Sunday, February 24, 2013

Botswana Has A Metal Scene That Can Melt Jonah Hex's Stare

"The Time to Kill is Now (Trooper), 2010" Frank Marshall. Courtesy of Rooke Gallery.
Metal does something that I don't think any other genre of music can do. The raw pounding riffs, guttural shrieks and growls, along with absolute bravado actually create a unique form of energy. Go to any metal or hardcore show and watch as the crowd almost starts to foam at the mouth, just waiting for the rhythm and riffage to start. Its primal and draws upon an internal flame that most times almost cannot be quenched to it's fullest. Fans sing the lyrics, become part of the storyline and invest vast amounts of personal time and effort studying the craft of the musicians, who create the music.

When we got an email from Dawes of the infamous punk band Black Vomit Soda, we knew we had to investigate more and find out about these righteous dudes on the other side of the earth. Seeing the great photos of some of the Botswana metal fans is inspiring and clues us in that maybe our metal scene could use a dose of adrenalin. They have something great cookin'!

View post on The Guardian UK

"In the remorseless Kalahari heat, leather is not the most obvious choice of attire. But to a dedicated band of Batswana metalheads, it's the only way to dress. The country's heavy metal scene, imported from neighbouring South Africa, may be niche but its fans are passionate about their style. Dressed from head to toe in black leather, sporting cowboy boots, hats and exaggerated props, they draw some curious looks on the dusty streets.

"People think that we are rough, evil creatures, but [metal] teaches us to be free with expression, to do things on our own," said Vulture, the vocalist of the band Overthrust. He says there is a long way to go before the genre is considered mainstream, but that audiences have grown steadily in the past decade.

TKB, bassist for the band Skinflint, which is based in the capital of Botswana, Gaborone, says they are becoming a more familiar sight. "The culture doesn't accept heavy metal fans, the people all look at you, but nowadays even the young boys know that this person is a metalhead."

Botswana got its first heavy metal band, Metal Orizon, in the early 1990s. The group are still writing music and performing live today.

Their drummer, Selaelo, said the dress code was an important part of the act. "[Around] 1998 the unusual rock star outfit caused a lot of curiosity among hostile members of the public. This curiosity from non-rock lovers, I would say, brought more attention to the metalheads. Now that they had more attention, the rockers took [it] a step further by acting and posing in public. It was now more of a fashion, or the 'in thing' for those who loved the subculture."

Selaelo added: "Some say our music is just noise and some perceive us as violent people … but that has not dampened our spirits. We will continue to show our worth in society and to follow our hearts for the love of metal."

'Dead Demon Rider 1, 2010'. Photograph: Frank Marshall. Courtesy of Rooke Gallery
Metal Orizon are still pursuing their dream – to be able to make a living from their music.
There's not much airplay for metal in Botswana, with only one radio show that broadcasts for 50 minutes a week on national radio. Fans keep up to date through word of mouth, swapping tapes and social networks.

Though attendance at concerts is small in comparison to the west, the scene has slowly built a steady fan base. To date, no western heavy metal act has performed in Botswana, and no Botswana metal act has performed outside the region.

Jonah Hex can't even stare down anyone this hard
The most popular band, by far, is Wrust, who have toured South Africa and played as a support act for the Brazilian heavyweights Sepultura. Wrust say they draw on western influences, with a local twist in the lyrics and delivery.

But vocalist Stux Daemon said traditional culture was harder to integrate. "You are going to try to use your surroundings to influence your music, your thoughts and your songwriting, but [Setswana culture] is not something we focus on," he said.

The images are currently on display at the Rooke Gallery in Johannesburg
• This article was amended on 11 February 2013. The first paragraph referred to the metalheads as Botswanan. The main term for the people of Botswana is Batswana. This has been corrected.

"Death, 2010" Frank Marshall. Courtesy of Rooke Gallery.