Hellbangers, Botswana’s underground metal culture

by Pep Bonet

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Portrait of 40 years old “Diplo”: "I am a farmer, I started listening to metal music in 1999"

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Portrait of 40 years old “Diplo”: "I am a farmer, I started listening to metal music in 1999"

Spared by civil wars and dictatorships, Botswana stands as the quiet child of a tumultuous African continent. Nonetheless, the country hosts a strange kind of freedom fighters and independent souls. It is a tattooed community, all leather dressed, heavy-metal fans. Welcome to Motswana! Ten years ago, one group existed. Today there are more than ten.

We try to be exemples. Rock is a wild thing, but also something for the heart.
— Gunsmoke

The Hellbangers, those “Enfants Terribles” of a sleepy, diamonds rich country, see themselves as the representative a social justice. Rather than being ‘Hells Angels’, they stand as guardian angels. With names like Demon and Gunsmoke, it would be easy though to think they are thugs, “We try to be exemples. Rock is a wild thing, but also something for the heart”, says Gunsmoke, the heavy metal head. Here too, the lyrics of the songs are very critical towards societies, just like their western peers. Metal in Botswana is rebellious movement against authorities. Metal Orizon write songs about brainwash and Wurst about imperialism and a god who doesn’t care about humans any longer.

Botswana, Gaborone, 2015, Portrait of 27 years old "Cybok": "I work as a security guard, I started listening to heavy metal in 2008, I liked the way the metal heads dressed and behaved".

Botswana, Ghanzi, May 2017, Edith "Gee Rock" Seremane, 32 years old from Lobatse, visits the Ganzi Festival for the 2nd time. She started listening to heavy metal when she was 15 years old.

The world is so divided right now. By misconceptions, by a media which stigmatizes entire communities, by a developing culture of fear. Divide and conquer tactics are becoming a greater part of society day by day. Music remains one of the only elements which can (at once) dispel fears, entertain the masses and unite people of all types, of all stations and of all nations.
 
This is the story of what looks at first to be an unlikely union, yet one which powerfully illustrates how music, how heavy metal music, has become a positively unifying force in an unlikely part of the world. This is the story of Overthrust, a heavy metal band from Botswana, Africa. And this is the story of how heavy metal came to be created, enjoyed and venerated by the increasingly fervent and passionate Batswana who are helping (with Overthrust) develop a growing, exciting and thoroughly organic heavy metal scene.

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015  Portrait of 21 years old “Blade”: "I work in a bakery at Woolworths, I love rock n roll and I started listening to metal in 2012 , I used to see music videos for Hammer Fall in MTV channel and I liked the way there were looking on stage, dressed in leather pants and nice boots, I started buying metal attire and that’s how I became a rocker."  Pep Bonet / NOOR
Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015  Portrait of 20 years old “Psychosomatic Torture”: "Im a tertiary Student doing electricity course. I love metal, I started listening to metal in 2013, I was inspired by uncle who was guitarist and vocalist for a local metal band called Nodd, Overthrust members particularly Vulture and Dawg made me a better metal head through giving me metal bands to listen to for free since Im a students and couldn’t afford to buy music for myself."  Pep Bonet / NOOR

Botswana, Ghanzi, May 2017, He is in the festival with his friend Ralf, they say, they are brothers. They manufactured their costumes by themselves. The suitcases belong to the outfit (but they are empty).

Botswana, Ghanzi, May 2017, Tshepho Kaisara aka "Dawg“, guitarist at Overtrust, and bass guitar player at Raven In Flesh.

Botswana, Ghanzi, May 2017, Tshepho Kaisara aka "Dawg“, guitarist at Overtrust, and bass guitar player at Raven In Flesh.

The first image they might typically have when you mention this nation (which is 60 years independent of British rule) is of the typical ‘African’ clichés, where the ‘predominant characteristics’ of daily life revolve only around poverty, struggle and sadness. Imagine instead seeing Batswana who loudly and proudly wear leather jackets, leather trousers and play heavy death metal music. Imagine a scene, and community, where people have the freedom to explore their creative dreams and passions. Imagine the DIY ingenuity of ‘costume creation’ involving harvested animal skulls and other natural elements. Imagine witnessing towering 6ft overlords looking like Mad Max Spaghetti Western warriors, brandishing names like VULTURE and DAWG THRUST, SUICIDE TORMENT and GODFATHER…

Botswana, Ghanzi, May 2017, "Vulture", 32 years old, is Overthrust's front man, bassist and lead vocalist.

Botswana, Ghanzi, May 2017, "Vulture", 32 years old, is Overthrust's front man, bassist and lead vocalist.

 

"I am a rocker, I live for rock'n'roll and I´ll die a true, loyal metal warrior.

 Anything that is not metal doesn’t make sense to me, I love metal."

- Vulture, May 2017

…Welcome to the band OVERTHRUST, who deliver stunning, searing death metal music with a passion and precision matching the US forefathers of death metal, such as Obituary and Death, in Tampa, Florida. Their raw, pure, unfiltered, utterly DIY music and heavy metal ‘Hellbanger’ lifestyle is rapidly uniting people across Botswana…and beyond. 

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Rockers enjoying a concert by Remuda, Barren Barrell and Skinflint, 3 heavy Rock metal bands from Botswana at Club Zoom.

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Rockers enjoying a concert by Remuda, Barren Barrell and Skinflint, 3 heavy Rock metal bands from Botswana at Club Zoom.

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Rockers enjoying a concert by Remuda, Barren Barrell and Skinflint, 3 heavy Rock metal bands from Botswana at Club Zoom.

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Rockers enjoying a concert by Remuda, Barren Barrell and Skinflint, 3 heavy Rock metal bands from Botswana at Club Zoom.

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Rockers enjoying a concert by Remuda, Barren Barrell and Skinflint, 3 heavy Rock metal bands from Botswana at Club Zoom.

Botswana, Gaborone, December 2015, Rockers enjoying a concert by Remuda, Barren Barrell and Skinflint, 3 heavy Rock metal bands from Botswana at Club Zoom.


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