Monday, June 27, 2011

African metal scene: Kenya & Botswana

Finally, this weekend I had some time to check the music recommended to me by my readers, and let me start from reviewing some African metal.

As I have already said, metal or even rock music is almost non-existent in Africa, if not to count South African republic, Madagascar, and the countries near Mediterranian sea. Countries having at least one more or less known rock/metal band could be counted by one hand: Angola (Neblina), Cameroon (Ngos'a Bedimo, never released anything), Mozambique (Darkest Place, again no physical releases), Malawi (Rhanawa, most likely a hoax)... if not two important exceptions.

First of all, looks like Kenya has at least two metal bands, and they're actually not bad. Initially I had quite low expectations on the band Last Year's Tragedy from Nairobi (especially when I saw tags like "emo" on their last.fm page), but their single "A Tribute To Anarchy" turned out to be much better than I expected. LYT's music can be loosely described as post-hardcore/metal with lots of keyboards. Of course the quality of production isn't perfect... but come on, it's the first African (non-SAR) hardcore band I've ever heard of!

There's at least one more Kenyan metal band, called Absense of Light. Almost nothing is known about them, but here's a preview of their album "Penumbra":

And of course, I have to mention the metal scene of Botswana, one of the most active in Africa. Botswana is a sparsely populated desert country, yet it's among the most urbanized and generally developed countries in sub-Saharan africa, and looks like it applies to the metal scene too. One of the best African metal bands, Crackdust, is from Botswana:

Don't like death metal? Well, there's some traditional heavy metal in the vein of early 80s NWOBHM scene (though in my opinion it isn't as impressive as Crackdust... and the vocalist's accent is quite strong even for me, not a native English speaker):

There are some rock/metal festivals in Gaborone, even though it don't looks like there are too many attendees:

The perfoming bands are: Stane, Amok, Wrust, Metal Orizon, Dust n' Fire. According to them, there are no serious political or religious obstacles for playing metal in Botswana, if not to mention some Muslim fanatics who are destroying the instruments which they believe to be designed for playing "satanic music" - but such cases are extremely rare. As we can see, there's already plenty of heavy metal and death metal bands, but no black metal at all. That's a pity, since not only the mythology, but also the history of Africa has a lot of material for black/pagan metal lyrics.

For just a single example, here's a story of Joshua Milton Blahyi, better known as General Butt Naked (no, it isn't a joke - when he was a warlord, he actually led his troops naked except for shoes and a gun, and he believed that his nakedness was a source of protection from bullets), once dubbed "the most evil man in the world". Joshua Blahyi was born in Liberia (yes, I know it's very far from both Kenya and Botswana, but it's still in Africa...), and at age 11 he was initiated as a tribal priest and participated in his first human sacrifice. During the course of the three day ritual that followed, Blahyi says that he had a vision in which he was told by the Devil that he would become a great warrior and that he should continue to practice human sacrifice and cannibalism to increase his power.

During the days of Liberian civil war, Blahyi claimed that he "met Satan regularly and talked to him", and took part in monthly human sacrifices. According to him, it "included the killing of an innocent child and plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces to eat". Blahyi also purported that when he was a warlord and Satanic priest, he had magical powers that made him invisible, and a "special power" to capture a town singlehandedly, then call in his troops afterwards to "clean up" (which meant slaughtering anyone they saw, chopping their heads off and using them as soccer balls). During the First Liberian Civil war he led a mercenary unit, many of whom were child soldiers, that was known as the Butt Naked Brigade - and they indeed entered every battle naked, hence the nickname.

When I read this article, I just couldn't help smiling at every occurence of the words "General Butt Naked", even though the article deals with very serious and gruesome subjects. As of today, former General Butt Naked claims he has found Jesus and seeks redemption for his crimes. Now he's an evangelical pastor, preaching peace and forgiveness - but I think it'd be better for him to form a black metal band instead :P At least he actually deserved the name of "the most evil man in the world", unlike some...

10 comments :

  1. African hardcore? How about some Algerian thrashcore/powerviolence: http://www.myspace.com/demokhratia

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  2. Could you publish an entry about protests in Chile to improve our educational system. Sorry, my English sucks.

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  3. Also, I agree that African history and mythology provides a lot of potential source material for black metal.

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  4. Thanks for this post, is really very interesting. Some time ago, I also tried about African Metal: this post sums well the situation in Africa, congratulations. And sorry for my bad English!

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  5. This is probably one of the most surprising and inspirational things I've read here (and there has been a few!!)...music literally is it's own world!

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  6. New blog featuring black metal from North Africa, amongst other things: http://printempsnoir.blogspot.com/

    Thanks!

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  7. hey! I agree with your post. I am Nigerian and I can tell you the problem with Black Metal (and generally any form of extreme Metal) in Nigeria/Africa is becuase most people here are religious to a fault. The guys listening to Black Metal here (myself included) are Atheists; Methinks if Africans can drop the religious burden, then I think Black Metal (and any Extreme Metal) would be a huge here. Like you truly pointed out, we have the Mythology, and Lore and ancient rites that fit perfectly with this genre. Sorry my post's kinda long. :)

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    1. I'd love to see a Nigerian metal band. You should get together with some fellow metalheads and start a band.

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  8. neeeeed . . . mooooore . . . metal!

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  9. Doesn't get more black metal than this! :-D

    Dope.

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