The Women of Botswana’s Metal Scene

Way back in the middle of last year when I originally wrote about the metal scene in Botswana, and in various versions of the paper I have given since then, I expressed an interest in seeing more work covering the women of the scene. This article on Hyperallergic gives us just that, and again it draws on the work of a photographer – this time that of Paul Shiakallis.

Shikallis’s series Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts is the first work I’ve come across focusing specifically on female Motswana metalheads. It seems to support most of what I have written about Motswana metal – women participate in the scene, and their experience seems broadly similar to that of male fans. Fans report a strong sense of camaraderie within the scene, the metalheads are sometimes thought of as Satanists by other Motswana, and the difficulties of navigating scenic participation alongside mainstream life are felt particularly strongly by female fans. Female metalheads dress in a similar fashion to the men, and adopt similar pseudonyms

The notes on Shikallis’s website suggest that participation in the scene is, for these fans, “a blunt rebellion amidst the ordinary of their lives”, and Hyperallergic agrees, saying it provides a means of self-expression in Botswana’s “conservative patriarchal society”.

Interestingly, Carey Dunne’s Hyperallergic article avoids the typical othering language to be found in much writing about the Motswana scene, which usually exoticises some aspect of scenic practice in order to exaggerate the scene’s African-ness. However it does instead exoticise their femininity – as frequently happens in discourse surrounding women in metal, where female musicians are either exalted or denigrated on the basis of their gender more than their ability, and female fans are singled out as being different to the majority male crowd. These women are not just fans like any other, but are referred to as queens – while male Motswana rockers are never called kings. Of course as a doubly minority identity within metal, and as a challenge to “all orthodox prescriptions of what it means to be black and African”, such titles are powerful and empowering. It’s a difficult for me analyze this, but it’s surely a point worth considering.

I am really looking forward to seeing more work on the Motswana scene, and more responses to Shikallis’s series as the first engagement with the scene’s intersection with gender. I have yet to see any evidence of female musicians in the scene, bar Skinflint drummer Sandra Sbrana; if scenic participation truly is a form of rebellion as Shikallis and Dunne both suggest, then surely more women performing metal in Botswana is a likely next step.

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Gig Review – Deathcrusher Tour, October 26th, Vicar St

It’s rare that such a good lineup comes to Dublin. I’ve written about Carcass before and without wanting to sound overly dramatic or clichéd, I would not be here without them. Hearing Symphonies of Sickness when I was fifteen years old was my introduction to extreme metal, and it’s been such a huge influence on my musical tastes.

Doors for this gig opened before six, which is a sure sign that there is a long night ahead.

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Electric Picnic 2015

I thought I wasn’t going to get to a festival this year – though my trip to the MHM conference in Helsinki back in June more than made up for that – but a few weeks ago a friend rang me up with an offer of a volunteering job at Electric Picnic. How could I refuse? The job involved picking up cans and convincing festivalgoers to do the same – an idea most of them were surprisingly open to, given the reputation of festivals and Ireland’s generally poor record on recycling.

My main impression of Electric Picnic is that there is so much to do there; as well as a huge array of music – there are a dozen or so stages listed on their website, and that list doesn’t include some of the smaller venues! – there is a great selection of food, arts, fairground rides, and diverse other attractions.

Friday

What with getting ready to return to my teaching jobs and trying to sort out my office, I arrived at Electric Picnic with only the vaguest notion of who was performing. I knew Blur and Florence + the Machine were two of the headliners, and that was about all. I had really no idea what to expect from the weekend’s lineup. After getting set up for the job and collecting the necessary gear, the very first song I heard at the festival was Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen, played from a giant novelty radio. I took that as a good omen for the rest of the weekend.

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Gig Review – Aeternum Vale, Malthusian, Behemoth, December 11th, The Academy

The expected Polish invasion of Abbey St was disrupted by the bad weather yesterday: with all ferries across the Irish Sea cancelled, Behemoth’s fellow countrymen Decapitated were stranded in the UK with their support bands Grand Magus and Wintefylleth. Decapitated were a big draw to this gig, and though I’ve seen them before at a festival, I’d like to see them in a smaller, club environment.

Local bands Aeternum Vale and Malthusian were brought on board to fill up the bill – Aeternum Vale play compelling melodic black metal – lots of distorted trebly tremolo guitars. Their soundcloud is definitely worth a look.

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Gig Review – The Contortionist, The Safety Fire, Protest the Hero, November 28th, Voodoo Lounge

This kind of lineup – progressive and mathcore bands – often attracts a slightly hipper crowd with haircuts and snapbacks alongside more stereotypical metal fans, thanks to mathcore’s strong roots in the (post-)hardcore scene. I’m not fully sure where I fell on this spectrum. I was there in black jeans and band t-shirt and boots, but the band was Job for a Cowboy (a reformed deathcore band), and they were kinda skinny jeans, but on the other hand my beard is a little too unkempt at the moment to be considered hip. It led to a tension of identity, but one that on reflection I think allowed me to be the ideal audience member for a gig of this kind.

I managed to again miss the opening act, on account of being on a bus to the gig while they were on stage. London’s Palm Reader seem to be a catchy, aggressive outfit, with short and punchy songs, and were probably worth a look. Their debut album is on Spotify. Sorry guys, I’ll try catch you next time!

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Gig Review – Malevolence, Goatwhore, Dying Fetus, November 20th, Voodoo Lounge

Last week was the beginning of a seriously music-heavy few months; Wednesday and Thursday saw the ICC 10 festival, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Irish Composers’ Collective. ICC are a wonderful organisation I’m involved in, allowing Irish composers the opportunity to have music performed by some the country’s top contemporary music performers. The festival was a great celebration of the past decade of new music, and it was a really wonderful experience to see so many members past and present in attendance, proving just how strong and vibrant the Irish new music scene is.

As well as ICC 10, there is a huge amount of metal happening in Dublin over the next two months, and this season was kicked off last Thursday at the Voodoo Lounge. This was a rare gig where I came away without any band t-shirts; I missed Fallujah, I wasn’t quite impressed enough by Malevolence to buy merch, and the other two bands I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing in polite company. Continue reading

Lorde: Master of Reinvention

Lorde, whose song Royals last night won Best Rock Video at MTV’s Video Music Awards, must surely be the modern-day David Bowie. No other contemporary artist has reinvented themselves so completely. Look at these photos, one from her victory for Finland at the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, the other from a concert in 2013.

Lordei

It hardly even looks like the same person!

As well as this stunning visual turnaround, the change in Lordi’s music is remarkable. Who could believe that the woman behind Royals also wrote Bite It Like a Bulldog?

Well done Lorde, and I can’t wait to see how you reinvent yourself next!