Slovenian retro-avantgarde rock group Laibach has announced it will become the first foreign rock outfit to perform in North Korea this August as part of their Liberation Day Tour.
Founded in 1980 in former Yugoslavia, Slovenia’s best-known music export frequently courts controversy with its deliberately ambiguous use of political and nationalist imagery.
Laibach said it had been invited to North Korea after a year-long discussion between Pyonyang and Norwegian artist Morten Traavik who set up the tour.
Traavik has a history of organising cultural projects in North Korea and visited the isolated state almost 20 times over the last three years.
“I think Laibach is the perfect first pop rock band to perform in North Korea… It is about art, and art has the privilege of being ambiguous and saying many things at the same time,” said Traavik who filmed a video clip for the band’s latest album, “Whistleblowers”.
“There are certain levels of Laibach’s works that will not be understood by the North Korean audience, because they dont have the tools to understand it. But many other aspects, not least the music itself, will be perfectly understood.”
View gallerySlovenian band Laibach, pictured on July 4, 2015, …
Slovenian band Laibach, pictured on July 4, 2015, will become the first foreign rock outfit to perfo …
The concerts are due to take place on August 19 and 20, as part of 70th anniversary celebrations of the Korean peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the band said in a statement.
Beijing-based Koryo Tours, one of a handful of groups that regularly takes foreign tourists to North Korea, is offering a four-night tour taking in both scheduled concert dates, although it warned the performances were still “subject to final approval” by the North Korean authorities.
“It is important to note that this part of the tour in not 100 percent guaranteed,” it said on its website.
The North Korean popular music scene, such as it is, is largely limited to state-approved bands making state-approved sounds, although foreign music, especially from South Korea, is becoming more accessible with the spread of portable media players, that can play music smuggled into the country on CDs or USB sticks.
“North Korea is, the way we see it, the utopian experiment… and we always felt really good in any kind of utopia,” Laibach frontman Ivan “Jani” Novak told AFP.
Laibach takes its name from the German name for the Slovenian capital Ljubljana first used under the Austro-Hungarian empire and during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
While some accuse the rockers of being fascist, others argue that their work is a critique of totalitarian ideology.
Laibach was the musical wing and founding member of the avantgarde political art collective “Neue Slowenische Kunst” or NSK (New Slovenian Art) in 1984.
The collective’s first ever exhibition is currently on display in Ljubljana.