A vibrant rock music scene has emerged in Kenya in the last decade with thumping guitar-driven music along with a fashion sub-culture of fans known as ‘rockers’ or ‘metalheads’.
Heavy metal, a loud and aggressive subgenre of rock music, has found an unexpected niche among music fans in Nairobi, just as in other major cities around Africa.
Eddie Branchs, an American researcher who has studied the emergence of heavy metal across the continent and who will be in Nairobi next month says Africa lends itself as the perfect setting for metal music to thrive.
“Heavy metal is synonymous with a lifestyle which is seldom seen with other genres of music and African metal fans are representative of such a lifestyle.”
The burgeoning rock and heavy metal scene in the city has just added to a new name to the list of artistes who are at the forefront of the genre. Straight Line Connection is a trio of musicians who will this weekend launch their debut album, “Spaceless.”
The band comprises Gun Di (Guitars and Vocals), Reuben (Bass Guitar) and Param (Drums). In August 2017, the band frontman Gun met up with Pram the drummer and guitarist with an unorthodox playing style and the two musicians started jamming on acoustic rock cover versions. “It was always my dream to have a rock band and Param and I just totally gelled,” explains Gun.
“We started off jamming on acoustic covers at his place till the third jam session when Param said he wanted to drum some more. I picked up the electric guitar and we played the song Scream which I had written a few months before.”
When they discovered a musical chemistry between them they abandoned the idea of playing cover versions, started writing their own music and went on to form the band.
At the beginning of 2018, Gun and Param met Reuben the suave bassist who added a touch of funk to the music and the line up was complete. The name of the band came after a month of sharing suggestions between the members before they finally settled on Straight Line Connection. The group’s motto is to bring the rock and heavy metal scene to the forefront in Kenya and indeed the entire African continent.
“Spaceless’ is all about relatable personal experiences with a sound that straddles the different sub genres of rock: heavy metal, classic rock and soft rock. The band describes the sound of the album as a ‘cauldron of energy, emotion, timelessness and philosophy.’
Their first single “Fight and Reconcile” with its heavy guitar riff was released in October 2018 and talks about the notion that there is no need to fight if you know you are going to reconcile anyway and that life is about going around in circles searching for that elusive straight line. Their follow up “Text Walking” is a hard rock song that uses the analogy of people walk through life, focused on their phones while missing other opportunities and choices that life has to offer.
The sound of Straight Line Connection is influenced by a range of international rock acts like Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica and Guns and Roses.
In October 2017, the group sent a demo with some raw recordings to the organisers of the Nairobi Metal Festival who were so impressed they invited the band to perform as the opening act at the festival at the Alchemist in Nairobi.
They received a positive reaction to their stage act and songs “Fight and Reconcile” “Acid Rain” and “Scream”. The festival also gave them the opportunity to share the stage with a stellar line of local and international rock acts like Last Year’s Tragedy from Kenya, Vale of Amonition from Uganda and Slander of Italy.
and In Other Climes from France.
Since then they have earned a reputation, as one fan described it, as ‘beasts on stage’ a tight rocking sound, an electrifying concert set with and the launch of their album this weekend marks a major milestone for the trio.
It remains to be seen if heavy metal can gain a foothold in the mainstream of music but there is no denying that there is a generation of music fans who are growing up with exposure to a much wider spectrum of music influences than has traditionally been the case. Banchs author of “Heavy Metal: Life, Passion and Heavy Metal In The Forgotten Continent” says that heavy metal is not a trend but something that grabs the listener and remains a constant through most of their lives. “Those who listen to this music are not guided by the norm or conformity of mainstream culture. The fans are a reflection of the sincerity and honesty that drives the music.”