Rockers from Laibach have held a rare concert in North Korea, becoming the first Western band ever to perform in the isolated country. The group is famous for sparking controversy and toying with authoritarian symbols.
The avant-garde Slovenian band, known for its provocative style and growling music, only performed one of their own songs during the 45-minute concert in Pyongyang on Wednesday.
Instead, Laibach played cover versions of songs from the "Sound of Music" and even a Korean folk song Arirang, accompanied by a North Korean pianist.
The band was warmly received by the crowd of some 1,500 North Koreans and 150 diplomats, NGO workers and other foreigners, witnesses say.
"They seemed to really enjoy it. It wasn't an audience pulling faces of distrust or confusion," said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours which arranged a special trip for foreign tourists to see the show.
'Big step for humanity'
Laibach has often stirred controversy for allegedly praising fascism and communism, wearing military uniforms and Marxist symbols during their performances. At the same time, fans argue that their work is a critique of totalitarian ideology.
Before arriving to the world's most isolated country, the band promised a "gentle" version of themselves for the North Korean audience.
"I think we did more than we expected in the end," Laibach member and band spokesman Ivan Novak said after the Wednesday show. "I don't know how much, what kind of trace that will leave here, but, you know, it's a big step for - no, it's a small step for Laibach, and a big step for humanity."
"Of course this is different to our taste," Pyongyang resident Hwang Yong Ran said. "But it was quite nice to hear Arirang.'"
'Rich voice and skilled rendition'
The band is set to perform again on Thursday, as part of their "Liberation Day Tour" marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japan.
North Korean state agency KCNA praised the performance, saying that the performers showed off "the artistic skill of the band through peculiar singing, rich voice and skilled rendition."
The North Korean mini-tour is set to be the subject of an upcoming documentary film, according to Laibach's website.
dj/kms (AP, dpa, AFP)