North Korea: Slovenian rock group Laibach set to become first foreign band allowed to tour communist country

17 07 2015

Laibach in Pyongyang(ABC News, 17 July 2015) Slovenian rock group Laibach is set to become the first foreign band to tour the politically and culturally isolated communist dictatorship of North Korea.

In August, the group will play two concerts in the Kim Won Gyun Music Conservatory in Pyongyang in front of up to 2,000 people.

Laibach describe themselves as “an avante garde group” who play industrial, martial, and neo-classical music styles, and it is expected they will play a combination of their own hits and North Korean folk songs.

It is sure to be a change from the socialist-style operas and classical music most North Koreans are used to.

Laibach’s sound is best described as electronic rockers Kraftwerk meets heavy rockers Rammstein, with a bit of Soviet-era patriotic music thrown in for good measure.

The band was formed in 1980 in then-communist Yugoslavia. The band has been criticised for its use of political and nationalist imagery, but others argue it parodies totalitarianism.

The tour was organised by Norwegian director Morten Traavik, who has been one of the few to arrange artistic and musical performances in North Korea.

Dr Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at the Australian National University, said North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un was trying something new and unusual.

“Bringing into North Korea a Slovenian group such as Laibach, I think gives a perfect substitution to South Korean K-Pop, which is illegal in North Korea.

“[It’s] something that is not really Western, something which is palatable to the regime and purely apolitical.

“It’s obvious North Korea is trying to demonstrate and pretend that it is looking for some change or trying to introduce some changes or innovation, but not really.”

Dr Petrov said, surprisingly North Koreans did listen to wide range of music.

“Popular culture in North Korea does exist, it mostly relies on local tunes mixed with Chinese or Russian pop and South Korean pop is also very popular in North Korea but it’s illegal, it’s underground,” he said.

But in North Korea most of the finer things in life are reserved for the elite and Dr Petrov says it is highly unlikely the average North Korean will get to see Laibach perform.

“The question is how many people are going to listen to that concert,” he said.

“It’s probably going to be restricted to the members of elite families, children and descendents of the regime and decision-makers going to view the concert, but I doubt that it is going to be broadcast across the country.”

The band announced on its Facebook page that the concerts would also be subject of a documentary film, scheduled to premiere in 2016.