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If Stephen King taught music....
February 24, 2012 6:44 PM   Subscribe

1. Find 5 very cute children.
2. Teach them how to play the guitar, and play it well.
3. Find a catchy little song for them to play.
5. Profit Nightmare.
posted by HuronBob (66 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
At least they cut their hair and play guitar in accordance with the socialist lifestyle.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


What really scares me is they're probably older than the look, but have stunted growth.
posted by saffry at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


What song is that, who wrote it, and does that kind of song have a name?
posted by fake at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2012


Aw, it can't be that ba--

"North Korean..."

NOOOOOOOOPE. Stephen King.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2012


I'm guessing like most musicians, they are happy for the cup of plain rice and cold floor to sleep on they get, after a thousand hours of rehearsal for that gig.
posted by timsteil at 6:56 PM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think this was posted before? I am rather frightened by those glued on smiles, I must say. I really wonder how much they suffered to end up in that video. Is there any way to know?
posted by Glinn at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2012


saffry: "What really scares me is they're probably older than the look, but have stunted growth"

Either that, or extra-large guitars and stage. Note how you have no other people to compare to. These kids could be 30 years old!
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:58 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Related
Pretty amazing playing.
posted by saucysault at 7:00 PM on February 24, 2012


Ya I thought this was a double, because I've seen it before, but I can only find this one.
posted by chococat at 7:01 PM on February 24, 2012


I just found the same post that saucysault found... sort of a double, no offense will be taken if this is deleted.
posted by HuronBob at 7:02 PM on February 24, 2012


Meh. My workmare from last night was weirder. Less rhythmic. But weirder.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


FREEBIRD!
posted by ShawnString at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why all the hate on the kidlets? They're absolutely adorable, and they play very well. Looks like they practiced a ton to get it right, and I love their sense of rhythm and how focused they are on doing exactly what the choreographer wanted.

Yes, someone told them to keep smiling, and I'm betting there's prompts from mom and dad or someone in the audience, but ever so often there's a real live little grin that says, "Nailed that!" The bows were practiced too, but you can tell the one little boy has his (skinny little) chest puffed out with pride.

How is their performance any different than a child actor needing to memorize lines, or many of the dance class/music/ballet recitals here in the US? I've seen little girls in tears at ballet performances. I can remember practicing for HOURS at tap lessons--to the point where I had blisters--and still being excited about going out on stage. Until I got there the first time--I'll bet my smile wasn't so much forced as it was a grimace of terror.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2012 [38 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get this being nightmare fuel. If the kids had been American caucasians people would be saying they were dedicated and awesome.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


BlueHorse: Why all the hate on the kidlets? They're absolutely adorable, and they play very well....How is their performance any different than a child actor needing to memorize lines, or many of the dance class/music/ballet recitals here in the US? I've seen little girls in tears at ballet performances.

I think it's less a case of hate for the kids and more one of those things where, if you have done any reading on North Korea, you can't help but be hyper-aware of the lengths to which the North Korean government will go in order to orchestrate (no pun intended) such perfect performances. If you are interested in North Korea, I recommend Barbara Demmick's oral history with people who escaped from North Korea: Nothing to Envy. It's chilling and paints a picture of a totalitarian system far, far worse than most of us can imagine. The comments about the children's stunted growth are probably bang-on.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


I also don't get it. In my completely objective opinion with no hint of bias as a father of a three-year old and someone who digs anything played on nylon strings, I find this completely adorable and bad ass.
posted by changoperezoso at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's amazing how motivating it is for your guitar playing when you know your parents will be sent to a labor camp if you don't cut the mustard. Adorable!
posted by unSane at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Henry Rollins has some interresting impressions of NK in this interview
posted by Redhush at 7:24 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My worry over whether they had been abused doesn't mean I didn't find them adorable and amazingly talented. But I can't help but wonder in what manner they got that way, not only because of their age but because of where they are from.
posted by Glinn at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In terms of the questions about their ages: given my understanding of North Korean youth organizations, the ones wearing red scarves are between the ages of nine and thirteen. Given their appearance and the fact that not all of them have scarves yet, I'd guess they're closer to nine.
posted by naturalog at 7:55 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Add me to the (apparently sizable) percentage of people who don't find this creepy. This is some bad-ass guitar playing. Yes, we all know North Korea is a terrible place, but I don't think we need to assume that the only way these kids could have gotten so good is by having some horrible things done to them.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 8:00 PM on February 24, 2012


