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Korean Rock Recall: Afro Maria Offer A Unique Take On Punk Rock With Their 2013 Debut Single 'Dog' [VIDEO]

By Jeff Tobias | July 08, 2015 04:16 PM EDT


More so than almost any other rock 'n roll subgenre, punk can be as limiting as it is liberating.

When punk music emerged in the '70s, it existed as a fat-free alternative to arena rock. It was meant to fit certain criteria and the punk purists were likely to get cranky if these criteria were not met. Yet, the best punk bands have always defied the limitations of the genre.

On their 2013 debut single "Dog," South Korean punk band Afro Maria emerge from the constraints of their musical style to reveal their own melodic version of punk rock with a sound that is as distinctive as it is engaging.

On the Afro Maria Facebook page, their chosen genre is spelled out in all capital letters: "PUNK."

The Hongdae, Seoul-based four-piece list Sham 69, The Exploited and Black Flag as strong influences on their sound. However, their approach to the genre is markedly closer to the punk-pop of modern groups like Alkaline Trio. That doesn't necessarily make them unique, but there are certain choices made throughout "Dog" that separate Afro Maria from the pack.

Punk rock initially wore its primitive approach to musicianship as a badge of honor. Contrast that with the twin guitars that open "Dog," which immediately give us a clue into Afro Maria's attempts to introduce ingenuity to their musical milieu. Starting with a repeating palm muted figure, the first guitar is soon joined by a chugging accompaniment that creates a neat and surprising rhythmic combination. The triplet-rhythm against the new half-time feel speaks to a sort of sophistication that would've been unlikely to come from, say, the Ramones.

Soon thereafter, the march-like drumming contributes a third rhythmic element to the call-and-response of the guitars. Vocalist Mi Rim Park contributes wholesome melodies to the entire proceedings. Again, this isn't necessarily an innovation in the genre, but in some regards, adding unabashed melodic emphasis to your music while still staking a claim as a punk band, can take guts.

Another aspect of "Dog" defying the punk purist police is its length.

At nearly five minutes, the song includes a number of unusual twists in its structure, making ample room for many of Afro Maria's catchy choruses. It also allows for a guitar solo that smartly reintroduces the triple-time figure that begins the song. For a bunch of "punks," here's a rather high level of musicianship and arrangement know-how on display here.

Punk flirting with pop is nothing new, but Afro Maria are part of an exciting wave of groups from around the world wishing to expand the boundaries of what punk rock can be or say.

Watch the music video for the Afro Maria song "Dog" RIGHT HERE


Jeff Tobias is a composer, musician and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been studying arcane systems of tuning and working on his jump shot. 

Tagged :  Afro Maria, dog, Punk rock, Korean Rock Recall


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