There’s no doubt that media coverage of all musical related music is particularly eurocentric. In terms of what makes in into mainstream culture, the outer limits are very much limited to events happening on the other side of the English Channel, or the Atlantic. This article will seek to explore two of the more interesting cultures around music that have escaped the Western gaze.
The Republic of Korea: K-POP
By Isobel Roach
Kpop has been a hot topic of late. For some, the term calls to mind vicious twitter fandoms and the preconceived notion of soulless, over-produced music. An intrepid Spotify explorer might be surprised to discover that this form of music actually has a whole lot of heart and individuality.
Originating in Seoul in the early 90’s with the pioneering group Seo Taeji and The Boys, K-POP is often mislabelled as its own genre of music. It would be more accurate to describe the phenomenon as an industry made up of hugely successful labels whose artists are sonically distinctive and amazingly diverse. So whether it’s bubble-gum pop you’re after, R&B or even rock, K-POP has got you covered. Thanks to the success of bands like BTS, it has never been more globally relevant, breaking down boundaries of race and language. Search up BTS if you’re after catchy EDM or socially-conscious hip-hop; girl group Blackpink are currently enjoying a high level of popularity with their punchy dance anthems; or if you’re more interested in challenging, genre-defying music, you might enjoy NCT 127. Whereas Seventeen are the go-to group for addictive melodies and impressive vocals. So why not shake up your playlist and give K-POP a listen?
Mexico: Punks VS Emos
By Luisa De la Concha Montes
In a country where a matter of national debate is whether quesadillas should have to contain queso to be considered quesadillas, it’s no wonder that the emergence of new music scenes has led to massive rifts in the population. Mexico City is a melting pot for cultural expression. With a population of 21 million people, including its metropolitan area, the search for individuality has made the ground of this metropolis a fertile site for what academics denominate as ‘urban tribes’ or ‘subcultures’. And, since the 60s, music has played a key role in this urban phenomenon.
The punk movement was originally brought to Mexico by the high-class youth in the 70s, since they were the ones that could afford to travel to the U.S and the UK, where punk was just emerging. Soon afterwards, by mixing the original sound of punk with more ‘latino’ sounds, Mexican punk bands started gaining followers in more marginalized areas of the city. Punk has never been apolitical; part of the reason why it became so popular in the UK and the U.S is because the music these bands were creating became a refreshing way to voice your political opinion. The political approach punks have is, quite simply put, anti-establishment. So, when it arrived to areas in Mexico where violence, corruption, and extreme poverty are the norm, the music genre quickly gained traction as it gave youth groups an ideology that they could all share. Punk became a form of escapism in lower income regions. In words of the curator and academic Brenda Caro: “Music became a vehicle for these people to reclaim their identity”. It gave them a way to belong, and a space to socialise.
Punk has a long historical tradition in Mexico City, so to an extent it makes sense that when the emo movement became widely popular, it was received with backlash from the punks. However, it is safe to say that the rivalry between emos and punks was more manufactured than real. The emo music genre originally surfaced during the 80s and it branched out from the hardcore punk movement in Washington D.C; it became an option for punk followers that did not identify with the punk’s political approach. Even though the emo movement became available in Mexico since the 80s, it did not kick off until much later, in 2008 and 2009, due to the media coverage that they received after a wave of violent attacks. These attacks were mainly prompted through social media and they led to the famous clash in the Glorieta Insurgentes, where a group of emos and punks started screaming and fighting each other, until the police had to interfere. At the time, some people emphasised that the irrational hatred against emos was an expression of machismo and homophobia, as they were accused of being too feminine for adopting an androgynous style.
The music journalist Julio Martinez Rios wrote a book called “Arde la Calle!”, which analyses the various musical subcultures in Mexico and their origin, in it he argues that a big reason why subcultures constantly clash in Mexico, is because when people adopt a subculture, they translate their dogmatic and religious fanaticism to it: “We are a conservative culture, and that translates into our alternative cultures”. He also argues that we should avoid creating a division between those subcultures, as they all stem from the same objective: to create groups of solidarity around creative resistance.
Whether the clash between punks and emos was created or not by the media, one thing remains clear: it created misunderstanding around these music subcultures, which has consequently led to an irrational fear against using music as a political tool. In a religiously conservative culture such as Mexico, this served as an enabler of censorship, as it kept two groups, which are quite similar in their roots and motives, separated. Cultural expression should be used as a solution to violence, which remains incredibly prevalent within Mexico City. However, in this case, it did the opposite. The punk vs. emo rivalry is more than it seems, it’s an expression of how disagreements quickly form in the city, not only in the musical world, but politically and socially. It shows how easily differences can become an obstacle for dialogue.
Nevertheless, it’s not all grim. Thanks to these movements, new urban environments have been set up in Mexico City. The Multiforo Cultural Alicia is a concert venue that gives independent music a space for exploration and dissemination of subcultures, and the Tianguis Cultural el Chopo is a market that is set up every Saturday, where punk, emos, metalheads, and many others converge to sell everything from DIY music zines to jackets, and vinyls. After all, the punk vs emo phenomenon serves as a great example of how Mexico City is a place full of contradictions, where subcultures can simultaneously clash, and coexist.