Punk's not dead, and these 20 black punk bands from North America, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mozambique, Brazil & more prove it.
40 years ago, punk rock spread around the world with bands like The Clash and The Ramones gathering a cult following and creating a scene in which kids who didn't fit in found a community.
Punk rock started in the U.K. and the States as a movement against the establishment—a way for working class kids to fight back through music and culture, no matter their lack of technical skills or financial means. Today, most of the remains of that period can be found in museums and it seems like most people have forgotten what the movement was all about.
Black punks stand out like a sore throat and their presence can be questioned. But, in reality, they've been present from punk's heyday with artists like Bad Brains, National Wake and Poly Styrene making history.
Black punks, if anything, are some of the last vanguards of a punk movement that's been co-opted by the mainstream. They fight two battles: to create their own space inside their punk communities, as well as inside black culture.
Black punks have to reconcile these cultures, and are thus more authentic, rebellious, bold and not afraid to be involved politically.
Punk's not dead, and these 10 black punk bands show it.
Listen to our Black Punk playlists on Apple Music.
Meet Me @ The Altar (USA)
Created by women of color, the three-piece indie pop punk band Meet Me @ The Altar was formed in 2015 with members hailing from different parts of the USA. Inspired by bands like Paramore and Movements, their music has attracted a loyal fanbase, as their songs are uplifting, encouraging listeners to be themselves, cut toxic relationships and be free from society's expectations. Their new EP, Bigger Than Us, was released earlier in 2019.
Big Joanie (UK)
Formed in 2013, by Stephanie, Kiera and Chardine, these girls don't shy away from their number one objective: making music for black punk kids and creating a space where they can be represented. Chardine is an activist and recently dud a TED talk on the rise of the alternative black punk scenes, "How Punk music can turn you into a Black Feminist."
Punk was created to fight against the establishment. Yet, ironically enough, racism is pretty well established in certain areas of the punk scene. By fighting against this racism and creating more visibility for black rockers, Big Joanie is one of the most punk bands around, in the original sense of the word.
TCIYF (South Africa)
You'd never guess what TCIYF stands for: The Cum In Your Face. If that alone didn't give you a hint, this thrash punk band from Soweto is even more hardcore than its name.
The four members are part of a skate collective called Skate Soweto Society. They created the band as a rejection of popular South African music genres like hip-hop or kwaito, which they felt didn't represent them. TCIYF had things to say, a system to reject, and forming a punk band was the best way to do it.
TCIYF play some of their gigs wasted. Their music videos, like "Church Wine," openly mock South Africa's heavy Christian culture. Their lyrics are as raw as they are are brutal and the band seems to always stays true to their spirit. They don't surrender, they don't compromise, and that's all the beauty of TCYIF. We're still waiting on the band's first album.
Danny Denial (USA)
The Seattle-based queer punk artist Danny Denial made waves when he released his visual album Dethheads U.S.A. and the accompanying EP Dead Like Me in 2018. It features a music video where a group of white people kidnap a torture Danny and his band; leading him to barely escape and kill one of them as an act of self defense. In the punk scene where race is never mentioned unless someone happens to not be white, the video was triggering for some. Nonetheless, Danny Denial has a promising career ahead of him as he is also the singer of the band Dark Smith. His new single, "Am I Cool Enough For You Love," was released earlier in 2019.
The project of Afro-Brazilian artist Flora Lucini, Maafa is a 6-piece punk band, mixing hardcore with rhythms of the African disapora. Unapologetically Black, the name comes from a kiswahili terms describing a "greater disaster" akin to holocaust, slavery, colonization and global systemic oppression of Black people. Their first self titled demo was released in 2017.
Pleasure Venom (USA)
The 5-piece Austin-based punk band Pleasure Venom is led by singer Audrey Campbell. The unapologetically black band is not afraid of being political with singles like "Seize" and "Deth," inspired by the death of Tamir Rice. Their lyrics tackles multiple subjects, including racism, sexism that black people and POC face in their everyday lives. But their music is not just about serious issues: they don't shy away from also celebrating life and for everyone who doesn't fit in to find joy wherever they can. Pleasure Venom performed at the first black and brown punk festival in Austin, Texas, created by Xingonas in the Pit. Their self-titled EP was released in 2018.
Crystal Axis (Kenya)
One of the first Kenyan punk bands, the Crystal Axis quartet was formed in Nairobi in 2009 by a group of teenagers. They released their EP State of Unease back in 2012 and have gone off the radar ever since since. Very little is known of this cult band. One of their members, Neel, has been spotted in Mexico while the others remain dormant in Kenya, despite pleas by their fans to release more music. Their alternative punk music is dark and energetic, and the band strictly follows the DIY ethic of punk, from mastering and making their own music and visuals, to recycling their instruments. Crystal Axis might be gone but not forgotten. They were part of a scene that gave birth to a new wave of Kenyan punk bands.
Whole Wheat Bread (USA)
Inspired by Bad Brains, the veteran punk band Whole Wheat Bread was formed in Florida in 2003. They released their first album in 2005, Minority Rules, and after going through different line ups, released their second album Hearts of Hoodlums in 2009. They toured with Yellowcard and The Bouncing Souls and worked with Lil Jon on the song "I Don't Give a Fuck". From lyrics calling out the police to talking about heartbreak, their music has attracted a cult following (while selling unique merch with messages such as 'I Love Black People'). They released a long-awaited follow up to their first EP, Punk Life 2, in 2016 and have been touring since.
