The previous posts covered the research I have done so far; this one will be about problems with this topic, where else this research could go, my personal recommendations, and finally a list of sources.
Not surprisingly, it’s hard to research a scene in a different country without ever visiting that country. That’s part of the reason I looked at the othering, exoticizing aspects of the media’s presentation of the scene – and of course there’s perhaps an irony or a methodological problem in taking all of my sources from the media and then accusing the media of a bias, but I’m confident my point is a valid one still.
The volume and variety of information that can be gathered purely through online press and scholarly sources is limited, and there are huge gaps and inconsistencies in some of what I’ve found. Not all bands update their social media as often as others, and sometimes different social media sites may contradict each other. Encyclopaedia Metallum doesn’t list every Botswanan band that I’ve found, for example. Some bands I only know from references on others bands’ pages or gig programmes.
There are also big gaps in the chronology I’ve been able to put together. I suggest in my first post that in the 80s and 90s local bands were playing classic rock and heavy metal, but to be honest I’ve found very little information on those years. The only bands I know of active before the 2000s are Nosey Road and Metal Orizon (founded 1991) – there may well be others in this era, but right now I’m not sure how to find out.
I’ve also been told there’s a forthcoming book by researcher Magnus Nilsson (I think), who met the Batswana metalheads before Frank Marshall began his portraits, that apparently will contradict Marshall’s story, in that the fans could be quite hostile or standoffish to him as an outsider. I’ll be interested to read this! I’ve also claimed that Frank Marshall’s work is one of the first exposures of the scene; Keith Kahn-Harris tells me that he wrote an article online before Marshall’s portraits were published, but I can’t seem to find it.
I also have been sent some material on Sub-Saharan African metal from a German magazine, which I haven’t fully finished translating yet, and I’m very much looking forward to incorporating this into my work, and whether there are differences in how the scene is portrayed in the media of different languages.
There’s plenty more research potential in the Botswanan scene, should I or anyone else ever get the opportunity to explore it. Some topics that have come to mind:
- Gender in the scene: there’s only one female musician I know of (Sandra Sbrana from Skinflint), though photos of gigs and concerts seem to show a pretty high level of female attendance, and I’ve heard anecdotally that female fans participate fully and have a generally assertive take-no-nonsense attitude. There’s a fair bit of existing work out there on gender within metal, so I expect this could be a fertile topic.
- Pan-Africanism: There seems to be a slight trend towards identifying as “African metal” at least as much as “Botswanan metal” – for example, Skinflint’s YouTube channel titles a lot of videos with “African Metal Band”, and I seem to recall a lot of social media posts from bands talking about “African metal”. Scenes exist within scenes, so it’s not surprising that national scenes may have an identity within a regional or continental scene; you could possibly say that the same thing happens with local and national scenes within the Scandinavian scene. In any case, pan-Africanism seems to be a pretty strong meme in other music; YouTube commenters on videos of South African pop and electro music – not necessarily from South Africa themselves – frequently make reference to African music and African culture. The problem here is that as a white guy, I’m not sure how to approach writing about pan-Africanism without inadvertently communicating “Africa is a country”.
- Musicological research: let’s not forget that actual music is being produced here, and musical works themselves are as open to analysis and research as any other.
- A history of the scene: as I said, right now it’s not easy to put together a clear chronology of the scene’s history, this could be an interesting exercise and would be a useful resource for other researchers.
- I haven’t written at all about the influence of traditional music on the metal scene, because I haven’t the first clue about traditional Setswana music. I don’t hear anything that strikes me as though it might be a local traditional sound – but I don’t know what to listen for. Certainly bands don’t make much reference to incorporating elements of local music in their output, but it’s up to someone with knowledge of Setswana music to do that research. For whatever reason, black metal is often the style that seems to incorporate folk fusions most easily, so perhaps if a black metal scene were to arise in Botswana, folk influences would follow.
