Friday, July 24, 2009

Heavy Metal In Africa...Black Africa!?

I had come across this article maybe a year ago and had since lost it but recently I found it again. It's the best article I've come across that perfectly describes the fledgling metal scene in Black Africa. What I mean by Black Africa is Sub-Saharan (I don't like that word but it is what it is) and not South Africa. I mean, Africa where there are black Africans. This article especially hit home since although I was born in America, my father is West African and my mother is Black American. I knew the few readers I had would find this article interesting. Here is the link to the whole article (which I suggest you read, its very interesting. There are two pics as well) but I will post two paragraphs in this blog that stuck out to me:

[...The third thing that struck me was the attitude among the metal heads in Gaberone toward race. It is often assumed that “whiteness” plays an important role in heavy metal subcultures. In Botswana this is, however, not the case, since all metalheads (at least the ones I encountered) are black. And as if this was not enough, all the metal fans I talked to thought that it was strange that I, a white man, liked heavy metal...
Gaborone, I believe that these observations all have one thing in common: they bring to the fore a mismatch between, on the one hand, the theoretical framework through which heavy metal is understood, and, on the other hand, the heterogeneous character of the contemporary, globalized heavy metal culture. Why did I find the metal scene in Gabarone strange? Because my understanding of heavy metal was ethnocentric - i.e. based on the idea that European and/or North American heavy metal represents 'normality', while african metal is characterized as an exotic 'deviation' from this norm

I have some subjects to tap into on this subject. I think first, we need to break down Africa as a whole. Most people are extremely ignorant of the continent, the countries, the culture, etc. And I can't blame them when all you see of Africa is mostly the poor desolate wasteland that its always portrayed as. Simply not true. I know because I've been there to visit family-hell my cousin there listens to the Coors and I saw a versace store while there. But if all you see is the stereotypical portrayal of Africa-how is the metal industry going to believe that there is any sort of market for that music there of all places? This leads me to one of the points I bolded:

Do we think of music as ethnocentric?

Meaning that we associate different types of music with different types of groups, races, minorities, etc. What was the most interesting aspect of the article was that the black metal heads thought HE was strange to enjoy metal.

How interesting, eh?

This again only makes me think of one of my past posts on subculture adaptation and how black people will always be viewed as a whole and never individuals with their own tastes, mindsets, and ways of life. We are a race but we are separate as people and just because someone can know one or two or perhaps even 20 black people does not mean they all are into the same things. I want to delve more into the article in later post but first I want to know what you think of it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

B.E.T: Ignoring the 'Others'. Who's at fault?

It's obvious that there seems to be a lack of acknowledgement by popular media culture of blacks in any form of alternative music, art, profession, etc. My question is, why? And even more specifically, a lack of acknowledgement from black people themselves. I've contemplated this for a while now and I've come up with these few conclusions:

Is it just ignorance of the scene in general? (as in it's so rare/unique that it doesn't deserve attention yet?)

Is the media (both black and corporate white) wanting to portray black people a certain way for ratings/money reasons?

Is it easier to label black people, as a whole, into one category rather then defining them by individual traits.

But then I started to think of the socioeconomic part of all this, especially when considering the black media. I got to thinking of the different options kids in low income homes have in regards to branching out of what they know and getting exposed to a different lifestyle. I've grown up quite differently from a lotof black people that I personally know and they point that out to me by the way I dress, talk, act, who I'm friends with, what I listen to, what school I went to, etc. And I'm starting to realize that a lot of the black people I'm friends with and/or meet at concerts have grown up similar to me-which is middle class maybe upper middle class. So from a young age I've been exposed to different ideas/cultures that perhaps my counterparts have yet to be. How can they be consciously aware of a movement or idea that they have never been a part of or exposed to? Should they be expected to be actively involved?

Could the reasons why the black media is shunning this certain small community be because its not massively relatable on a national sense?

B.E.T., as most of you may know, is the black entertainment channel. A few weeks (or a month)ago, B.E.T had their annual awards show and all I could think about was 'Why don't they have a best black male/female in metal, opera, rock, etc'. I think I now know so I'm going to narrow it down to three things:

1.) There aren't many musicians/entertainers to choose from in that category. It's rare that a black person be into those scenes-I get it.

2.) There isn't a great knowledge of any of it. Most people don't even know what Afropunk is or the BRC (Black Rock Coalition), and I can understand that.

3.) It's not very relatable to most black folks.

So, I think it boils down to that. I just wish there would be some mass media recognition of it though. Black people can be so much more than what we are CONSTANTLY portrayed as-wouldn't it just mix things up a bit if we weren't so categorized?

Anyway, I want your thoughts/opinions.
(BTW, sorry for lack of updates. Been preparing for college and sorting out all other assorted drama.)