MMS101: Decoloniality w/ Nelson Varas-Diaz

by | May 1, 2021 | MMS 101

DECOLONIAL METAL MUSIC IN LATIN AMERICA

Nelson Varas-Díaz

 

“You want to make it sound like it came from a Latin American being,” said Luis, the lead singer of the Mexican band Acrania, as he explained why he integrated the trumpet and salsa arrangements into his death/thrash metal band. That encounter echoed many other experiences in my ethnographic work that evidenced metal’s transformation in the region. This transformation was not only related to its sound, but also to the regionalization of its lyrical content and visual dimensions. This transformation, I argue in my work, is not fortuitous. It has the very specific purpose of  challenging the long-lasting effects of colonialism in the region; it is decolonial metal.

 

The colonial experience in Latin America is ongoing. Even after multiple countries achieved independence from XV century colonialism, the devaluation of local people, their knowledges, experiences, and worldviews continues today. This devaluation of the local has been used to justify foreign extractivism of natural resources, the extermination of local indigenous people, the establishment of dictatorships with external support, and the implementation of crude neoliberal practices, just to name a few examples. Based on Latin American theoretical work on decoloniality, I argue that metal music in the region engages in “extreme decolonial dialogues” to make people aware, and actively challenge, the long-lasting effects of colonialism.

 

I define these “extreme decolonial dialogues” as invitations, ones particularly interested in promoting transformation, made through metal music to engage in critical reflections about oppressive practices faced by Latin American communities in light of coloniality. I have termed these experiences as dialogues in order to highlight the interaction between those who are informed about coloniality and those who are yet to, or sometimes refuse to, comprehend it. These dialogues are an exchange of information between equals and not one defined by a didactic top-down approach. They are decolonial precisely because metal bands participate in dialogues that are concerned with the historical process of oppression faced by the region, stemming from XV century colonialism and its lingering effects into the present day. Finally, these dialogues are extreme because they are perceived as threatening to those unfamiliar to metal aesthetics/sounds and they address issues related to death, violence, and oppression, which tend to worry unfamiliar listeners in the region; this includes politicians and the media. These dialogues address issues of extremity (e.g. violence, murder, political repression) that some people in the region would rather soon forget.

 

I have explored metal music’s role in this decolonial endeavor through documentary films and academic publications. This dual approach has allowed me to engage in discussions on metal music’s role in the Caribbean and Latin America regions with audiences in both academic and non-academic settings. If you are interested in this type of work, visit our FB page “Heavy Metal Studies Latin America” – https://www.facebook.com/MetalStudiesLatinAmerica. In the meantime, here are some recommendations on what to read, watch and listen to.

 

Songs to keep in your ear:

 

Further reading

  • Varas-Díaz N, Nevárez Araújo D, Rivera-Segarra E. Conceptualizing the Distorted South: How to Understand Metal Music and its Scholarship in Latin America. In: Varas-Díaz N, Nevárez Araújo D, Rivera-Segarra E, editors. Heavy Metal Music in Latin America: Perspectives from the Distorted South. London: Lexington Books; 2020. p. 7–36.
  •  Watch the book presentation for Heavy Metal Music in Latin America: Perspectives from the Distorted South here.
  • Varas-Díaz N. Decolonial Metal Music in Latin America. London, UK: Intellect; 2021.
    à You can purchase this book here.

 

Further viewing:

  • Watch Acts of Resistance: Heavy Metal Music in Latin America here.
  • Watch Songs of Injustice: Heavy Metal Music in Latin America here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent posts

Glocal Metal w/ Didier Goossens

Glocal metal   Didier Goossens    Not long after the first metal music studies, attention arose for its ways of production, distribution and consumption across the globe, with significant attention for non-Anglo American/European contexts. This became theorized as the global metal...

read more
Multilingual Metal w/ Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi 

Multilingual Metal w/ Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi 

Multilingual Metal   Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi  Heavy metal is often sung in English. This is a global language, the use of which can increase sales and reach wider audiences. Yet, many bands choose to write lyrics and sing in other languages. We explored this choice in an edited volume...

read more
Black Metal in Turkey w/ Douglas Mattsson

Black Metal in Turkey w/ Douglas Mattsson

BLACK METAL IN TURKEY  Douglas Mattsson  “Black metal? We don’t have that in Turkey.” - The middle aged Turkish academic sitting across from me in a restaurant in Istanbul is not the first to have expressed surprise, even disbelief, when I told him about my topic of research. Although literature...

read more
Metal and Synthesizers with Fulya Çelikel 

Metal and Synthesizers with Fulya Çelikel 

METAL AND SYNTHESIZERS  Fulya Çelikel    As a metalhead and a metal musician, it has always amazed me that metal research that touches on organology (the musicological term for the study of musical instruments) is mostly on the electric guitar in some way. There is very little in terms of timbres...

read more
Ethno-journalism in Metal Research w/ Edward Banchs

Ethno-journalism in Metal Research w/ Edward Banchs

Ethno-journalism in metal research  My research has come about because I could not answer a simple question when I was in graduate school: What did I know about metal in Africa?  Though I was never educated to become a journalist, I have utilized a more journalistic approach in order to properly...

read more