Label: Nyege Nyege Tapes
Release Date: 07/08/2020
My god, I don’t even know where to begin on this album, honestly, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. But before I begin rambling on about how amazing and unique it is, I need to explain who and what I am talking about.
Today we are looking at Nairobi based experimental duo Duma and their debut self titled album, released on August 7th on Nyege Nyege Tapes. I actually have to thank Sleeping Village Reviews for putting me onto this band and their label, and boy am I glad that they did.
Duma play a completely unique blend of grindcore, industrial, electronica, noise, glitch and drone but blend it with afrobeat, world music and ethnographic field recordings, making for a listening experience unlike anything else that I’ve come across.
Duma is Martin Khanja (aka Lord Spike Heart) and Sam Karugu who have been active members in Nairobi’s underground metal scene, having formerly been members of the bands Lust of a Dying Breed and Seeds of Datura. Together in 2019 they went in a new direction and formed Duma (which translates to darkness in Kikuyu) with Sam abandoning bass for production and guitars and Lord Spike Heart providing extreme vocals. The album was recorded at Nyege Nyege Studios in Kampala over three months in mid-2019.
I don’t really know where to begin with the album to be honest, I guess that firstly I need you to understand the band’s sound, so what I’m going to do is let the band explain it to you in their own words before I break it down track by track. Duma state that “the album fuses the frenetic euphoria, unrelenting physicality and rebellious attitude of hardcore punk and trash metal with bone-crunching breakcore and raw, nihilist industrial noise through a claustrophobic vortex of visceral screams. The savant mix of brutally adrenalized drums, caustic industrial trap, shredding grindcore inspired guitars and abrupt speed changes create a darkly atmospheric menace and is lethal.” What isn’t mentioned here are some of the elements that make the music truly stand out from other experimental artists and I’m talking about the incorporation of afrobeat, world music and ethnographic recordings.
The band are uniquely positioned to be influenced by these styles and rather than defy the norms of their culture and traditional music, they’ve chosen to embrace it and find completely new ways to make it accessible to a whole new generation, as well as overseas audiences. As someone who studied anthropology and ethnography, I find these elements fascinating. The band identify as being part of the cultural aesthetic known as Afrofuturism, which if you aren’t aware is the reimagining of a future filled with culture, arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. Initially it began in the African diaspora, particularly with African Americans, but has come to be a wider encompassing movement. An example that is generally used to explain this artistic movement is Black Panther, an alternate future imagined (as mentioned) through a black lens, while maintaining traditional cultural aspects. Duma’s music essentially achieves this in real life, it shows what futuristic, ground breaking music is like when created through a black lens, while not simply maintaining its original cultural identity, but fully embracing it rather than diluting or removing it to fit the norms of mainstream music.
I also quickly have to mention the album cover, which was created by Moroto Hvy Ind & Jonathan Uliel Saladhina, using a photography by Lola. Its a captivating image and one that’s unlinke any other I’ve seen before. The more you look at the imagie, the more interesting it really is and the fact that it also works to reflelct the band’s culture and the society in which they live is an added bonus.
Okay I’ve gone way off topic here, time to talk about the music on the album. We start off with Angels and the Abyss which kicks off with some rhythmic African drums before the electronic elements kick in. The drums continue to play beneath this new layer or sound. We get some glitch elements at play here, complicating the sound further. The song is actually pretty jarring and takes a bit to get used to. Things really pick up as the track goes on and it becomes pretty assaulting before ending on the drum beat it started with.
Track 2 Corners in Nihil immediately hits us with a blend of glitch and industrial. This time though we get those grindcore vocals at play which are an interesting blend with the music. The song is oppressive and the vocals assaulting, but there’s more to the song than that. You will notice and eerie soundscape present over the top of the harshness which could be a song in itself. There are also haunting clean vocals at intervals here which add extra character. The combination of these two songs being played over each other makes for an extremely stimulating listening experience. One can even listen to the song twice and focus in on different elements to almost hear two different songs.
Track 3 Omni (which has a music video that I’ve included below the review) is less on the aggressive side and features some more electronic experimentation. We still have the industrial harshness but, in many parts, it flows as a constant steady beat rather than an assault. There’s some atmosphere here too, created by unique beats, unusual vocal parts, innovative distorted clean singing and the use of not one but two harsh vocal styles.
Track 4 Lionsblood is definitely one of the most captivating on the album (and also has a music video which I’ve included below the review).The track features interesting African drum rhythms, interesting shouted vocals and ethnographic recordings that have been distorted. The harsh vocals on this track come through as faded echoes as if from inside a cave. The African style drumming becomes more prevalent and more intense as the song progresses, it’s almost hypnotizing. We shift into more industrial/electronic elements after the 4 minute mark, with more interesting distorted shouted vocals.
Track 5 Uganda with Sam has an exceptionally catchy beat to it that worms its way deep into your brain in a way that’s hard to explain without you having heard it. There are multiple levels of beats playing here in a way that it almost sounds like gunfire at times. There are breaks in the assault though where we get dark and atmospheric segments, but then we’re right back to that relentless beat.
Track 6 Kill Yourself Before They Kill You starts off with heavy trap and industrial elements to it. There’s a menacing sort of pulse to this track that’s somewhat unsettling. The vocals tear through this pulse at intervals, disrupting the energy of the song.
Track 7 Pembe 666 starts off with a bps rate that I can’t even calculate with a spoken word segment in a non-English language (sadly I don’t know which), which makes for an interesting listen. This format runs for the duration of the track.
Track 8 Sin Nature starts off with an interesting energy to it but quickly descends into an auditory onslaught. There are heavy and oppressive beats at play here, with echoed shrieked vocals. Then at around the 2-minute mark we get a highly repetitive industrial heavy beat slamming us ceaselessly. The song does not let up from start to finish.
Finally, we have the closing track The Echoes of the Beyond is a bit of a different beast to the rest of the album. It’s somewhat of an ethereal soundscape with whispered harsh vocals coming through as if from beyond the void. We get some interesting elements at play here, especially in regard to some of the beats and other electronic elements. The track continues like this from start to finish, ending the album on much more of an atmospheric note. This is actually a great decision by the band, it gives the listener a chance to decompress and unpack what they have just listened to, while still being presented with captivating music.
Overall, you need to listen to this album, there really isn’t anything else out there that’s quite like it. This is a perfect example of why I like to listen to music from as many countries as possible, because there are so many unique bands and artists out due to their individual influences. So take some time out of your day and give this a spin. Ideally give it a few spins (I know I have) and I guarantee that you will find elements on each listen that you missed on the previous play throughs.
Listen to the full album below:
Watch the music videos for Lionsblood and Omni: