Slove­nian rock band makes Py­ongyang de­but

The China Post - - ARTS - BY ERIC TAL­MADGE

Slove­nian avant- garde rock group Laibach is known for push­ing the en­ve­lope — wear­ing mil­i­tary uni­forms on stage, toy­ing with so­cial­ist and Marx­ist themes, mak­ing vis­ual ref­er­ences to au­thor­i­tar­ian sym­bols.

In Py­ongyang, they played songs from “The Sound of Mu­sic.”

The group, known for its growl­ing, vis­ually charged style of mu­sic, per­formed Wed­nes­day be­fore a full house at a con­cert hall in Py­ongyang in one of North Korea’s more un­usual at­tempts at open­ing the door to what is gen­er­ally seen as the deca­dent and vaguely threat­en­ing pop cul­ture of the West.

The Sound of Mu­sic choice had some sub­ver­sive el­e­ments of its own, as the orig­i­nal was set in the era of Nazi Ger­many.

“It is a piece of in­ter­na­tional mu­sic, that very many peo­ple know, but at the same time it says some­thing more, it says that the sound of mu­sic is also a lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” said Morten Traavik, or­ga­nizer of the Laibach tour.

“There is also a mes­sage be­hind the mu­sic, and that is mu­sic can ac­tu­ally some­times even in the most ad­verse of cir­cum­stances, bring peo­ple to­gether.”

The con­cert wasn’t, how­ever, Laibach at its most provoca­tive.

The band played only one of its own num­bers, and in­stead played mostly cov­ers, in­clud­ing the Bea­tles “Across the Uni­verse” and the Europop hit “The Fi­nal Count­down.” They also in­cluded a tra­di­tional Korean song, “Ari­rang.” Some in the band wore North Korean-style short-sleeved suits, and one wore a tra­di­tional Korean cos­tume for part of the show.

Aware of the many sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the North Korean gov­ern­ment, be­fore em­bark­ing on the tour the in­dus­trial rock and retro elec­tronic band promised a “gen­tle” ver­sion of them­selves for the North Korean au­di­ence.

“It’s a re­ally good feel­ing,” said Laibach’s Ivan Novak. “I think we did more than we ex­pected in the end. I don’t know how much, what kind of trace that will leave here, but, you know, it’s a big step for — no, it’s a small step for Laibach, and a big step for hu­man­ity.”

The group’s North Korea ap­pear­ances — they plan to hold another con­cert on Thurs­day — are be­ing called the “Lib­er­a­tion Day Tour” and co­in­cide with the 70th an­niver­sary of the Korean Penin­sula’s lib­er­a­tion from Ja­panese col­o­niza­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the group’s home­page, the con­certs will be the sub­ject of a doc­u­men­tary film sched­uled for re­lease in 2016.

(Left) A mem­ber of Slove­nian rock band Laibach wears a tra­di­tional Korean dress as she per­forms in Py­ongyang, North Korea, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 19. (Right) Mem­bers of Slove­nian rock band Laibach per­form in Py­ongyang, Wed­nes­day.


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