With the exception of the South African Metal scene, the vast swathe of national scenes across Sub-Sahara have either come and gone or are on the rise just at a slow pace. Sure countries like Botswana might just be behind South Africa, but between them and the other scenes is a gap as wide as the African plains.
GMA spoke to Kenyan Metal musician Martin Kanja (Lust Of A Dying Breed and The Seeds Of Datura) about his native metal scene, which although isn't too far behind Botswana in terms of progression, still has a long way to go to make it's recognition internationally known; in doing so also sheds light on metal's spread across Sub-Sahara Africa.
So firstly how did you get into metal music? What do your parents think of metal music?
"I started out listening to rock and roll since high school. After I left high school I moved to Nairobi with the desire of forming a band as I am from Nakuru. I was just a teenager and I needed something heavier than rock. There used to be a show I would tune into called 'Metal To Midnight' hosted by one Shiv Mandavia, vocalist of Blackened Death metal act Abscence Of Light. I had started to formerly research about metal and I just got into it really good as I love the energy and positive power. My parents know I've always done what I love but the opposition was there. I can't fake so I just continue being myself."
Can you tell us the histories of Lust Of A Dying Breed and The Seeds Of Datura.
"I formed LOADB together with its bassist Timothy Opiko soon after I moved to Nairobi. He came up with the name and I dug it and we wanted to play metal in a fashion never seen here before in Kenya, let alone the world. Abdalla Issa Khalid came through after 4 months of it's formation. He was a student at JKUAT (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology) and he had passion like I never seen in anyone for metal. We got our permanent drummer Larry Kim after a lot of hardship as good drummers are so rare. We met guitarist Sam Kiranga sometime in 2011 and he settled in nicely as we loved his playing and dedication, and then year we went ahead and wrote the record "Cat Of Nine Tails" and released it in 2012; we formed LOADB in 2010.
We went into hiatus after its release due to various personal and economic issues in 2014. I Went into the sales and logistics end of the security industry until 2015. I became self-employed in 2015 and I could now relax and think what I wanted in life. I love metal and had always been writing music like everyday and every week. I met Dani Kobimbo as he wanted to interview me for a magazine he ran called 'Heavy And The Beast' that gives coverage on the Kenyan Rock and Metal Scene and our friendship took off. We found ourselves in studio one time in Kiserian ran by Last Years Tragedy's vocalist David Mburu, we jammed out and I was surprised how well he could sing. We decided to collaborate and and continue jamming. I went to manage my family's tourist camp in Masai Mara at the end of 2015 and I had a burst of creativity and I wrote lyrics like crazy. So I returned to Nairobi and we moved in with Dani and we wrote music and articles.
Our current drummer Lawrence Muchemi comes from my home-town and he had always hit me up, we hang out and he doubles up as the vocalist of Irony Destroyed. So we started hanging out looking for places to jam, just the three of us. Shortly after we went to Tigoni, to a studio called Realm Of Mist in June 2016. The owner Harvey Herr invited us to jam and chill at the studio and that's where we met our first guitarist Sultan Rauf as he worked there. On the same day we met Slammy Karugu whose is also bassist for the punk band Powerslide and our current bassist Mordecai Ogayo who was playing violin. We started regularly and Wilson Muia came through a few months later and we made a whole song the first day we met. The name Seeds of Datura came about one afternoon. To embody out our individual energies as one family and our thought provoking music for mankind."
What is it like being a metal musician in Kenya? What challenges are there? What is the public perception of metal music?
"First of all it's all about the degree of focus and passion you have for your art. It's not easy or anything but we don't do it for that. We do it for the love of it all. There are many challenges, Kenya being a dominantly Christian country has a negative perception towards Rock let alone Metal. Also getting equipment is also a challenge when bands are starting out. Shows don't happen all the time too and most times we have to organize shows ourselves. The scene is steadily growing and venues are steadily getting packed. The recording is also a part that musicians find a challenge in as getting the right sound for metal and getting a good producer who understands the music. They are a quiet few but The Powers have blessed us with always bumping into the right people. "
What do the authorities think of the music? Are youth encouraged to learn music?
"The authorities don't support our music of course because we embody a millennial counter-culture contrary to the popular. The youth have access to the internet at a very young age and they begin to get exposed really early. They are encouraged to do a lot of other stuff they don't like but they are seeing how much a waste it all is with all the corruption and extortion going on and they are choosing their own paths and thinking for themselves. At least from how I see things and what I've been exposed to."
How long has the Kenyan Metal scene been going? Do you know of any bands from South Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia or Somalia?; Could you see metal music reaching every African nation?
"The earliest I've heard that metal has been around must be around the early 2005's. Further back like the 70's, rock bands were In circulation. Yeah I know Threatening and Vale Of Amonition from Uganda. Haven't heard of metal bands from the other countries you've asked. Yes I do. There are very serious scenes in Mozambique, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Egypt, Angola, Morocco, Guinea, just to name a few. Personally I think Africa is the most Metal place on Earth with how we are portrayed in international media and shit. It's quiet different, but the dark spirituality and ancestral roots tie very deeply with the real issues that metal chants about."
For metalheads visiting Kenya, what sights and attractions could you recommend? Are there any places that aren't generally safe to visit?
"I'd recommend the Masai Mara, Tea Fields of Limuru, Aberdare Forest, Obsydian Studios, Sanctuary Farm Naivasha. Lol"
What plans does both bands have for 2018? and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Content, content, content, releases, releases, releases. Yeah shout out to all the real ones in the scenes doing their thing. Shout out to Tshomarelo Mosaka of the Botswanan Death Metal band Overthrust. Shout out to Austine Nwankwo of Nigeria's Audio Inferno. Shout out to Patrick Davidson of Metal 4 Africa. Shout out to Truka Kasser of African Metal. Got a lot of shout outs but I'll take all year. Keep it heavy my people. It's either a pinkie or its metal horns \m/"