A‑ha’s “Take On Me” Performed by North Korean Kids with Accordions

This week, 1,000 North Kore­ans wit­nessed the first live per­for­mance by a West­ern pop act on its soil. And it was per­haps a bit anti-cli­mat­ic.

The East Ger­mans got their first taste of West­ern rock in 1988 when Bruce Spring­steen played a mas­sive gig in East Berlin. (See video here.) The North Kore­ans had to set­tle for the Sloven­ian indus­tri­al rock band, Laibach. Accord­ing to The New York Times, their set includ­ed a “ ‘Sound of Music’ med­ley. A cov­er of the Bea­t­les’ ‘Across the Uni­verse.’ [And a] mar­tial-sound­ing ver­sion of the are­na rock anthem ‘The Final Count­down.’ ” You can watch short clips of the con­cert just below.

Laibach’s his­toric North Kore­an gig was appar­ent­ly arranged by Morten Traavik, a Nor­we­gian artist who pre­vi­ous­ly made the Inter­net gyrate when he released a clip of young North Kore­an accor­dion play­ers per­form­ing A‑ha’s 1984 hit, “Take On Me.” In 2012, Traavik met the musi­cians from the Kum Song Music School while trav­el­ing in North Korea. He told the BBC, “I lent them a CD of Take on Me on a Mon­day morn­ing. By the fol­low­ing Wednes­day morn­ing they had mas­tered the song, with no anno­ta­tion and no out­side help. It showed incred­i­ble skill.” And, says Traavik, it all just goes to show, “you can have fun in North Korea.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch 98 Kore­an Fea­ture Films Free Online, Thanks to the Kore­an Film Archive

Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Per­formed on a Gayageum, a Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment

Pak­istani Musi­cians Play Amaz­ing Ver­sion of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Clas­sic, “Take Five”

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.