Firstly, we’re surprised that North Korea is allowing a foreign band to come and play in the country for the first time. Secondly, we’re completely surprised that it’s the Slovenian avant-garde band Laibach, founded in 1980, often criticised for the quasi-nationalist imagery associated with their work and the fact that they wear military uniforms on stage. Laibach is the name the Nazis for the Slovenian capital city Ljubljana when they occupied it during World War Two. Of the Nazi references, Laibach say, "We are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter".
Creative director Morten Traavik told the BBC that he’s arranged for Laibach to perform two shows in Pyongyang this August, to a crowd of 2,000 people. Along with some of their own material, Laibach will also be covering traditional North Korean folk songs, material from hit musical The Sound Of Music and a cover of a hit by North Korea’s most famous girl band, Moranbong.
Traavik spoke of a commonality between both North Korea and Laibach - both are misunderstood by the mainstream. "North Korea is portrayed in the West as the world's most closed country, but in fact it is more open to the outside world than the prevailing media narrative suggests," he said. "Both the country and the band have been portrayed by some as fascist outcasts. The truth is that both are misunderstood."
Traavik enjoys a close relationship with the North Korean government, having headed up various cultural exchanges over the past five years. It’s hard to know how Laibach will be received by a North Korean audience that for the most part enjoys limited access to Western culture. Computers can only be used with official permission.
Laibach are a mysterious, conceptual group who have previously referred to their band as an "art experiment" or a "political experiment", reworked the entirety of The Beatles’ record "Let It Be" and covered "The Final Countdown" by the 80s pop band Europe.
If anyone can get us tickets for Pyongyang on August 20, we’d love to go. Check out what’s in store for the North Koreans below.