Rock, Emo, Punk & Metal – A Mere Phase Or An Identity?

I guess the answer to that is that it depends.

I had a very troubled youth. I have been battling rage and seeking acceptance for the longest time. I was desperate and looking for an outlet. Rock music became the perfect crucible.

I was surprised to find people that didn’t judge me for entertaining dark thoughts. The music by a long shot felt like a balm to my wounds. Anybody listening to the staples at the time like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “Stacy’s Mom” and Six Pence None the Richer’s “There She Goes” can attest to how cozy that felt. It was mind blowing for a first time listener and spoke to sentiments that were hard to put into words. The music did the speaking for you.

Rock fans are Nairobi Rock Fest 2012

I was never one so fond of tattoos and leather outfits. I couldn’t afford them. And any spiky thing that connoted the devil would quickly find a home out on the streets. I confronted society instead with my ideas and musical choice – things that couldn’t get burned or tossed in the trash. I just needed my phone and the internet.

To complete my initiation required commitment. The ritual required the full repertoire; you had to know the bands, their members, genre categories and discography like the back of your hand.

At a later stage when I wanted to join the scene and associate with other rock & metal heads this became mandatory. But initially the enthusiasm was just driven by a pure love that bordered on an obsession. On this journey to Canaan it was mandatory that you left behind all associations with wimpy music like R&B and Pop. I attended every show that I could find.

Over the years the vagaries of life would set in. That would then lead to a change in perspective on life and ultimately their taste in music. In the context of their youth such people would look at their time as rock heads as a phase even though when at its peak they would have considered it to be their true identity.

And it is true that many have left that life behind having stepped out of their parents shadow, or changed friends or had a spiritual moment that forced them to abandon an identity that for many is still dear at heart.

In the context of the local scene you will hear people ask ‘where did so and so go, they used to be so hardcore.” You will be surprised that some of the most extreme adherents patched up their tattoos and stopped wearing their hair in the punk fashion of the 70s.

A now common occurrence is for people to post an old photo of themselves fully clad in hardcore getup and ask if anyone else ever experienced that phase. Sometimes i look on to those kind of questions with disgust because i feel attacked. The suggestion is that those that still enjoy that kind of thrill are still immature.

However in fairness I do believe that some of them look on those years with fondness. The fact that such posts get so much traction just goes to show that there are so many of us out there that still feel the magnetic pull of rock music even after so many years out in the cold. It is undoubtedly a phase for those that look at it that way.

However in view of scenes like Botswana and even here where the movement is going on strong, people have taken the phase farther and given it a life that spans greater distances beyond just teenage years.

Bands like Crystal Axis that met when still in high school are still here transforming the landscape with their political message. Scene stalwarts like Murfy’s fLAW are now on their third album. Their lineups haven’t changed much just like Last Year’s Tragedy. New bands like Refuge, Straight Line Connection and Timephrase are always popping out of the woodworks.

It is clear that it is not something that easily dies out. Maybe it might wear out some and others may be more suitably built for the journey.

For me diving into the latest super noodly genre of death metal may not be a thing as it was then. I don’t get shitfaced as much as I do. But the old haunts still populate my playlist. And as much as I tend to leave the moshpit for the better abled, you will still find me at the odd show, meeting new people and revelling in the presences of one or two familiar faces.