Death Metal Angola – a perspective


From Kosovo 2.0

In decolonised Angola, the wounds of the civil war are still fresh and prone to weeping. Along with a projected half a million dead (and a further million internally displaced), Angola’s culture, and, hence, its sense of self, has been all but lost, wiped out by a war that raged for the worst part of thirty years. It is only now, in the settled dust, that opportunities to rebuild arise.

Jeremy Xido chooses, not to sidestep but, to avoid placing his film amid the horrors of the past three decades. Instead he fixes his lens upon the burgeoning collective of musicians emerging from the scattered rubble. A collective who find that the brutality and viscera they have witnessed can no longer be adequately expressed through the overwhelmingly popular and energetic beats of Kuduru (a blend of Calypso, Soco and African percussion, tinged with some very European electronics). Alternatively they have turned to the grey, wet concrete of the British Midlands and to the dark, snow-laced landscapes of Scandinavia for musical inspiration. To metal, in some of its most extreme forms.

Death Metal Angola, much like 2011’s Marimbas From Hell and last year’s ode to Black Metal, communes and Scandinavian woodland – A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness, provides us with further evidence of music’s ability to transcend borders and boundaries. Whether those divides be of a spatial, cultural or metaphysical nature.

Whilst the musicians involved in Xido’s film are acting out personal abreactions via squealing guitars, grunted vocals and blistering drums — we hear the line “I see your blood on my chest” bellowed and, for once, cannot deride the intent — they firmly recognise the importance of unification in terms of pushing forward and achieving collective goals.

This ethos is succinctly hammered home in a segment, fairly late on in the documentary, in which a number of bands bravely (and somewhat naively) club together in order to organise a one day festival – the first of its kind in Angola. Their commitment to a shoulder-to-shoulder, do-it-yourself attitude remains in spite of the potential schisms wrought about by the solitary nature of human suffering.Towards the end of the film one musician points out, rather poignantly, “For a people who, for years, didn’t listen to music and thought only of war and only heard sounds of war… Now they’ll hear music instead of gunshots and bombs. That is very good.”

This perspective, coupled with the words, thoughts and deeds of the benevolent duo at the heart of this documentary — Sonia Ferreira & Wilker Flores (the former runs the Okutiuka orphanage, the headquarters for aggressive music in Huambo,aand the latter puts on a free concert in that selfsame city), is vital, not only to the success of the film, but also to the success of those featured within the film as they continue their rejuvenation of Angola.

Death Metal Angola screens at 8pm tonight in Doku Kino Pllato.