Laibach have been triggering sensibilities way before warnings became a thing, and their new video is another masterstroke of performance art trolling.
In 2015, the Slovenian industrial act became the first Western band to be invited to perform in North Korea and gladly accepted all conditions – that they could only play songs from The Sound of Music, and the traditional Korean song Arirang. The Sound of Music is used in schools as a tool to teach English, and now kids in the regime have had the bizarre experience of being taught by one of the most subversive acts in modern music.
Laibach’s experience was caught on camera for the documentary Liberation Day and the accompanying soundtrack album is out this winter, with Laibached versions of Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, My Favourite Things and so on.
Laibach have previous when it comes to flirting with totalitarian symbolism. When they emerged in the early 1980s in Yugoslav-controlled Slovenia, they were banned by the state and accused of treason when they’d go on stage wearing defaced military uniforms and firing smoke bombs. Since then they’ve consistently been accused of being either fascists or communists, released an album of desecrated national anthems, declared their own state with passports and went on an ‘Occupied NATO’ tour in 1995.
But their cover versions of iconic songs have always been just as subversive, adding a martial, industrial edge to classic rock songs, cheesy pop, Broadway musical tunes, operas and symphonies. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jesus Christ Superstar, Bach and countless others have been given the Laibach polish, and their biggest achievement was making Queen’s One Vision sound like a totalitarian anthem without changing Freddie Mercury’s lyrics – just having frontman Milan Fras bark the words in German.
So of course they’ve turned the video for The Sound of Music into a mini North Korean propaganda film, with beautifully-shot scenes of cute kids in classrooms and standing in formation, as well as young musicians practising on traditional instruments. They do stop short of depicting Kim Jong-un or the military, which might put Little Rocket Man’s nose out of joint.
The Sound of Music is out on November 23, but until then, “Let us make the flames of educational revolution rage furiously in the new century!”