Defying tradition: Ghana's Dark Suburb are facing down charges of being a demonic influence while entertaining audiences with their brand of heavy metal.

Author:Matthews, Chris
Position:Arts & Culture: MUSIC
 
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A car pulls into the shady courtyard at Ghana's National Film and Television Institute and from behind the tinted windows, with drum sticks and guitars in tow, five figures clad in black skeleton masks and hooded robes enter the studio to finish recording a video for their upcoming album, The Start Looks Like the End.

They go by the name of Dark Suburb and are fighting against Ghana's music traditions and some religious leaders who claim their music is "demonic".

Renowned for its Highlife, Afrobeat and local hip-hop rhythms, rock musicians in the West African nation are an anomaly.

"I just love rock music and the way it is very expressive," the band's lead singer explains. "We wanted to find ways we can localise it and so we perform with pidgin English, blending it with African rhythms.

"In these parts when you are doing music which is not Afrobeat or Atropop, you don't get played on popular radio, and journalists don't pay attention to you--you are like music hidden in the dark."

The band started out in late 2014 and their catchy rock riffs and use of the local Twi language in their songs has struck a chord with a growing number of fans.

On the back of their debut EP, The Awakening, Dark Suburb's star rose in the Ghanaian music firmament, leading to a nomination at the 2015 All African Music-Awards and receiving the "Unsung" award at the Ghana Music Awards.

According to the band's singer, the mask-wearing, a classic piece of rock symbolism, is rooted in the masquerade cultures of West Africa.

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"In Nigeria and Ghana there are cultures which lasted centuries where the entertainers are masqueraded. You can never tell the people behind the mask ... it is a myth," he explains. "We want to be a reminder when we are on stage to everyone that we are all skeletons beneath. No matter your skin colour, race, ethnicity, we are all the same beneath--difference is the basis of all...

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