For the love of rock – how a group of Botswanan metalheads defied the norm to create their own sub-culture

What comes to mind when you are confronted with names like Death Demon Rider, Cannibal, Apothecary Dethrok, Coffinfeeder, Dethguard and Steel Panther? Your first reaction would probably be a mild shock as you try to understand the reason anyone would answer such names!

The Botswanan metal heads are the sort of people you would probably stare at endlessly on a regular day because of how they look. The average African, will definitely have a hard time understanding this ‘unusual’ group of people. In Botswana however, these individuals have built a steady cult following, you could ascribe that to their fearless resolve on expressing themselves through their love for the rock music genre!

Unusual is the perfect qualifier for these people who have been on the Botswanan sub-culture scene as early as 2001. The first time you see photos of the Botswanan metalheads, you will most likely ask yourself two questions – The reason for their dress code? How can they keep up the status quo of wearing leather in the humid African weather?

However, not being suitably dressed for the humid African weather seems a small price to pay for this group of people who love metallic music so much that the genre of music has become an institution for them. Metallic rock seems to resonate well with Botswanans but the metalheads take their admiration for the music genre to another level. They happen to be greatly admired for their portrayal of rock stars and legends in their dressing.

The Botswanan metal-heads will probably give the hardcore metal rock groups of the western world, a run for their money in the fashion department.

The beginning of the movement

What has grown into a major part of sub-culture in Botswana began from Nosey Road – local pioneering classic rock band of the 70s – to darker, intensified sounds. Today, heavy sound is mirrored in yet heavier style. Take for instance the OverThrust Death Metal Band, they have been performing for a while and are still giving concerts. Skinflint is another group that has been serving local metallic rock to Botswanans.

In 2011, a South African photographer, Frank Marshall carried out a photo exhibition on these metalheads. The exhibition was referred to as “Visions of Renegades” and featured the metalheads in their rockstar ensemble, complete with tight leather outfits, metal accessories and snazzy footwear!

Behind the metalhead reputation

The metalheads are still true Botswanans at heart. They are predominantly from villages and farms. Apart from imitating rockstars in dressing and mannerisms, they maintain their lifestyles as farmers and hunters. Something has to be said for the special ability to keep their original identities while channeling something they are passionate about.

Botswanans have no problem with the Metalheads’ appearance

These individuals may even exhibit more responsibility than the rest of us – normal people wearing normal clothes. This report says that the Botswanan metalheads act as societal guardians. How? They provide social responsibility to those in their immediate environment, as their predominantly black outfit make others depend on them as protectors. Frank Marshall says, “They’ve got a very strong bond and friendship with each other.” Seen as role models in society and often followed by a trail of young children in awe, they’re seen as protectors of the community with a strong awareness of social responsibility.”

March of the gods

Metal is so loved in Botswana that in May/June 2013, a movie; “March of the gods” was produced to showcase the spirit of metal in the Southern African country. The movie was put together by Director, Raffaele Mosca and Producers Natalia Kouneli and Allesio Calabreis. The movie director says, “Our aim was to depict the reality of the scene as accurately as possible, presenting many different points of view and largely using the observational mode so as to offer the experience of a gig as if the audience was there.” “We did our best not to use an academic or journalistic approach but rather get close to the people we met through moments from their everyday life and emotions.”

In May 29-31, 2015, in Ghanzi, Botswana, metalheads came together to march and ride against poverty in Botswana. The event was a part of the 6th Anniversary Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Fest. Even if the metalheads defy popular culture in Africa, they prove that rock music goes beyond smashing guitars and wearing out-of-this-world costumes.

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