Laibach Goes to Pyongyang

June 12, 2015 4:00 PM

Steph and I have day jobs so sometimes the blog is a little catch as catch can.  If I were better organized I would have done a post on gay rights in North and South Korea on Friday, 12 June, Loving Day, the anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s 1967 decision striking down the anti-miscegenation laws then existing in 13 states and run the post on sanctions on Monday.  But I’m not that well-organized.  This one, however, cannot wait.

Friday the Slovenian band Laibach announced that it would play Pyongyang in August as part of independence celebrations. According to our non-resident authority on rock music, Slovenia, and Laibach, Dr. Daniel Marcus, Laibach has been known to make fictitious announcements of this sort, but as one of his Slovenian sources on Facebook put it, “it seems realer this time.”

This is mind-blowing. It is hard to convey Laibach’s ironic, arch art to an American audience. The closest thing I can think of would be Frank Zappa or maybe Negativland playing Pyongyang at the invitation of Kim Jong-un. The music isn’t at all alike, but I think that in terms of self-aware subversiveness Zappa and Negativland are about as close as I can get.  Laibach is so ambiguous that a lot gets lost in translation even among Westerners; I can’t imagine how the North Koreans will react to the spectacle. Assuming it actually occurs.

I hate writing about music so I will just insert some videos, though the Wikipedia page is actually quite good and their website speaks for itself.   This sure ain’t your grandfather’s North Korea.

UPDATE: Turns out that Peterson Research Analyst Vijay Khosa is a Laibach fan. (Who'd thunk it?).  Says he saw them last month and that they put on a good show, mixing older and newer material, and generally exceeding expectations. Rock on.


Andrew Logie
Christian F.

Dead curious to see if such a thing is possible. I can't guess how many Industrial/EBM fans exist within the DPRK. But if anyone in Pyongyang is vetting them and translates their lyrics (or discovers they have a Beatles cover album), I'd imagine Laibach would be rejected promptly. It's noteworthy that this is part of a documentary by the Norwegian who staged "Miss Landmine" in Cambodia several years back.

Michael Bassett

I can confirm that this trip is not a "fake announcement." Morton Traavik, facilitated this project - and numerous others in North Korea. The "Whistleblowers" video should have been posted herein, because he first got involved with Laibach by choreographing it: My question is; why does the right support this, but not the Women's Peace March? Both will have similar psychological impacts - thats why both were done. Oh and by the way, both were done through the CCRFC -- the main reason why people like Melvin, Stanton, Scarlatoiu, Cathcart, and Halvorssen have lambasted the Peace Walk. Seems like a double-standart at first glance, but the Korean status quo is part of America's Grand Strategy - necessary for containing China. That said, as long as the right doesn't think a project will shake up the status quo, they don't care. Realpolitik is rational, and CCRFC plays us, right? The joke is on CCRFC.

Andrew Logie

Are there examples of who on the right are supporting Laibach going to Pyongyang? (Laibach themselves shouldn't be labelled as 'right' - it would be like labeling NK 'Communist'). And how would Laibach performing in NK contribute to the status quo or America's Grand Strategy? (I agree that all the competing powers tragically benefit from the status quo but Laibach are not exactly pro-West) Unless the lyrics were translated, their impact will obviously be nullified, and to be honest even if the lyrics were translated they more explicitly criticize Western powers so I think NK would just feel they had found an ally. I think most people would agree it would simply be interesting because Laibach are interesting, not because it could have any positive of deeply subversive effect.

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