Duma is a grindcore duo from Kenya made up of Martin Khanja aka Lord Spike Heart (vocals) and Sam Karuga (production, guitar). While both have been part of the country’s metal scene for years, their upcoming self-titled debut on Nyege Nyege Tapes places their music in both the metal world and the cacophonous electronic music being churned out by labels like SVBKVLT. Joshua Minsoo Kim called Duma via WhatsApp on July 24th to discuss their new album, the Kenyan metal scene, their mentors, and more.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello Hello!
Martin Khanja: Hello it’s Martin here!
Sam Karugu: And I’m Sam!
I’ve been telling a ton of people about the album, it’s great, thanks so much.
Sam Karugu & Martin Khanja: Thanks for listening!
How did you both get into music?
Sam Karugu: For me, I used to go to a lot of shows—metal shows, classical music shows, whatever—just to listen to music. When I got into the metal scene I saw that anyone could do it, you just buy a guitar and start playing. I loved it and it was like, “Yo, this is something I wanna do.” The first instrument I got was a laptop, I had FruityLoops and started messing with it. Then I got some shitty ass guitar and started playing and then from there ended up in a lot of bands.
Martin Khanja: Yeah, for me the first show I ever played was when I was eight years old. My mom took me to a festival in a county in our town. I played that and we killed it. I got into art—drawing and painting—and then I went to school and thought about what I was gonna do. I decided to form a band and started playing vocals. I started researching how to do vocals and how to sing well, but I really liked this hardcore shit. As long as it’s hardcore, you feel like your emotions can explode.
So I was like, yeah, let’s do it. I formed my first band when I was 17 years old and then we made an album after two years or something. I never looked back—I was 17 and I’m 27 now, and I’m still going. I made a band with Sam, I made a band with friends in Kenya—we just love performing and being in the studio and making it happen.
Were there any mentors you had who really helped you grow as musicians?
Martin Khanja: Yeah there were, like one of my best friends, Sam Kiranga—but he died, yeah? He committed suicide. He showed me how to really record metal properly and we used to do it in his house. He used to be in Lust of a Dying Breed, Black Dog Angel, and Koinange Street Avengers. I met him and just started talking, and then we started recording and I really got into it because of the way he showed me how to do it. And that’s all I needed; he just advised me along the way. And then I met Leon Malu from Mortal Soul and started recording with him, and all these other artists and instrumentalists.
There’s a lot of people, and they’re doing all this crazy shit. Some of them were doing videos, some of them were doing art, some of them were doing guitar. I really just wanted to express myself and like, you know, bleed on the microphone—record proper shit that can get to people’s nerves. Subliminal, deep shit.