The more North Korea tries to hide from the world, the more the world becomes fascinated.
I'd never really thought about music from the DPRK because the country is so closed off to outsiders that I figured nothing could get in or out. Well, awesome new super-pals over at the Kitschstortion blog have recently sent us a treasure-trove of music that lets us peek over the fence into the Strangest Country in The World.
How strange is it? Dig this: all North Korean kitchens have radios permanently tuned to official government channels, and you can't turn them off. So saying these songs in today's album are the DPRK's greatest hits isn't really saying a whole lot - after all, you don't have much choice. But nonetheless, this first collection is what's rockin' the streets of Pongyang, which is pretty much the only city visitors are allowed to see (heavily escorted, of course.)
Musically, it's very upbeat, slickly-produced pop, ranging from pretty ballads to near-disco beats. Synthesizers predominate, with wailing lead electric guitars sometimes thrown in. Lyrically, of course, it's all communist propaganda designed to reinforce your love of country and Dear Leader.
Korean Songs 1 - Both Paektu and Halla Belong to My Motherland
1. Glad to See You
2. Spring of Home Village
3. Song of Bean Paste [nice Asian synth melody; and that title really says it all, doesn't it?]
4. Song of Kimchikkaktugi [musically, could be '70s tv soundtrack music]
5. Song of the Half Moon [suggests a dreamy '50s ballad or Disney song]
6. Our Nation Is Best
7. Reunification Rainbow [check that poppin' disco bass]
8. Song of Mt. Pukak [polka party!]
9. Reunification Tondollari [some traditional-sounding percussion here; absurd backup vox]
10. Ojak Bridge of Reunification [again, this could almost be a disco soundtrack to some sleazy '70s movie, until the militaristic vocals kick in]
11. We Are One [oh man, love that trad. percussion/"Star Wars" sound effects duel at 1:52]
12. See You Again
13. Reunification of the Country by Our Nation Itself [Rousing! Makes me wanna march around the room!]
14. Both Paektu and Halla Belong to My Motherland
The Guardian ran an amazing series called "Pongyang Goes Pop" that follows a music journalist's investigation into the North Korean scene.
More to come! Thanks Kitschstortion!