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, and John Oliver offers some funny commentary on the spectacle here.
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.”