“We allow justly that the Holocaust has permanently altered the consciousness of our time: Why do we not accord the same epistemological mutation in what imperialism has done, and what Orientalism continues to do?”
WE ARE NOT ORIENTAL METAL.
DO NOT EXOTIFY OUR ART.
Three years ago, when we decided to share our voice and sound with the world, we were aware that our music will inevitably have to follow the existing patterns and the established palettes and structures of music genres.
Even though we are obviously Tunisian musicians singing in the Tunisian language, about Tunisia for Tunisians, there is no possible way to avoid falling into the ready-made categories of genres. Some define us in relation to our cultural background, some label us following artistic and stylistic criteria while others have their personal subjective perspective.
Of course artists can openly claim and mention the genres and styles within which they think they operate, but that will not save them from gatekeepers, prejudice or simply being received differently by different audiences in different parts of the world.
All this has been fine so far. We do our part and we let the audience do theirs.
Actually, we were very happy that our music has been mostly received for what it is and that people who listen to Znous do not often chew on the triviality of genres and focus more on the message, the emotions and the expressions in our music. Reviewers on the other hand might generally need to focus on the point of “genres” a bit more.
In July 2021, MetalHammer featured Znous in an article with the headline “11 bands redefining folk metal around the world”. It was thrilling indeed to be on such a list with great authentic bands from all over the world representing their cultures.
“Folk Metal” is a vague labelling first generated to describe metal bands that added traditional and folk instruments to their initial heavy and electric rock sound in the 90s. We understand that our music can be seen as “Folk Metal” as we are totally “Chaabi” in the sense that we are at the opposite end of being elitist, fashionable or refined and yes, we use traditional local instruments in our recordings.
We also understood long ago that the Metal scene has always had this “genre fetish” where Metalheads often like to blabber around the infinite tree, or rather the deep dark forest, of metal genres and subgenres.
As mentioned above, so far so good. We remain open and we cannot expect people from Columbia, Russia, Morocco or Japan to perceive and receive our music in the same manner.
In September 2021, the day has come! The day we, Znous, got associated with a nightmare word. A genre with a name and a background story we are rebelling against through our very own songs and messages.
This word is the disgusting infamous genre they call: Oriental Metal.
The name and the story of this so-called genre is one of the easiest ways to trace one of the oldest and most persistent problems in the heavy metal world: eurocentrism.
Eurocentrism is a worldview that is centered on “Western civilization” or a biased view that favors it over non-Western civilizations. A worldview that sees itself as the center and puts the rest of the world as an auxiliary mashup of exotic cultures.
This matter will be easier for you to understand if you are familiar with terms like eurocentrism, orientalism, colonialism and cultural hegemony. If not, maybe it is time for you to get to know them. Since this article is not meant to be a lecture, we try to keep it simple.
When you call something or someone oriental, you actually put a huge heterogenous geographical area and history in the same bag. By doing that, you deny people and cultures their right to exist extrinsically as a distinctive identity, separately from the geographical association according to where you stand on the map.
The world as we know it has been shaped by colonialism and it is still until today shaped by colonialist thinking even if the colonial era as we know it has ended (except for Palestine and other small parts of the world). You see it on TV, hear it on the radio in everyday conversations with friends in the pub; this discourse where all Arabs are just Arabs, all Africans are just Africans, all Latinos are just Latinos and all Asians are just Asians. Put them all in the same bag.
Now, let’s get to the magic word itself: Oriental/the Orient. Where your old friends Aladdin and Ali Baba come from! The yellow-tinted part on your Hollywood movie, the “hululu halala yalla yalla” background noise, the bustling street Bazaar scene whenever a movie character travels to the Middle East and rides a camel, the harmonic minor melody with the pluck instrument, the snake charmer and the belly dancers and everything that goes down that rabbit hole.
No, that is just a projection, a shallow dream, a hallucinating fantasy of an old dead white man.
The orient is a place that only exists in his head, and unfortunately in the head of a lot of Eurocentric people.
The so-called east/orient is a large spectrum of different cultures, ethnicities, identities and existences. We should all help deconstruct this misleading world view by reading, investigating, discussing, travelling and meeting people.
“To say simply that Orientalism was a rationalization of colonial rule is to ignore the extent to which colonial rule was justified in advance by Orientalism, rather than after the fact.”
In this respect, we are happy as we vehemently inform you today that Znous is not at all an Oriental Metal band. Znous actually opposes cultural hegemony, colonialism and comparable biased and cynical ways of seeing the world and the others.
We understand that things went the way they went with early “Oriental Metal” bands coming from historical Palestine like Melechesh or Orphaned Land (which were the first to be labelled so). Many newer bands coming from the region have unfortunately adhered to this bordering-racist and discriminatory term/genre.
Geographical North Africa, Middle East, the Arab peninsula, Anatolia, Persia and all that is beyond them as you head further east is not just the “Orient”. The richness and variety can be compared to different universes, not put in the same bags of “the brown people with dark beards and hair”.
We cannot apologize for what other bands have done by solidifying the stereotypes in their hopeless attempt to sell their work or gain some visibility or grab the attention of the European or American music market. But we can draw lines and speak to you about it, so you pass it on.
Today we draw the line ladies, gentlemen and what is in between and beyond. You can call Znous music Mumble Rap or Rockabilly if you want but not that crap again, thank you.
We are a Tunisian band, cherishing our Amazigh North African Tunisian identity and peculiarities. We embrace every fragment of the mosaic that made us who we are today: Tunisians from the T to the N, as much as we embrace the neighboring cultures and identities as well as all humans walking the earth in peace.
Thank you for reading our words on this, we would really appreciate you sharing it publicly or with friends.