This article was first published on Ghetto Folk and has been moved due to editorial changes.
This is the kind of news you don’t know how to react to. Slovenian rock new wave band Laibach is playing this Wed. August 19th in Pyongyang, capital of isolated and dictatorial North Korea. Organized thanks to a norvegian agent, the gig takes place in a 2000-ppl theatre, probably in front of a hand-picked elite. 3 Laibach songs have been censored and the band will also play some folk north korean songs. The event is seen as a gesture as the regime wants to give an image of openness, despite the prohibition of occidental and south-korean (K-Pop) music.
Publicity stunt is working fine: the band has launched a special merchandising collection related to the gig, with items linked to North Korea, and a documentary is planned for 2016. Everything just looks as if the band’s artistic work, between industrial rock and post-communist imagery, has been taken at face value by the regime – it’s indeed hard to think how things could have been different.
Who knows who will be manipulated by who? by playing a political game, the band takes the risk of being unclear about their artistic work for undiscerning eyes. The words “Liberation” and “Believe” may not quite find their meaning in a control-freak dictatorship. It’s also highly optimistic to think about a loophole in the propaganda: culture, especially music, is precisely the main vector for the ideology.
Whatever the judgement of History, and even if the coup can be seen as an exchange of good services, the band will anyway remain fair to himself by having the merit of questioning the role of art in society.