The band that first started in high school, took a long hiatus to come back stronger. Having performed in big and small stages alike since their inception; the punk rockers have attracted lots of international attention for the strong sound and controversial take on societal issues. With their latest performance on the mega-stage at Nyege Nyege 2018, the band has done well to represent their point of view on the continental stage.
The band comprises of Ahmed Bulhan on lead vocals, Djae Aroni and Fox Elijah electric guitars, Douglas Kihoro on bass while Ronjey Rocks set the pace on the drums. Speaking to Capital Campus about their music, the band had lots to say about their philosophy to making music and their aspirations for the band.
CC: How would you describe your music? What is DIY punk to you?
CA: Crystal Axis is an Afropunk band. In the simplest terms, that just means ‘African punk’.
Our music has always been based on African culture, even though there are some that would argue that there is nothing African about punk rock. Our themes and revolve entirely around African culture and African history. We are currently wrapping up work on our latest single ‘Nyayo House’ and as the name suggests the song revolves around the infamous torture chamber that was active during the Moi regime.
Our last single ‘Leopold’ was about the atrocities committed by the Belgian King Leopold II during his tyrannical reign in the Congo. For us, it is important to write about this given the fact that Africa is almost always overlooked when it comes to human history. Almost every human being knows of the Holocaust, the World Wars, 9/11 and so on. But very rarely do people talk about, or acknowledge, the atrocities and hardships faced by Africans at the hands of the colonial white man. Instead, the narrative is that ‘colonisation is over’ therefore we should move on and forget about it, the argument is that there is no point in reopening old wounds.
But as Africans, we believe it is important to have this dialogue and to constantly remind ourselves of what our ancestors endured. People often argue that history serves a reminder not to repeat past mistakes, but why doesn’t this apply when it comes to people of color?
The concept of punk, to us, is very simple and it has nothing to do with spiky hair, piercings, and tattoos. Punk is an attitude, a mindset and a state of mind: it’s about question anything and everything, refusing to conform, challenging the status quo and standing up for what you believe in. Because of this, we argue that punk is inherently African; if you take a look at people like Boniface Mwangi, Bobi Wine and even Nelson Mandela or Miriam Makeba, they are all punk. These are all individuals that put their lives on the line in order to challenge a broken system and to speak out of the inequalities in society.
Punk isn’t a label, it isn’t an aesthetic.
CC: You have been to Nyege Nyege twice, what big stage is Crystal Axis eyeing next?
CA: There are many festivals, and many shows we would love to play.
Firstly, we always look forward to Nyege Nyege, regardless of whether or not we are actually performing at the event: there’s always a killer line-up and great vibes all around.
Locally we’ve got our eyes set on Africa Nouveau, we had an amazing time attending the last one and we’re beyond excited for the next edition. We’re also working on heading down to Southern Africa really soon. We’d be honored to play Oppikoppi Festival as well as the annual AfroPunk SA festival.
All in all, our number one priority in terms of shows and festivals is to be part of as many African events as possible. We’ve received a few invitations to fly out and play a bunch of shows in Europe, and while that would be super exciting, we’re being a little bit stubborn because we first want to do this in our homeland before we venture out.
CC: What’s the biggest lesson learned from performing live and recording?
CA: Nothing beats preparation!
Regardless of whether you’re playing a mainstage for thousands of people, or a small show in a dingy bar, preparation is the most important thing.
We spend a countless number of hours, collectively and individually, practicing and writing material. Being tight as a band allows for less room for errors because we know all the songs and sets inside out, should we, unfortunately, hit a technical difficulty or a small mistake while playing live then we are ready to deal with it and cover it up. The beauty is that while you as a band may be aware of the mistake, the rest of the public genuinely has no clue that there has been a slip-up.
This also goes a long way when it comes to recording. Before we hit the studio, we always go through a rather rigorous and grueling rehearsal process where everything must be perfect. We head into the rehearsal space and we spend upwards of 2hours playing the same song back to back until everyone is happy with the final product. This way we head into the studio with a vision of what we want to execute, and we waste no time while in the studio.
Practice makes perfect, and we have each made this part of our daily mantras.
For more music from Crystal Axis, check out their SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/crystal-axis