Today’s “world music” isn’t Peruvian pan flutes or African talking drums. It’s loud guitars, growling vocals and ultrafast “blast” beats. Heavy metal has become the unlikely soundtrack of globalization.
Indonesia is a metal hotbed: Its president, Joko Widodo, wears Metallica and Napalm Death T-shirts. Metal scenes flourish in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. China got an early seeding of metal 25 years ago when U.S. record companies dumped unsold CDs there. In a male-dominated genre, Russian band Arkona is fronted by singer Maria Arkhipova. Language barriers are less significant in the metal world, which is all about the sound, an often dissonant drone not grounded in any one musical tradition.Read the whole article for the details. From Botswana to India, heavy metal seems to follow economic development as mushrooms follow a spring rain. One of the earliest heavy metal bands in China was started by Kaiser Kuo, a Chinese-American who returned to China and formed the group Tang Dynasty:
Here is one of their songs, Pathway. Weirdly, Blogger won't embed it so you have to follow the link:
One interesting element in global heavy metal is the degree to which groups like Tang Dynasty or Dimmu Borgir from Norway evoke the ancient pasts of their regions through means like musical reference or the use of ancient instruments: this is termed "folk metal" or "pagan metal". In a way this echoes what Carl Orff was doing in his Carmina Burana. This partakes of a recurring theme in Western civilization, the return to roots or "primitivism" (taking this idea from Jacques Barzun's book From Dawn to Decadence).
Ironically, this particular primitivistic cultural gesture depends on fairly advanced technology: electric guitars, amplifiers, speaker systems, effects pedals and so on. While not a huge factor in commercial terms--a lot of the artists and their record companies are somewhat anti-commercial--it is a global phenomenon and you can find heavy metal bands and their followers in Norway, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Germany and a lot of other places. Heavy metal, though with regional differences, shares a fairly common culture both visual and musical.
What are its origins? Wikipedia has a pretty extensive article on heavy metal that you can refer to. My earliest years in music were involved with the antecedents to it, though we didn't call it that--the term came along later. But bands I played in played a lot of music by the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the Who, all bands that specialized in a "heavy metal" kind of sound: heavy drumming with extensive, distortion-laden guitar solos. For a short while I even played in a band that was a reverse of the Jimi Hendrix Experience: I, a white guy, was the lead guitarist and the drummer and bass-player were both black.
In the decades since the late 1960s, heavy metal has flowered into a host of different sub-genres that emphasize one or another of its basic characteristics. In one way it is reassuring that so many musicians are swimming against the tide of commercialism.
One of the biggest heavy metal bands is Metallica and here is a representative song from their 1991 Black Album, "Enter Sandman":