A pedestrian crosses a street in Gaborone, Botswana, April 5, 2020. Photo: AFP
Spencer Thrust, guitarist for Botswana’s Death Metal band Overthrust, performs at the Wacken Open Air heavy metal music festival in Germany on August 5, 2016. Photo: AFP
Tshomarelo “Vulture” Mosaka used to think that connecting with his leather-clad fans could only happen when he was scolding lyrics at one of Botswana’s underground heavy metal concerts, until the pandemic is forcing him to go online instead.
As well as keeping Mosaka’s group Overthrust in touch with fans during the lockdown, the digital switchover has helped them find new audiences overseas and unexpected financial support as donations began to pour in, from the money on guitar strings.
“Someone even sent a fan because they could see we were sweating … others sent me money when I was in a car accident to help cover the costs,” he said. said Mosaka, 36, adjusting his leather cowboy hat at a cafe in the capital Gaborone.
“We’ve been in the underground for a very long time, but now we want people to know us,” said Mosaka, whose live Facebook broadcasts from local groups including his have drawn thousands of viewers until Malaysia, Germany and the United States. .
The small southern African country is generally known for its diamonds and game parks, less for its heavy metal scene, and the limited income from concerts means most Batswana musicians have to maintain daytime jobs.
Mosaka, who has two children, also works as a security guard and organizer of heavy metal concerts.
Despite low internet access rates and high data costs across the continent, many African musicians, comedians and artists have stepped up their online presence during COVID-19 to connect with fans and funders potential abroad.
âWe are trying to build the scene in Africa, from Angola to Namibia and South Africa,â Mosaka said.
âIf we are united here, we can be exposed to the outside,â he said, adding that he hoped the bands would be invited to other international metal festivals soon.
“Humanity and love”
Heavy metal gained popularity in the late 1960s, mainly in the United States and Britain, gaining ground a decade later with Botswanan rockers, or Marok as they are called.
Some Marok say that the tourists brought some of the early heavy metal records and CDs.
Today, the Marok are quite famous in this country of 2.5 million people, mainly for their leather clothes in the scorching heat of Botswana, decorative chains, animal bones and nails used to mark their mark. admiration for heavy metals.
While rumors once circulated that metal fans were vampires or criminals, they say such negative stereotypes are slowly dissolving as more women join their ranks and their charitable work becomes better known.
One group, known as Humanitarians, sings and posts online about human rights issues such as homelessness and albinism.
âThere was this message going around that rockers are the devil, but in fact, we are spreading the message of humanity and love,â said Martin Beats, one of the band members from their little studio. ‘registration in the village of Lobatse outside the capital.
Mosaka and his band have helped organize an annual heavy metal concert in Ghanzi, a town in western Botswana, called the Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Charity Fest since 2010, with 40 percent of the proceeds going to local charities.
It is also a space where women feel they can challenge traditional gender roles and speak out against the high rates of gender-based violence against women.
“I stand up as a woman, no man can judge me,” said the veteran rocker who bears the pseudonym Siera Madrid, 49, outside her home in Gaborone, putting on a metal chain around her neck and boots in leather and a black scarf. .
âWe call ourselves Queens and we are treated as such,â said the former law enforcement official, adding that many musicians and metal fans are policemen, soldiers and even priests.
Costs and Internet connection
Despite the benefits of going offline during the pandemic, Marok members lament the fact that more than half of Botswana’s population does not have internet access and many foreigners have no idea where they are. where is the country.
âThere is a talent for metal here, but a lot of people don’t even know where Botswana is,â said Nikki Mokalake, 38, a metal fan from a village an hour outside of Gaborone.
Many of the instruments they use are not available in Botswana, Mosaka said, adding that it may take three to four years for band members to save enough money to import them.
The lockdown of the year 2020 has been a particularly difficult time, Beats said.
âIt was difficultâ¦ but the online videos cheered us up,â he said, adding that one of his group’s videos had reached nearly half a million people and their Facebook followers had gone from 700 to almost 6,000.
Mosaka stopped by a metal workshop in Gaborone where another rocker named King Taker works, soldering under a large skull he erected above his workshop to let fellow metal fans know that they are welcome.
âThe lockdown was brutal,â he said, adjusting his black face mask bearing a white skull and crossbones.
âBut bands like Overthrust have fought to get throughâ¦ rural metalheads and connected fans around the world, the internet has put us on the map we belong to,â he said.