News / Arts & Entertainment

South African Female Drummer Grooves to Her Own Beat

Darren Taylor

There are plenty of talented women in South Africa's burgeoning music scene. But a woman playing drums in a heavy metal band is still a rarity. Yet that's exactly how Courtney Gibson, 24, is making a name for herself. She fronts Johannesburg-based band, Mizera, that plays death and thrash metal, two highly aggressive subgenres of heavy metal, typically using distorted guitars, deep, growled vocals and supercharged drumbeats.

A blue haze of smoke engulfs the crowd at a music festival in Mpumalanga Province. The stage is swathed in purple light. Three big men dressed in black denim and leather step forward, wielding droning electric guitars.  They launch a tidal wave of sound.

One concert-goer - bearded, adorned with multiple tattooes and silver nose-rings  - exclaims when he realizes the drummer is woman.  

 

Courtney Gibson, 24, drummer for Mizera heavy metal band. (Photo: Darren Taylor / VOA)Courtney Gibson, 24, drummer for Mizera heavy metal band. (Photo: Darren Taylor / VOA)
x
Courtney Gibson, 24, drummer for Mizera heavy metal band. (Photo: Darren Taylor / VOA)
Courtney Gibson, 24, drummer for Mizera heavy metal band. (Photo: Darren Taylor / VOA)

Courtney Gibson's long brunette hair cascades over her thin arms in a blur as she pounds the drums at furious speed.

She's living her childhood dream of being a metal bland drummer.

"I started listening to Metallica and a lot of old school stuff. I really liked Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath," she explains. " I just really loved the drums. I always thought the drums were like an awesome instrument and I always had a feeling for it…"

At age 16, Gibson's parents helped her buy her first drum kit. The family lived on a game farm at the time.

 "So it was like the only house in the middle of the bush and I had this drum kit and I used to just play every single day, just jam on my own," she muses.

Gibson says people at Mizera gigs are always "shocked" when they realize it's a woman on drums.

 "They kind of sit and watch the first song and you just like see their mouths just like drop and they're like, 'What? Whenever I get off the drum kit, everyone's like, …You don't play like a girl!'" she chuckles.

Giibson doesn't see herself as a female drummer, just as a drummer.

"I don't really register that I'm different to the guys. I just play and feel the music," she says. "Other people are like, 'Oh, how do you play like that, you're so tiny!' I'm like, 'I don't know, I just play,'" she laughs. " It's weird when people are like, 'Oh, you're a girl.' So?"

And it is not just that Gibson is a drummer but in this kind of band that throws people.  Many here consider death and thrash metal to be negative, promoting violence and even Satanism.

But Gibson is adamant the music she makes with Mizera is positive.

"It's kind of just sending out a message of good. It's not anything evil at all. I'm actually a Christian…" she says, adding that the band's songs celebrate individuality.

"The one song that I wrote is pretty much about not being trapped in yourself, like just letting yourself be yourself, letting your soul free. It's called 'Prison of Flesh'. It's like being who you are and not being trapped inside your own flesh."

Gibson is anything but trapped - she says playing the drums frees her and allows her to demonstrate how happy she is just being herself, regardless of what people may think of her or her music.   

WATCH: Mizera band video

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”