Edward Banchs, who contributes to this site and who I worked with for several years at another site, has been working on a book for many years. It has been interesting to get a close-up, behind the scenes view of the process of the creation of Heavy Metal Africa. The end result is a fascinating and important book that delves into the metal scene in a place most fans are not familiar with. Banchs does an excellent job describing the music along with introducing us to the myriad of musicians, fans and others that keep the scene thriving in Africa.
Chad Bowar: What first inspired you to write a book about metal in Africa?
Edward Banchs: I am a lifelong metal fan, and have pursued my passion for Africa as an adult. I hold an MA in African Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and put the two together after a conversation with a friend of mine after we had been discussing global metal.
He asked me if there was metal in Africa, and I told him there was, but the coverage was thin, and almost non-existent. I had seen metal around the world get so much attention through magazine articles and the popularity of the Sam Dunn films. But no Africa! So I just started to gather notes and went for it.
How did you go about deciding which countries to visit, and who to talk to once you got there?
I chose the countries based on what I saw were nations that had well established scenes. Internet presence and strong connections to Europe and international markets seem to be what helps. Madagascar may be the exception here, but they have a long history of rock and roll in their country. Also, Western music has a niche already in the countries I visited, so it made sense that metal is finding a home in these countries, too.
What was the most difficult part of writing the book?
There were too many times where I doubted the validity of what I was doing. I wondered if anyone would care, or if would even make sense. And personally, this was a major test in patience. It is difficult for any writer to find a voice, and in my case, I wanted to connect the reader to Africa as much as I wanted to connect the musicians to them, too.
It was also difficult to sort out the financial aspects of all this as I paid for all the trips myself. I’m not a wealthy person, nor do I come from a wealthy family. That was brutal! Quit some jobs, had to keep moving for cheaper rent and lived low. There were two points throughout this that I was flat broke. I was lucky to have the landlord I did.
But I had to keep pushing. Keeping your head when it is easy to bow was a trying experience, but once I made the commitment I knew I had to find way. I love Africa, and I love metal way too much to give in!
What’s the biggest misconception people have about metal in Africa?
That it is all dangerous, disease infested, poor, war-ridden, and savage. Africa is a continent on the move with 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies at the moment. Most Africans live in cities, drive on paved roads, and are well connected to the rest of the world through their cell phone Facebook accounts. And honestly, Africa is really not a dangerous continent to travel through.
What surprised you the most about the people you interviewed for the book?
How connected they are to what is going on in the metal world. Also, the generosity of everyone took me by surprise. I was housed and fed everywhere I went. I was expecting to pay for hotels and just meet everyone in a cafe somewhere. Turns out, Heavy Metal Africa became the complete opposite and I was able to share the stories through their eyes a little better.
Is there a big difference in the metal scenes from country to country, or it is pretty universal across the continent?
Metal is universal. Seems that every country has its share of bands that cover the metal spectrum. Madagascar and Kenya, though, have a larger focus on metalcore. Seems the majority of the fans in those countries are fairly young.
At any point did you feel like you were in danger while traveling?
What are your expectations for the book?
I just hope people can connect to the musicians they meet in the book, even if you don’t like the music. I’m optimistic that this book will do well, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this does.
What’s the most important thing you’d like readers to take away from the book?
I hope that readers can put the book down and look at Africa through a different, more optimistic lens. Also, there is really nothing different between anyone in the world. We are all humans, and that spirit of humanity transcends all. I hope that readers can realize that there is so much more in the world that connects us. Metal is a great unifier, though!
Do you hope to visit more African countries and write another book?
Yes I do! Already have a jump on the next one.
Give us five important African bands metal fans should check out.
Overthrust and Wrust from Botswana, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend from South Africa, Last Year’s Tragedy from Kenya, Behind the Mask from Madagascar.
Where can people find the book?
It is available right now through Amazon. It will also be available through Barnes and Noble in the coming months and the Word Association Publishers page upon release. I’m also going to sell it at my speaking events.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Metal truly rules the world! Thank you for your support, and for those interested in getting a copy of the book. Follow my social media accounts for frequent updates: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
(interview published October 24, 2016)