The sound that people in North Korea hear early in the morning is eerie and seems to be from a dystopian movie.
To understand it better, I asked Ali Asad (a musician from Karachi, Pakistan) to deconstruct the music for me.
The reason I contacted Ali Asad is because he had no idea where this music came from, I did not give him any details to get a better idea of how he feels about it as a musician.
This is his quote:
The music is haunting and seems to be from a dystopian movie. According to Ali Asad, the music is in the Aeolian mode (Natural Minor Scale) with the key of A. The instruments used in the music are vocals, bells, and some blowing instruments. Ali Asad believes that the music sounds like a day/night “full of tragedies, incidents, disappointments, broken hearts, lost” has ended, and now people who still have hope are cleaning up the mess to give it a new beginning and make the world a better place. He calls it “The Last Hope”.
What Is That Song That Is Being Played?
“Where Are You, Dear General?” (Korean: 어디에 계십니까 그리운 장군님)
The composition titled “Where Are You, Dear General?” (Korean: 어디에 계십니까 그리운 장군님; MR: Ŏdie kyeshimnikka kŭriun changgunnim) has been resonating from the speakers at Pyongyang Railway Station every morning since at least 2008. It is believed that this song was penned by Kim Jong Il himself.
Music in North Korea
North Korea has a rich musical heritage, which includes a wide array of folk, pop, light instrumental, political, and classical performers. Beyond patriotic and political music, popular groups like Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble and Moranbong Band perform songs about everyday life in the DPRK and modern light pop reinterpretations of classic Korean folk music. Music education is widely taught in schools, with President Kim Il Sung first implementing a program of study of musical instruments in 1949 at an orphanage in Mangyongdae.
Music in North Korea is an important part of everyday life and serves as a key propaganda tool, lionizing the ruling Kim family and its fight against imperial aggression. The monopoly North Korea exerts over creative expression makes the state’s songs – and thus their approved messages – uniquely pervasive.
The eerie music that people in Pyongyang hear early in the morning is a haunting reminder of the oppressive regime that rules North Korea. However, it is also a testament to the power of music to convey emotions and ideas. Ali Asad’s analysis of the music is quite insightful and provides a unique perspective on the music. North Korea’s music heritage is rich and varied, and it is important to recognize its significance in the country’s culture.