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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

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.”