A Storm Approaches: The Beeldenstorm

Afrikaans is not a common language used in South African heavy metal, even despite so many participants within the genre and local musician community being Afrikaans-speaking at home. Whilst some bands have been a little less shy to express themselves in their home language with band names, such as Suiderbees, Insek, Selfmoord, Kadawer Dialoog, and others, use of the language in lyrics remains far less commonplace. Ironically, there is the English-named band Mind Assault, which is possibly the widest-known currently active band (having performed on the Lamb Of God South African leg of the Resolution Tour and made multiple festival appearances nationally) who use the language without prejudice, writing in a roughly equal balance between both English and Afrikaans. Otherwise, exclusive use of the Afrikaans language in heavy metal songwriting seems to be a largely untapped realm, currently only being explored by the likes of Insek and Kadawer Dialoog in Gauteng, plus K.O.B.U.S, Die Dood, and Beeldenstorm from the Western Cape with Mind Assault and very few others skirting along the periphery. There may be, and may have been more, but those remain unknown to us at this time.

Beeldenstorm album artHenceforth our great interest at an upcoming debut release by the band Beeldenstorm! The six-track EP, titled Die Donker Wetenskap (“The Dark Science”), is written exclusively in the Afrikaans language and was done so with strong intention. We spoke with one of the band members on the subject of the use of Afrikaans-language music in South Africa, and explored into why Beeldenstorm (which is actually a Dutch word, of which that language is the foundation upon which the local African-language incarnation was developed in isolation) have chosen this route. In his opinion, the subject is a complex one involving matters of traditional context, social identity, and unfortunately also some measure of politics.

“Writing our material in Afrikaans is definitely intentional. We are indeed huge fans of bands such as K.O.B.U.S, Mind Assault, Fokofpolisiekar, Koos Kombuis and more. We as Beeldenstorm express ourselves more honestly in Afrikaans. We think in Afrikaans, and most of us grew up within the context of Afrikaans-speaking households” ~ Waldi van Hunks (guitar, Beeldenstorm)

The band has, as have other South African artists who write in the language, had a few brushes with social paranoia related to ‘racist’ tendencies. With South Africa’s somewhat turbulent history and the notorious chapter which involved the internationally scorned apartheid regime, the language and culture of those who speak it are sometimes unduly associated with holding firm to an ideology of racial segregation.

“Afrikaans has always gotten a bad wrap. I’ve become tired of the association of the language with the issues of apartheid, because it seems that since the end of that era until now, we keep seeing the burdens of that past being pointed at a very broad group of people primarily identified by the language they speak, and much political misdirection of the nation which includes from the current government. We want Afrikaans to be accepted as a language, free from any negative associations, and that Afrikaans-speaking people need not be shy anymore to use the language in which they can best express themselves.” ~ Waldi van Hunks

Waldi admits to the band having written two songs on the EP which address this specific issue.

“‘Uhuru’ is a satirical view of post-apartheid paranoia, and in ‘Alles Wat Oorloop’ we describe the feeling of being almost forcibly alienated from a rich heritage that most Afrikaans-speaking people should otherwise celebrate; one which pre-dates apartheid and remembers a time of adventure and heroic stories which includes alliances with ethnic African peoples.” ~ Waldi van Hunks

Of course, at M4A we tend to try and avoid the ‘cliche’ questions such as “what inspired your name”. However, in the context of the bands lyrics as being 100% Afrikaans, we thought it prudent to explore their use of this Dutch-origin word.

Beeldenstorm. The name is derived from the Dutch revolution. The iconoclasm. We seek to destroy boundaries and break down negative political, social and religious preconceptions. I guess the aim, through the name and the music put forth, is just that! Fokkin breek alles af! (Fucking break everything apart!)” ~ Waldi van Hunks

Beeldenstorm press 2015

So with all of this in mind, we’re very interested to see where Beeldenstorm and other champions of the Afrikaans language may find themselves in the foreseeable future. The aforementioned K.O.B.U.S has already gone on to win a 2008 SAMA award, and Mind Assault placing the language on stages shared by international stars. This suggests that a potentially bright future awaits a whole wave of Afrikaans-singing metal bands, perhaps as has been seen with the rock scene and acts like Fokofpolisiekar and Straatligkinders in the last decade; the marketplace being like the father waiting, open arms, for the return of his prodigal son.

Beeldenstorm will be launching their debut Die Donker Wetenskap at a live show hosted on 28 March 2015 by New Hope Holdings at Buckley’s venue in Edward Street, Bellville. Full event details can be viewed at the facebook event page.

Following the launch, these intrepid bearers of the Afrikaans language flame will also embark on their first journey outside of the Cape Town circuit by appearing at the Annual Emalyth Arts Expo in Gauteng. The event features a wide variety of metal and progressive styled bands, plus all sorts of other visual creations over a full weekend at the beginning of June. Full details can be viewed at Emalyth‘s facebook event page.

Below are some samples of metal music representing the Afrikaans language, including an earlier demo from Beeldenstorm: