Songs for "Great Leaders"

Ideology and Creativity in North Korean Music and Dance

Author : Keith Howard
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication 2020
ISBN 9780190077518
eISBN 9780190077549
Language English


North Korea is often said to be unknown: a reclusive and secretive state. It behaves as if the whole country is a theater that projects itself through performance. Song, together with other music and dance production, forms the soundtrack to the theater of daily life, embedding messages that tell the official history, the exploits of leaders, and the socialist utopia yet-to-come. Songs form the foundation stones of revolutionary operas, of instrumental and orchestral tone poems, and are rearranged in countless versions for use by children in kindergartens, for 50,000 young people who dance annually in celebration of the Eternal President’s birthday, and for the up to 100,000 participants of mass performance spectacles such as the Arirang Festival. North Koreans are reminded daily on state-controlled television news how their songs are beamed around the world by satellite, and songs are today routinely uploaded to YouTube and Youku. This is the first book-length account of North Korean music and dance in any language other than Korean. It is based on fieldwork, interviews, and resources researched in private and public archives and libraries in North Korea, but also in South Korea, China, North America, and Europe. It explores revolutionary songs written in the 1940s and pop songs from the 2010s, exploring in a critical but informed way not just songs, but also developments of Korean musical instruments, the creation of revolutionary operas that embed the state’s ideology of juche (self-reliance), mass performance spectacles, dance and dance notation, and composers and compositions.