So a few weeks back, we did a post about the Slovenian rock band Laibach’s trip to North Korea.  If you somehow missed that, we’ll give you a second to click on the link and come back here.  Take your time.  We’ll throw on some hold music until you get back.  <“It’s the final count down…bah da dee dah, bah dah dee dee dah…the final count down…”>

Back? Great.  Glad you enjoyed that.  So, the performance we were discussing there happened last week and the results were…kind of amazing.


As a part of the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s independence from Japanese occupation, Laibach may have seemed like a strange choice for the centerpiece of the celebrations in the capital city.  But clearly the Korean people had no problem embracing Laibach in the same manner its Western fans have.  Reuters offered us some footage released from the North Korean, state-run media and we’ve gathered some footage from previous Laibach concerts for you to compare for yourself.

Alright, so maybe the band’s performance was a little different and the crowd’s reaction seemed a little more subdued, but North Korean media clearly edited out the mosh pit that developed during Laibach’s cover of “Edelweiss” and we have an inside source that claims several young ladies flashed the stage during “Do-Re-Mi”.  Actually, that’s not true at all.  According to all reports, the 1,500 member audience remained quite stoic during the performance.  So…um…what happened?  Where was the Laibach that caused near riots and faced down arrests from the police in 1983?


The short answer is that Laibach is a very, very intelligent group of performance artists and their message is often as multi-layered as their costumes.  In the weeks leading up to the performance, the group was bombarded by criticism for supposedly “supporting” the North Korean regime.

In a Reuters interview that occurred shortly before the performance, band member Ivan Novak had this to say about their “support” of Kim Jong-un:

“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,” 

When we originally reported on Laibach’s trip to North Korea, we nearly giggled in delight about the amazing joke they were about to play and secretly hoped for political upheaval of a Hasselhoff-ian level.  We really couldn’t believe the North Koreans didn’t see the inherent joke of a band that has, for decades, lampooned totalitarian regimes with their Nazi-esque costumes and imagery.  Well, as it turns out, that joke was on us.

Instead of provoking riots and institutional change in a country where its supreme leader regularly executes people with anti-aircraft guns for falling asleep at meetings, they held a mirror up to those of us watching the spectacle instead.  By daring to step across a man-made line drawn by politicians to play a few happy songs from a 56-year-old musical, they sent Western media into a bit of an uproar.  (Even John Oliver took some shots at both the band and the North Korean government for what they were doing.) In doing so, they pointed an unexpected finger at a different problem.

Imagine a child in a Walmort store stealing a grape and eating it.  Now imagine that child’s parents discovering the theft and screaming at the child in public about how horrible and wrong and evil they are for stealing that grape.  Sure, Walmart is pretty evil.  Sure, that child is naughty.  But there’s something kind of wrong in the parent’s reaction, too.  Something that probably should be looked at sooner rather than later.

Laibach is “stealing the grape” specifically to show us the parent’s reaction. Sure, their performance is a little toned down from usual.  Sure, they didn’t complain when, at the last minute, North Korean authorities cut their playlist from 18 to 9 songs (and thus, the concert from 90 minutes to 45).  But this isn’t the band selling out or kowtowing to an oppressive regime.  They still found a way to sing songs from a musical about a totalitarian government to an audience that lives IN a totalitarian government.  They chose to focus on the parent in this case and tackle Walmart another day as they pointed that previously-mentioned finger back at those of us in the Western media who were covering their concert.

Well done, Laibach. Well done.


So, to congratulate Laibach on their amazing accomplishment, we salute them with a repeat spotlight on Music Video Monday (something only Van Halen has ever accomplished before).  We present to you Laibach’s cover of the Opus song, “Life is Life” and draw your attention to one set of lyrics:

When we all give the power
We all give the best
Every minute of an hour
Don’t think about the rest
And you all get the power
You all get the best
When everyone gets everything
And every song everybody sings