Horns up for Heavy Metal and Globalization at University of Dayton
By Gary Spencer
Over the summer I read an article on The Atlantic’s website about a metal artist known as Janaza, a one woman anti-Islamic black metal project based in Iraq and how project founder Anahita was in hiding over in her native country in fear for her life because of her blasphemous, anti-Islamic art and rhetoric.
Curious, I tracked down a copy of the Janaza EP and put it on my stereo. My speakers soon erupted into thunderous eardrum-clubbing blast beats, sick and noisy guitars and blood-curdling banshee vocals screaming “Burn the Quran! Burn the Fucking Quran!” The music alone was jarring enough, and when paired with the overtly anti-religious lyrical matter coming from what many perceive as a strict holy mecca where blasphemers are beaten, arrested or worse, it really touched a nerve.
But it goes to show a couple of things. First, that extreme metal music, one of the most distinctly Western styles of world music, is embraced and is being created in religious and even third world countries all over the globe that many music aficionados might find surprising. And it also represents a growing phenomenon where metal artists in such off-the-musical-grid parts of the world are using metal music’s template of loud, down-tuned guitars, pulse-quickening drums and alternately screeching or growling vocals to reflect their unique experiences being from a country outside the status quo of where metal music is thought to reach. Artists such as Janaza are using metal as a platform for expressing or dissenting against their native country’s culture, history, religion, folklore and general way of life.
In the past decade, the subject of heavy metal music and its influence on global culture has been a hot topic of scholarly study and intrigue. Ever since Canadian anthropologist/filmmaker Sam Dunn released the documentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey,” it seems that every closet-metalhead-turned-academic has been going out of their way to show other intellectuals the cultural influence and significance of heavy metal not just in the Western world but all over the planet. The University of Dayton is all set to join in on the academic mosh pit this coming Friday with a free symposium entitled “Heavy Metal and Globalization.” This scholarly headbang fest was the brainchild of UD Associate Professor of English (and metalhead) Bryan Bardine, who thought Dayton was ripe and ready for a University-sponsored event to display how heavy metal music has influenced different peoples and cultures all over the world for multiple reasons, and the powers that be gave him the green light to produce such an event.
“The idea arose from an honors’ course that I teach, ‘Heavy Metal Music: Its History and Culture,’” Bardine says. “Because heavy metal music has expanded beyond traditional strongholds like Britain, the U.S., Canada and mainland Europe, it has shown that there is more to the music than loud noise, long hair and spandex. The fact that metal has moved into third world countries and in regions most would consider unwelcoming to this type of music, like the Middle East, Far East and North Africa shows that it is a type of music and culture that needs to be studied.”
Bardine has lined up a supergroup of writers and researchers who have plenty of notches in their metal and academic belts to speak at the symposium. The bill consists of Dr. Mark LeVine, author of “Heavy Metal Islam;” Dr. Jeremy Wallach, author and editor of “Metal Rules the Globe;” Dr. Deena Weinstein, author of “Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture;” and Esther Clinton, author of “Who has Access? – Comparing the Moral Panic About Gothic Literature in the Late-18th Century and Heavy Metal Music in the 1980s.” The symposium will be followed by a masterclass on “The Heavy Metal Guitar” at the Kennedy Union Pub where Dr. Mark Levine will lead a group of UD musicians in a heavy metal guitar jam session. Overall, there are several reasons that Dr. Bardine sees this endeavor as a way to present heavy metal culture as a significant cultural movement that has spread like a fungus to nearly every point on planet earth.
“My goal for the symposium is for attendees to see that metal music and culture is in part, at least, a reflection of society,” Bardine explained. “It is not the devil that the religious right and music critics make it out to be. Furthermore, just the fact that it has lasted for more than 40 years and continues to expand, I think, says something about the passion of the fans and especially the power of the music to bring people together. There are more than 20 genres of heavy metal – each with different musical innovations or emphases, and that is what makes the music so important. I think it is important for attendees to see that metal studies is a legitimate scholarly field, and a fairly new one that is growing around the world. Because the research is so new there is a great deal to learn about the music, culture, people and the impact it has across the world.”
And it should be noted that this exposé isn’t just for the tattooed, long-haired, obscure-metal-band-shirt-wearing few. Dr. Bardine believes that the subject matter should be of interest and appeal to anyone curious about how music influences lives.
“If you are interested in music in general this will be a great night – one that will open a lot of eyes to a growing and important scholarly field,” Bardine said. “For its history, metal has been a curiosity for many people, some because they don’t understand it, others because it is their passion. The culture itself is fascinating to examine. Also, globalization has become important here at UD and across the world, and by connecting metal and globalization it adds to the interest level of the symposium. The research is so new there is a great deal to learn about the music, culture, and people. It is really a burgeoning field and I want the UD community (and Dayton in general) to recognize the role that this music and its culture plays for millions of people worldwide.”
“The Influence of Heavy Metal on World Culture” symposium will take place Friday, Nov. 9 from 3-6 p.m. at the Sears Recital Hall in the Jesse Philips Humanities Center on the University of Dayton campus, 300 College Park Dr. Admission is free to the public. For more information please visit www.udayton.edu/arts.
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@daytoncitypaper.com