- Botswana appears to be one of the least-religious countries in Africa. 20% of the population report “no religion” – more than its neighbours. South Africa reports 15% no religion, Namibia and Zimbabwe seemingly 0%. I suspect that this is already a difficult issue to establish clear demographics on, and probably applying a specifically Western notion of religion might be problematic, but it’s certainly amusing that the same country should have both the continent’s highest level of reported irreligiosity and also its best Devil’s Music.
When I first heard Botswanan metal, I felt that production wasn’t really as polished as I was used to in modern recordings. This has changed over time, as I’ve either started noticing it less, or come across later recordings with better production. I don’t see any evidence that there is a specific lo-fi or anti-production aesthetic. Crackdust’s Dented Reality album still sounds a bit rough, but Wrust and Skinflint’s more recent output is much better.
Those three bands are probably the ones I would recommend most highly, and are easy enough to find. Skinflint (NWOBHM styled) have a website and are on Spotify, Crackdust (old school death) are on Spotify, and Wrust (groovy death) have pages on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Other Botswanan bands that have Soundcloud are Kamp13, Stane, and Metal Orizon, and the site seems to be popular with Angolan and Mozambican bands too. A lot of the bands have Facebook profiles, either with embedded players or links to other profiles, and some have other pages scattered about the various corners of the internet.
I’m keeping a spreadsheet on Google Documents where I am trying to keep track of the various bands. Currently very much a work in progress, and it’s not a project I expect will be finished easily! Some are artists with high sales and big internet presences, like those I’ve already mentioned; some are just single mentions in concert listings or a single photo on an obscure blog. It’s open for the public to view, and I’ll update it as often as I can and whenever I find new information.
Here are most of the sources I drew on in this research.
- Banchs, Edward. ‘Desert Sounds – Kalahari metalheads pursue a dream‘. The Guardian, 10 February 2013, accessed 11 May 2014.
- Barnett, Errol. ‘Rebels with a cause: Botswana’s heavy metal heads‘. CNN Inside Africa, July 4 2012, accessed 11 May 2014.
- B.K., ‘African metal scene: Kenya and Botswana‘. Red & Anarchist Black Metal, June 27 2011, accessed 11 May 2014.
- Cosmo, Lee. ‘Botswana’s metal cowboys’. Invisible Oranges, 11 April 2011, accessed 11 May 2014.
- Kahn-Harris, Keith, ‘Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge’.
- Kahn-Harris, Keith and Marshall, Frank. ‘Botswana’s Cowboy Metalheads‘. Vice, 31 Mar 2011, accessed 11 May 2014
- Marshall, Frank. ‘Visions of Renegades’. Transtition No. 109, Persona (2012), pp 63-71.
- Navjotkaur. ‘Heavy Metal is the New Patriotism in Botswana, Africa‘. Metal Injection, July 9 2012, accessed 11 May 2014.
- Redgrave, Oslo. ‘Interview with Giuseppe Sbrana‘. Egmnow, 4 Jan 2013, accessed 11 May 2014.
- She Wolf. ‘Stop asking me what I think about metal in Botswana‘. Hear Evil, May 3 2013, accessed 11 May 2014.
- Vprometropolis. ‘Bunny-hugging metalheads in Botswana‘. Youtube, 31 Jan 2013, accessed 11 May 2014.
- Figures on religious demographics were taken from CIA World Factbook, accessed 11 May 2014.
Other interesting reads on Botswanan metal:
- March of the Gods, Botswanan Metal Documentary.
- Metal Archives’ lists of Botswanan bands and labels (incomplete).
- Album of photos taken by American tourist at a show in Botswana, and reddit comments.
- This blog post by archaeologist Paul Mullins examines the scene from a consumer culture and materiality perspective; unique among all the articles I’ve come across before, and it’s wonderful to see a non-metal space make statements against the caricatures of metal fans that are so prevalent. I don’t quite know enough about this field to fit this into my research suggestions above, but it’s definitely saying something interesting.
I will either update this list or start a separate page on the blog for future sources.
Thank you for reading!