Accepted Paper:

The sound of satan: ambivalences of Heavy Metal in the highlands of Madagascar  


Markus Verne (Bayreuth University)

Paper short abstract:

Taking “satanic” practices and imaginations among Malagasy Heavy Metal fans and musicians as an ethnographic point of departure, the paper will argue that the anthropological study of popular music needs to be linked to “musical agency”, e.g. to aesthetic considerations, in order even to make social sense of certain forms of popular music.

Paper long abstract:

Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, hosts a considerable Heavy Metal scene. As elsewhere, evocations of Satan and satanic imageries form integral parts within practices surrounding Malagasy Heavy Metal. In a thoroughly Christian context such as Madagascar, however, in which the power of God is nothing to be questioned, "running with the devil" is an ambivalent practice.

In my paper, I want to look at the way in which Heavy Metal's Satanic imaginary is dealt with and reflected upon by musicians and fans in the highlands of Madagascar. Here, I will argue, relating to Satan does not follow the wish to make a religious statement, nor does Satan represent a symbolic device that is used for social or political self-positioning. Rather, the sound of Heavy Metal itself is conceived as being "satanic" in nature and thus forcing its listeners to somehow relate to the devil. How these relations become manifest, e.g. how the aesthetic experiences and their allegorical conceptualizations are translated into actual life and put into religious, social or political practice thereby remains to be asked.

Panel W049
Sonic beings? The ontologies of musical agency