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SAITA: Hell Flowers Blossom in Bolivia

March 16, 2013

I recently had the unexpected pleasure to attend an Extreme Metal music festival in the city of El Alto, located on the high plains above La Paz, Bolivia.  (See the poster for the unfortunately-named event below.)  Over the course of eight hours, my friends and I saw eight Bolivian bands whose music ranged from the melodic metal to which I am personally most inclined, to the most dissonant of ear-torturing black metal, with intermediate stops at Celtic folk metal (including an electric violin and flute!) and Viking battle metal in between.  To discover that Bolivia had a vibrant local metal scene, let alone one that boasted such a wide span of extreme styles, was a wonderful surprise.

As we banged our heads to the offerings of Obitus Designious, Purgatorium, Maldicion Kennedy, Belfast, Angaros, and others, we were repeatedly astounded at the talent of various players, gawking slack-jawed at the skills of a shredding guitarist here or a bludgeoning drummer there.  Replicating my prior experience at concerts in La Paz by big-name bands from foreign lands, I found the Bolivian metalhead crowd to be as friendly and welcoming as could be.  The small, open venue allowed us the added benefit of being able to meet and mingle with various smiling band members, all of whom were delighted to share with us their musical influences and a bit of their backgrounds.  Most were students playing music on the side out of pure love for the craft.  It was truly a good time.

Fast forward a few weeks and the performance that seems to have most deeply embedded itself in my memory is the one by a band whose style was the farthest possible from my usual comfort zone.  While I routinely avoid the grunting/growling vocals that are the norm for many subgenres of extreme metal nowadays, I found the throat-ripping emissions discharged by the petite lead “singer” of the three-piece, all-female death metal band SAITA utterly riveting.  While her two bandmates eked out a minimalist metallic march behind her on down-tuned electric guitar and drums, the denim-clad songstress expelled her vocals as if coughing them up from the bowels of some bottomless, lightless torture pit.  Watching her contort her small frame – an accomplishment in itself given her tightest-I’ve-ever-seen jeans – to wrench out those hell-spawned sounds, I was rapt (and probably possessed).  Wow, just wow.

Although I have no idea where the band got their name, SAITA appears to be a Japanese word meaning “blossoming,” as in Hana Saita or “blossoming flower.”  I approached the girls after their set and found them to be of the sweetest, soft-hearted and least-intimidating sort one can imagine.  They appeared genuinely flattered at my interest, delightedly explaining that this had been their first-ever performance and noting their availability if I knew of any future events they could play.  It just goes to reinforce once again that one should never judge a book by its Hades-evoking cover.

Watch the video below that I taped during the show to experience for yourself SAITA’s dulcet tones.  If you wonder from whence the likes of SAITA arise way up here in the Andean highlands, I can solely think to quote metal prophet Ozzy Osbourne in response, “Don’t ask me. I don’t know.”

From → Music

One Comment
  1. b.a. permalink

    Ten years ago today you were on mighty mission…time flies…hope all is well with everyone.

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