Laibach to become the first Western pop act in North Korea

Slovenian rock band Laibach plans to become first Western band to perform in North Korea

Courtesy of: Laibach
Courtesy of: Laibach

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A Slovenian avant-garde rock band that plans to be the first western pop act to perform in North Korea said it aimed to provoke debate beyond the isolated country's borders.

Laibach, whose name is German for the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, was formed in communist Yugoslavia in 1980 and is one of the country's best known bands.

Their pop videos and live performances often use images or costumes that invoke totalitarianism, but that was a word band member Ivan Novak did not want to specifically apply to North Korea.

"It is silly to talk about totalitarianism. You can't escape totalitarianism. We see it everywhere ... it exists in all possible systems and forms," he told Reuters.

"Look what is happening to Greece right now. Europe has proved that it is absolutely totalitarian. There is totalitarianism of market ... of capital."

The four-piece band, whose music features loud percussion, pounding march-like rhythms and roaring vocals, will hold two concerts in Pyongyang in August. Initially, they were to play to a total of 2,000 people, but the venue was changed for somewhere bigger due to demand, the band said.

"We are not interested in supporting the regime. Also, we are not going there to provoke the North Korean authorities, we are actually going there more to provoke everybody outside North Korea," Novak said.

Laibach supports the unification of Korea, Novak said, calling North and South "part of the same family."

Known for sporting military uniforms and flirting with Nazi symbols at the start of their career, the band will perform in costumes of Korean design on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese rule.

They plan to perform their own versions of songs from "The Sound of Music," mainly because, it said, the 1965 US musical is well-known in North Korea.

Norwegian cultural activist Morten Traavik, who is organising Laibach’s gigs in North Korea, told Reuters last week it took almost a year to get permission for the concert.