Tuesday, June 21, 2011


This is our third and final look (part one, part two) into the most impenetrable culture in the world - so impenetrable that even these three albums we're offering are just what they want you to hear. Who knows what's going on in the hinterlands.

Our man from kitschstortion who sent us this music from who-knows-where (I have no idea how to get North Korean music apart from actually going there) says about today's album: "All songs are versions of the unofficial North/South Korean national anthem "Arirang." Maybe so, but there's a lot of musical diversity here. Certainly doesn't sound like one song played over and over.

Korean Folk Songs - "Arirang

1. Arirang [a ponderous waltz]
2. Yongchon Arirang [in 5/4 time]
3. Milyang Arirang [also in 5/4 time; you'd think unusual time signatures would be too decadently
4. Arirang Echoed Through Jiansanfeng [cheezy disco; love those syn drums!]
5. Song of Arirang [another slow epic waltz until 4:40; then it mutates into crazy swing]
6. Chol Pass Arirang
7. Arirang of Army-People Unity [this rousing march - the sole male vox here - is what I expect Communist propaganda music to sound like]
8. Arirang of Happiness [happy indeed; this and the following songs are chirpy pop]
9. Arirang of Reunification
10. Arirang of Prosperity

If you're as fascinated by this strange, lost world as I am: "
Here is another article regarding Pyongyang pop. Also, this youtube channel has a great deal of material shown on the DPRK television station (KCTV) in Pyongyang, including live performances, news reports, and... comedy shows. Note: the account holder is a DPRK apologist; there is a small and uneasily penetrated community of them online." Thanks again comrade, er, kitschstortion! Link


Idem said...

Here is a very soulful traditional cover of Jeongseon Arirang, which is over 600 years old.


The most commonly-heard version is from the 1920s. In the United States you will often hear a variation of it being performed by school bands, usually called "Variations on a Korean Folk song." Shown here:


There's a boatload of different versions of the song, mostly defined geographically, cities/counties having their own version. It is often used within the context of reunification because of its ubiquitousness in both Koreas.

musique said...

I wonder if you know about Sublime Frequencies CD "Radio Pyongyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom": http://www.sublimefrequencies.com/item.asp?Item_id=26

It's in the same (controversial) collage-style like the other "radio recordings" from SF, but still worth a listen for those interested in north korean pop music. Don't expect too much, what they call "commie funk" isn't funk at all, more kind of a soft, childish, disco/synthpop/musical/schlager something without much muscles. More Andrew Loyd Webber than James Brown.

The Projectionist said...

Here's where Kitschstortion probably went:

Note that it's linked to "the Official Webpage of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)"
. Hardly a flashy site, but not ugly either.

Prices are given in Euros, by the way.

Mr Fab said...

Thanks for all the info, folks. Wow, on that site you linked to Projectionist, there's an album for sale called "Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble Vol.142" 142?! Now that's what I call prolific.

Idem said...

Every time I go to that shop site I wish I had money to spare for buying that stuff. Especially the English-subbed DVDs. Their supporters are usually pretty insistent about paying. "DVD Kim Jong Il Gives Field Guidance to Various Sectors(ENG)" doesn't sound like it's worth 25 euros :/