Like the very act of being human, good music contains multitudes. It can provide anti-establishment anthems or moments of stirring beauty. It can be the voice of the fight or an agent for peace. It can make feelings of giddy joy or broken-hearted sorrow well up in us. But there’s one constant, when it comes to good music: It offers insight into what it means to be human and, in doing so, it connects us to one another.
Connection is central to the mission of Demogoroth Satanum — South Africa’s first all-black, black metal band. They hope to connect black fans to a new type of music, and white fans to the 99% black population of their city. Most of all, they hope to connect people to a genre that they love — without worry about which race has historically played that music or where it’s historically been played.
“You’re breaking into this scene that’s like ‘white people only,'” says Sthembiso Kunene (aka Tyrant), the band’s vocalist. “That was hard, getting our first performances and shit. Will they take us seriously?”
In a country with a long, painful history of segregation, the black metal scene felt particularly constraining to the members of Demogoroth Santanum. But that’s another thing about music: It’s always ready to break staid traditions, especially when history feels decrepit and backward. In order to deliver their sound to new audiences, the band launched a series of showcases called “Punk Fuck” in the heart of their hometown.
“We’re trying to get more black people involved by playing here,” Tyrant continues. “We thought ‘Fuck it, we’re tired of going out there.'”
The notion of opening black metal up to Soweto’s black population is an exciting one, musically and culturally, but Demogoroth Santanum has an even bigger agenda:
“We’re trying to get white people to come to Soweto more,” Tyrant says. “In Soweto that’s a very, very weird thing to see. Apartheid is only like what… just over twenty years ago. So there’s a shitload of tension and we’re trying to break that fucking tension. Once our country breaks that racial tension, then we can fucking move on.”
Movement — whether dancing or fingers along a guitar fret — is implicit in music and the movement being sparked by Demogoroth Santanum is succeeding in connecting people and creating change.