The Brother Moves On (South Africa)
The Brother Moves On hails from Johannesburg. Formed in 2009, their music is an intricate mix of " Electronique Maskandi, Ninja Gospel, Afrikan voodoo pop" with a dash of punk. They use performance art during their live gigs to spread their message and aren't afraid to tackle economic and political issues in their music. In their conceptual EP, Golden Wake, the members staged a funeral to address the meaning of personal value and South African society's obsession with money.
Red Arkade (USA)
Hailing from Queens, the 4-piece heavy rock and punk rock band Red Arkade is fronted by Ziggy Royal. They released Limewire, their first EP in 2016, establishing their unique sound, heavy and rough with raw vocals. The band is part of a thriving black punk scene in New York, with bands like Killer of Sheep, The Bandroids and blk Vampire. Their last EP, We Don't Sing Too Pretty, was released in 2018 as well as their single, "Cocaine."
The OBGMS (Canada)
This self-proclaimed garage party punk band's name stands for the oOohh Baby Gimme Mores. Founded in 2007 in Toronto, The OBGMs released their first EP, Interchorus, in 2009 and a self-titled debut album in 2014. The OBGMs make the perfect music to mosh and jump on people to. That might explain why Budweiser used their songs in a commercial, getting the band a surge of popularity in their native Canada. The band members are pretty close to their fans, and their live sets are known for their disorganized choreographies.
The Txlips (USA)
The Atlanta based fusion punk band The Txlips is entirely made of black women and led by singer and guitarist Gabriella Logan. The band was created when she met William, the drummer, as they played for Diamond (the former member of the band Crime Mob), showing how diverse the group's influences are. Their existence alone is a symbol of black women breaking the barriers the industry puts on them, especially in rock music. Their debut EP, Queens of the New Age, was released in 2018 and they have been touring internationally since.
340ml is one of the most popular Mozambican bands. The quartet started inp 2000 in Maputo and has since moved to South Africa. They created their own record label to distribute their music and have now signed artists like Bongeziwe Mabandla. The band has released two albums, 2004's Moving and 2008's Sorry for the delay.
They've also been featured in Keith Jones and Deon Maas's documentary Punk in Africa,which retraces the history of punk bands on the continent. 340ml's music is a mix of ska punk, jazz and reggae with an exquisite feel-good vibe that makes you want to forget about your problems and jump around (which is also pretty punk).
The New York based punk band Rebelmatic, whose name has been inspired by Public Enemy, was created in 2008. Inspired by Black Sabbath, The Deftones and Bad Brains, they describe their music as "James Brown in a moshpit," mixing punk, hardcore and hip-hop music and escaping the strict barriers of what punk or hardcore music is. They released their last EP, Eat the Monster, in 2017, which was inspired by the children's book Where the Wild Things Are.
Fuck U Pay Us (USA)
Led by Jasmine Nyende, the 4-piece Californian band Fuck U Pay Us was created in 2016. Their song "Nappy Black Pussy" is an anthem to black women and their sexuality. It's as punk as it gets, with lyrics like, "suck my nappy black pussy." Their rage against various systems of oppression and raw vocals make their music the perfect outlet for black women to release their rage. The band was viciously attacked in England in 2017 by a racist and sexist man, triggering an outpouring of support from fans worldwide. After taking a break from touring, they are back and working on new music.
General of Monrovia (Canada)
Formed in 2015 in New Westminster, Canada, the Generals Of Monrovia might be the babies of this list, but they're probably the ones that stand out the most for their visuals and concept (think of an indie punk version of the Gorillaz).
The concept of the band is that, after being granted immunity, the last three surviving Generals of Monrovia—represented by band members General Sokah, General Fee and General 55—have dedicated their new-found freedom to recording and performing punk rock. Sounds like a rad program.
The Generals released their first self-titled EP last year and have been touring in their home country since then. Their music belongs to the alternative punk category, as do their lyrics, which call out the fake-ness of the music industry and hipsters.
Information on the pop punk band Mona is scarce. We know that the trio hails from Maputo, Mozambique and is composed of drummer Goro, singer and bass player Mel Vicious and Monace, the group's female guitarist. They sing pop punk songs in Portuguese and English. The rock scene, let alone the pop punk scene, in Mozambique is small. As a result, Mona has created a record label to promote rock bands such as White Monkeys. Mona openly sings about the "depressing state of the Mozambique" music scene and how they aim to shake things up.
Chikwata 263 (Zimbabwe)
Chikwata 263 was formed in 2013 in Harare. The quartet is one of the first mbira punk bands, incorporating the traditional African instrument into their guitar-infused music. Their music defies Zimbabwean conventions, creating an interesting mix of culture. They released their first album, Chauya, in 2015 and hope to tour abroad soon.
Black Pantera (Brazil)
Project Black Pantera is a relatively young band, formed in 2014 in Uberaba, Brazil and distributed by Tratore Digital. Their first self-titled album was released in 2014. The trio is composed of Charles, Chaene and Rodrigo, the drummer, who has the interesting particularity of always wearing a mask during their set or promo pictures. A quick glance at their Facebook would be more than enough to reassure you that he's not actually an alien. Project Black Pantera is crossover band: they mix thrash metal with hardcore music and punk.
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, the three-piece punk band Holders are adept at DIY punk and make what can be best described as "emotional noise." Not much is known about the band, who is pretty elusive. Their first project, sorry, taylor konnerman, was released in 2016.