Ooh, Interesting! North Korea and A-ha's Unlikely Link

September 11, 2015

The world is a strange place. We all know that. Ask anyone in the world which country intrigues them most and it’s a fair bet that most people would pick North Korea or to give it its full name, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. From strange ‘facts’ that disclose Kim Jong-Il as the finest golfer of all time and the year as 102. Yes, their calendar restarted at the birth of Kim Il-Sung. Fair enough. But which instrument is regarded as ‘The People’s Instrument’ in North Korea and which album did they cover with this instrument in its entirety? Hmm...

Before we launch into a ‘why on earth did they do that?’ tirade, we’ll let the music speak for itself.

Yes, the incredible song I Dream Myself Alive by A-ha covered by three North Korean students on the people’s instrument itself, the accordion. If you enjoyed that then you will love...

...The Sun Always Shines on TV by A-ha. North Korean style, which in this case means five accordions. Wonderful. Ever wanted to hear A-ha’s Hunting High and Low on accordion as well? Then you’re in luck!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true A-ha first album covers band without Take On Me. No problem. Another quintet of North Korean accordionists duly deliver.

So what exactly is going on here, aside from some stunning renditions from A-ha’s seminal debut album performed entirely on an accordion by some willing North Korean participants? Well no, despite the fact it would be eminently more interesting if A-ha were to include Pyongyang on their next tour what with being the band in North Korea, alas the videos don’t paint a true portrayal of what is happening.

The choice of A-ha certainly presents a clue though. The songs and videos haven’t been faked but it is actually (like many good things) all an art project by Morten Traavik, a Norwegian artist who held an exhibition of his work in Trondheim back in 2013. The idea was to head to North Korea’s prestigious Kum Song Music School in Pyongyang (presumably the North Korean Brit School?) and get them to record Hunting High and Low in its entirety. Quite why is anyone’s guess. The website doesn’t exactly offer many clues but it’s certainly an interesting project with a few extra tracks thrown in that will most definitely appeal to the Norwegian crowd. The video below for instance, is a tune from a highly popular Norwegian animation.

The best bit about this entire art project is that the album is available in its entirety for free, with a couple of North Korean classics thrown in amongst A-ha’s best stuff. Download it here and have a great Friday. Don’t say we don’t treat you. 

Bonus Fact: If you've ever thought, "Huh, I'd love to see a gig in North Korea but alas, no western bands are ever allowed to play there," then you are in luck! Yes, thanks to Morten Traavik's track record with pushing A-ha onto unsuspecting accordion students from Pyongyang, top Latvian band Laibach are due to perform in front of 2,000 people. Unfortunately no word on tickets just yet. 




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By Henry Fosdike