Staff Writer THALEFANG CHARLES takes a long lonely drive through the Kgalagadi Desert to the town of Gantsi to experience the annual Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Fest, and out there he is confronted with a subculture inspired by heavy metal rock and roll music, a gothic dark passion so intense and enchanting
As the group of men and women clad in black gathered in front of Kalahari Arms Lodge my eyes got fixated on one man approaching from the south. He walked slowly. Gingerly. His spiked Afro hairstyle was dusted with some white powder that resembled ash. His face was also not spared from the white dust. He appeared like he was just rolling on white powder. He was wearing an Iron Maiden Flight 666 black T-shirt with Eddie (Iron Maiden mascot) riding on top of the band’s own customised Boeing 757 – the famous Ed Force One.
As the man approached – still gingerly – I could see his distinct resemblance of Eddie (the mascot). When I started to clink away my camera shutter to capture the man, the Iron Maiden’s Best of the Beast album sleeve came to my mind – he looked like one of the beasts on that sleeve. This must be the Gantsi version of Eddie.
Gantsi Eddie was one of the many beasts lookalike men gathering at the Kalahari Arms lodge parking lot getting ready for the march to the Ghanzi Community Hall by the rock and roll followers for the Day Two of Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Fest. Started by Overthrust Metal Band in May 2010 (then called Kgalagadi Desert Festival) the festival was this year on its ninth anniversary.
According to the festival director and Overthrust bandleader Tshomarelo ‘Vulture’ Mosaka, the festival was initially started as an ordinary annual rock festival. He said, “Its main purpose was to bring all followers of rock music in one place to associate, unite and have all local rock bands perform”.
Rock and roll lovers around the world have since made it their annual pilgrimage to “head out to the Kalahari Desert to rock and roll”. Among the festivalgoers who were preparing to march were a significant number of foreigners, from France, Norway, South Africa, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and some as far as the United States.
This multiracial rock and roll congregation from various continents across the world marched together with some weird baboon chants and roars on the way to the festival venue at Ghanzi Community Hall. The rock parade looked like a Halloween march as almost everyone was clad in black, big boots, leather pants, matching big leather jackets and T-shirts of famous bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC.
Their faces were painted with gothic images, dark crosses, red and black tears dropping from their eyes. Some of the accessories they were carrying or dragging included animal skulls, heavy chains, frying pans, old guns, swords, cow horns, and digging forks.
These men and women, colloquially called ‘Marocko’ or ‘Marokoro’ by local communities go by alluring (albeit fittingly) names like, ‘Suicide’, ‘Old Gun’, ‘Deadmonsta Kingovdarkness’, ‘Kgwamollo’ ‘King Ghostiah Satanum’, ‘Dablackflesh Darock Monsta’, ‘Depressive Womb Wolf Doomer’, ‘Adkho Fuken Khomba’, ‘Weepingmother’s Sin’, ‘Triple Dead’, ‘Sénor WarCry’ and ‘Wrong Blood’. At the end of the parade it was showtime as the congregation packed into the Ghanzi Community Hall for some rock and roll.
Mosaka says the venue does not suit the festival but because there is meager funding they could only
But his rock and roll pilgrims do not care. As long as the music plays the show would go on. At this year’s festival there was a number of foreign bands including Dor Fantasma from Benguela, Angola, Norbormide from Maputo, Mozambique, and Posthumous from Pretoria, Woltemade from Cape Town. Local bands included the hosts Overthrust Rock Band, Dust N Fire, Humanitarian and the Masturbation Crew.
As the bands rocked live, the congregation inside the hall gotten even madder (the word ‘crowd’ could not really describe the connection those rockers had with the music – it was like a religious sect and the mood inside the Hall was of ‘rock and roll worship’.
The dancing (if it could qualify to be called one) was an insane and intense brawl of moshing. Just below the stage there was a hyperactive mosh pit as the congregation was aggressively slamdancing to the heavy metal. There was some violent jostling, body bumping of groups of really well-built men with leather jackets that had sharp shining spikes group-smashing onto the other group in a smash pit I have only seen at hardcore punk and heavy metal concerts – apparently it called the ‘wall of death’.
This intense moshing looked both extremely dangerous and deeply satisfying like an ethereal trance of what it really means to be free. You could tell that, inside that vicious mosh pit, these rockers have completely lost themselves in too deep into the rock and roll music and I have never seen anything like that. At one point the bassist of the Norbormide band jumped off stage on to the middle of the crowd and rocked the bass from a commotion of that fierce rock and roll moshing. They formed a circle pit around him and rocked on. Beers were sprayed in the air as the mosh pit grew madder.
Head banging was another popular dance with these rockers. This is the type of dance where the dancer violently shakes their heads to the rhythm of music. Almost all the musicians were doing it and the crowd would take cue and head banged like they were a herd of obedient sheep. The dance was so contagious that once the band started head banging the rest of the crowd would get on it and the long hair is a cool accessory for it.
As the congregation moshed and head banged to the loud emphatic heavy metal sound in a packed small Hall in the middle of the desert, the music abruptly paused and the lead singer shouted, “Are you alive?” and that was when one audience member shouted back, “No. We’re dead!” As an observer in such a moshed mass, during that music hiatus, I wondered, ‘What is this sh*t?’ But the deafening onslaught of guitar sounds, mad body smashing and head banging scenes drowned my thoughts deeper into an incredible experience of rock and roll.