There are lots of different types of music in Angola, but only a couple that engage contemporary political issues. There is a hard hip-hop-flavored house music called kuduro, which translates as “hardass.” It has a punk energy and a hard, staccato rhythm, and is very popular. There is a version that’s all bling, and another that’s political. Other than that, only the rock guys deal with what’s going on in the country. The tradition of rock in the country has been mostly classic rock. What is new, with this younger generation, is the phenomenon of hardcore metal, black metal, death metal. And its appeal is spreading. The guys who are into it have realized, through the advent of Facebook and other social media, that there are a lot of other people who are into it, too, around the country, and they have been connecting.
Many of the songs are about poverty, hunger, the endless effort to remove the landmines that menace the countryside. One band calls itself Dor Fantasma—literally “phantom pain”—in honor of the thousands of people in Huambo who have lost limbs to land mines. Huambo was one of the hardest-hit cities in the war, and so there is great symbolic importance in having this concert here. They brought people from all over the country to the heart of the war, to have this first-ever national rock concert. Wilker and Sonia wanted to give this music to the people of Huambo.
Death metal is not just at the fringe of Angolan society, the people who are into it are at a very confrontational edge within themselves. For them to walk around in their chains and their studs, in a society that is very conformist and still very much afraid, is a bold statement. This music is a way for them to deal with the trauma of the war, and also express their anger at what’s happened since. But it’s the opposite of the nihilism we associate with death metal. The concerts themselves are very life-affirming events. There is a joy they feel when they play, this tremendous release—they almost go into a trance state. All the stuff that they’ve never been able to talk about, all the residue of the war, comes pouring out.