By Rishi Iyengar
July 15, 2015

They’re known for their dark, brooding covers of popular songs like Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” Queen’s “One Vision” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” They’re also known for wearing military uniforms on stage and have been labeled as “fascist,” although fans say their controversial getup is an ironic critique of authoritarianism.

And soon, the members of avant-garde Slovenian band Laibach will also be known for being the first foreign music act to publicly perform in North Korea.

The band has announced two concerts at Pyongyang’s Kim Won Gyun Music Conservatory, scheduled for the 19th and 20th of August to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the isolated military dictatorship’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The shows are apparently to be filmed for a documentary to be released in 2016.

Laibach, founded in 1980 in what was then Yugoslavia and named after the German word for Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana, also hopes to take as many foreign fans into the highly secretive nation as it can.

“Although our main mission is to give as many Koreans as possible the Laibach experience, we are also working hard to ensure that a certain number of foreign visitors, in the spirit of brotherhood and understanding between the peoples, will be welcome as well,” the band said. It lists two tour operators that are hoping to be given the green light.

“North Korea is portrayed in the West as the world’s most closed country, but in fact it is more open to the outside world than the prevailing media narrative suggests,” the band’s director Morten Traavik told the BBC.

“Both the country and the band have been portrayed by some as fascist outcasts. The truth is that both are misunderstood.”

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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