Show must go on for N. Korean all-female pop group

TOKYO -- Before it all fell apart, a visit to Beijing by North Korea's most popular all-female pop group was touted by Pyongyang as the perfect chance to warm up relations with its biggest and most important ally.

See Full Article

Things haven't been going all that great lately and sometimes instead of taking the thorny issues head on it's best to explore other options.

Like miniskirts and sequins.

But the much-anticipated international debut of the Moranbong Band at Beijing's National Theater last weekend was nixed just hours before it was to begin and the ladies hopped the first flight back to Pyongyang.

Though the deeper significance of it all is hard to gauge - neither country is offering any insight - the cancellation is particularly surprising because it had been highly publicized, almost hyped, by North Korea's state-run media. The band had also recently done several performances that suggested it was being groomed for a broader push into the world spotlight.

Kim Jong Un's divas have become so popular with the North Korean people that it has long been seen as inevitable Pyongyang would turn them loose on the world stage. What better soft culture ambassadors could there be for as regime seen by many around the world as one of the most oppressive and brutal on the planet?

"Performances given by the all-female band are fresh and innovative in vocal and instrumental music, stage structure and other aspects. Its singers are full of vim and vigor and they have strong personalities," said one report in the North's Korean Central News Agency, which also called the women a "national treasure."

Another KCNA report quoted a Chinese researcher as saying the tour proved that China and the North Korea have made substantial progress in high-level cultural exchange. After quoting a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the tour would benefit regional peace and stability, it went on to note media in South Korea, Japan and Britain were sending out reports "drawing the attention of the world."

The Moranbong Band, which has about 20 members, has a lot going for them: sexy and yet wholesome looks, undeniable musical talent, unmatched popularity at home and the blessing of North Korean leader Kim himself, who made turning them into his official pop icons one of his first pieces of business after assuming power in late 2011.

Their songs, nearly all of which are paeans to Kim, are played on virtually every flight into and out of the North on its national airline. Women watch them for fashion tips, their tunes are karaoke staples and their concerts - though rather infrequent - are broadcast over and over and over again on state-run television. They sing and dance and play electric guitars, keyboards and drums in a fairly conventional pop ensemble, save for the electric violins.

During North Korea's elaborate Oct. 11 ruling party foundation day anniversary celebrations, performances of the band were featured prominently and opened to the drove of foreign visitors and journalists allowed into the country for the event, even though such concerts had been extremely hard to get into previously.

China, despite some bumps recently, would have seemed like the safest place for their global debut. And for good measure, all three concerts were to be by invitation only.

The Moranbong Band's music may be seen by many North Korea watchers in the West, and its admittedly small overseas fan base, as kitschy and weird, but for many Chinese it represents a nostalgic throwback to days gone by, when patriotic hymns to hardworking peasants and factory workers toiling happily in the name of the Party were part of the Communist Chinese norm.

Had the show been held, they certainly would have gotten a heavy dose of old school propaganda.

"We have entered our prime in these rewarding times, there is nothing that we cannot do. Let's run toward the future. A new century is calling for us," go the lyrics to one of the songs the band was scheduled to sing, "Dash Toward the Future." ''Let's build our land into a rich country and paradise, let's use these times to educate ourselves, staying up all night learning, creating new miracles through invention and accomplishments."

North Korea watchers have offered any number of suggestions about why the tour's plug got pulled.

Among the various guesses: Pyongyang wanted more Chinese VIPs on the guest list, the two sides couldn't agree on the playlist, Beijing was angry over Kim Jong Un's recent talk of building an H-bomb, Pyongyang was upset over Chinese social media chatter about how Kim might have had a romantic liaison with one of the band members (whom, by the way, South Korean media had previously speculated was executed).

Officially, the only word coming out of Beijing is that the concerts fell through because of a "miscommunication." As of Wednesday, Pyongyang had made no comment at all.

Next stop, Russia?



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Baby Groot the star of 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' trailer

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    While Chris Pratt will undeniably be the star of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it's Baby Groot that takes centre stage in the new teaser trailer for the film. Released Saturday, the trailer starts with a visual of a giant space octopus-like creature with a fangy serpentine mouth screaming as we hear Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) say in voiceover, "the fate of the universe lies on your shoulders. Source
  • 'Ghostbusters' librarian Alice Drummond dead at 88

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Actress Alice Drummond, famous for her role as the librarian in Ghostbusters, has died at the age of 88. The character actress, who also starred in several U.S. soap operas and was a regular on Broadway during the 1960s and 1970s, died on Wednesday, her friend confirmed to The New York Times. Source
  • Jennifer Lawrence admits her butt almost killed a man once

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Jennifer Lawrence confessed to almost killing a sound guy with her bottom on the set of The Hunger Games. The 26-year-old shared the unusual story while on The Graham Norton Show on Friday, alongside her Passengers co-star Chris Pratt and British chef Jamie Oliver. Source
  • Is Harry Potter set to play on Broadway?

    Entertainment CTV News
    The Lyric theatre (formerly known as the Foxwoods Theatre) has been identified as the best venue on Broadway for the play that is set in the world of Harry Potter but nearly two decades after the final Harry Potter novel ends. Source
  • Teyana Taylor advises mentor Kanye on recovery: 'Take your time'

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Teyana Taylor has some practical advice for her mentor Kanye West. The singer-dancer, who has performed with the Grammy-winning artist, wants him to take his time recovering. "Take however much time you need, you know. Source
  • Beyonce speaks directly to one woman's experiences with love

    Entertainment CBC News
    more stories from this episodeBeyonce speaks directly to one woman's experiences with love'It was like a bomb labelled 'affair' dropped on my marriage'Why one man stayed with his wife after she cheated on him. Source
  • Disney teases 28 minutes of 'Star Wars' spinoff 'Rogue One'

    Entertainment CTV News
    MARIN, Calif. -- The secretive "Star Wars" spinoff movie "Rogue One" just got a little more tangible. Disney and Lucasfilm unveiled 28 minutes of footage for reporters on Friday at Skywalker Ranch, teasing the origin story of the band of rebels who aim to steal the plans for the Death Star -- the event that sets into motion the plot of the original 1977 "Star Wars. Source
  • On new album, John Legend considers love and darkness

    Entertainment CTV News
    John Legend has become known as a modern master of the ballad, probing the emotional depths behind love and discovering the darkness that lurks nearby. Releasing his fifth studio album on Friday, Legend stretches into new musical territory as he subtly broadens his conception of ballads, injecting elements of funk and rap. Source
  • Gifts you can smuggle under the tree for every Star Wars fan

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    When I was a but a youngling, my parents searched far and wide to find me a Kenner X-Wing fighter for Christmas. It had wings that would pop open by pressing on R2-D2’s head, it made laser blast sounds at the touch of a button, and my Luke Skywalker action figure fit perfectly in the cockpit. Source
  • Holiday gift guide: The best picks for book lovers [Photos]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    There’s something about the heft of a book in your hand that is celebratory and delicious. You know you’re going to open that book and fall into a different world. Here are some books that would make great Christmas gifts: Source