The global perception of African music has for many years been limited to Afrobeat, Highlife, and other indigenous forms. However, on the other side of the spectrum, a less mainstream but significantly vibrant movement has been stirring the African cultural pot – Heavy Metal. Indeed, the African Metal scene, though largely underrepresented, has been a steady presence on the continent, with bands from South Africa to Botswana and beyond pioneering a distinct flavor of metal that is as nuanced and rich as the continent itself. Central to this scene is Botswana’s Metal Cowboys, whose unique clothing style and passionate subculture are setting the world stage alight.
A Clash of Genres: The Birth of African Metal
Just like many cultures around the world, Africa too felt the seismic shift of rock and roll in the mid-20th century. However, it was not until the late ’80s and ’90s that the continent saw the emergence of its metal scene. This was facilitated by the end of apartheid in South Africa, and a newfound cultural freedom that ushered in an era of exploration and experimentation.
“The metal scene really started from a bunch of guys who loved the music, who loved the ethos,” says Tshomarelo Mosaka, better known as Vulture, the frontman of the Botswana metal band Overthrust in an interview featured in the video https://youtu.be/076N6Xu8fGc. “It was about the message of the music, not about the color of our skin.”
The sentiment was similar across the continent. Metal music, with its inherent themes of rebellion, non-conformity, and individualism, found a natural home in the hearts of Africans eager to break the mold and establish their voices in the global narrative.
The Rise of Botswana’s Metal Cowboys
One of the most intriguing manifestations of African metal has been the rise of Botswana’s Metal Cowboys. These individuals, often dressed in elaborate cowboy attire but with a distinct metal twist, are more than just a fashion statement. They represent the fusion of traditional African identity with the counter-culture ethos of heavy metal.
This culture is best embodied by bands such as Overthrust and Wrust. These bands not only create music that draws from both Western metal and African rhythms but also dress in a way that reflects this cultural juxtaposition. As depicted in the video https://youtu.be/nXucripcAgc, members of these bands often dress in cowboy hats, leather vests adorned with patches of their favorite bands, and studded belts – an attire that is starkly reminiscent of the American Wild West, yet singularly African in its execution.
“The fashion came about as a way of expressing our individuality,” shares Stux Daemon of the band Wrust in the same video. “It’s about being African but also about being part of the global metal community.”
The Future of the African Metal Scene
The African metal scene, while still emerging, has made significant strides over the past decade. Today, it boasts an array of bands, each with their distinct style, both musically and fashion-wise. The scene’s future, while not completely charted, is promising. There’s a distinct possibility that African metal could go the way of Afrobeat, becoming a global sensation with a unique African flavor.
As a continuously evolving art form, it is likely that African metal will continue to draw influences from both the continent’s rich cultural history and the broader global metal scene. The unique aesthetics of the Botswana Metal Cowboys may inspire similar movements in other parts of Africa, with each region adding its local flair and thereby further enriching the cultural tapestry of African metal.
Tshomarelo Mosaka points out in https://youtu.be/076N6Xu8fGc, “We want to inspire other African countries to start their metal scene. It’s about the love for the music and being true to who you are.”
In the end, the African Metal scene, with Botswana’s Metal Cowboys at its forefront, is more than just about music and fashion. It’s about the assertion of a unique identity that is inherently African yet globally aware. It’s about breaking stereotypes, challenging norms, and forging a path that is both innovative and rooted in tradition. It’s about Africa’s voice in the global concert of heavy metal, a voice that is powerful, distinct, and unapologetically African.
In the words of Stux Daemon, “We are not trying to fit into the global metal scene. We are trying to make the global metal scene fit into Africa.” As we move forward, it is exciting to witness the journey of this vibrant culture, as it continues to redefine itself and its place in the world.