kabwe, former lead singer of Amanaz.
A quick audio excerpt from Chris A. Smith and Damien Scogin's story about a Zambian Psych Rock band that was active in the 1970s. Audio courtesy of Chris A. Smith.