And here I am, a grown ass man sweating over trying to learn "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You."
posted by cmoj at 8:00 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


These kids look pretty much the same as the kids I've seen in Australia doing music/aerobics performances, down to the cringeworthy plastered smiles.

Of course, that doesn't mean I agree with the friend who recently told me that North Korea probably isn't doing all that badly because if people were really being starved and killed they would have risen up and thrown over the government already.
posted by jacalata at 8:02 PM on February 24, 2012


The Nazis also had some really cute, kick-ass, child musicians I believe.
posted by unSane at 8:05 PM on February 24, 2012


Pretty sure I could take 'em.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:10 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I can't help but wonder in what manner they got that way, not only because of their age but because of where they are from.

Seriously... oppressive regime aside - must we assume the worst just because they are from North Korea? Yes? Oh well carry on then, ye liberal bastion of cultural awareness.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:13 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Given the way they're nodding to the beat and smirking, I bet they would make one HELL of a late-90s third-wave ska band.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which part of the "it's a small world" ride at Disneyland is this from?
posted by rh at 8:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Damn outliers.
posted by davebush at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2012


must we assume the worst just because they are from North Korea?
Questioning and/or thinking about are not the same as assuming.
posted by Glinn at 8:28 PM on February 24, 2012


I will assume the worst, since we have proven conclusively that North Korea has the lead on us in accordion based mass games, and this is obviously proof of their dominance in geneering as well as early child conditioning in high discipline environments.

All of this leads to, I believe, completing their domination of mass games.

OPEN YOUR EYES, SHEEPLE!
posted by Samizdata at 8:47 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, though, I found it creepy too, as kids of that age should not be so focused and well-behaved.
posted by Samizdata at 8:48 PM on February 24, 2012


must we assume the worst just because they are from North Korea?

Pretty much, yeah.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:48 PM on February 24, 2012


must we assume the worst just because they are from North Korea?

Given that those kids are right at the outer limit of what kids that age are capable of (the finger strength alone would be brutally difficult), and given what we know about NK's history and practices, it is quite reasonable to assume that they were driven to those extremes in ways that we would find abhorrent.
posted by Malor at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


From what I've read about that place, they're not smiling because they're enjoying playing. They're scared to death of making a mistake.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2012


More of same, but moreso.
posted by crunchland at 8:56 PM on February 24, 2012


Sure, they're probably being coerced to that extreme level of virtuosity, but in 10 years one (if not all) of those kids is going to be in a kick-ass North Korean punk band.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:00 PM on February 24, 2012


Plus, I must confess, I wonder how painful that must have been for them. Soft little fingers + guitar strings = ?
posted by Samizdata at 9:01 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll say what's wrong. The kids don't look like they're enjoying it.

some got them to play the song, then made them do some sort of choreographed dance.

they should be rocking with the music. Eyes closed and just feeling it.
posted by CrazyJoel at 9:10 PM on February 24, 2012


Half the kids at the elementary school pageant don't look like they are enjoying it, that goes double for the parents.
posted by furtive at 9:21 PM on February 24, 2012


They remind me of Afrikaners.

Well, that's what most liberals (who, by definition, are more aware of the political implications of this kind of event) deplore (a favorite liberal adjective) about this video. It is really not that different than grade school concerts all across the globe. Grown-ups like teaching their kids how to play an instrument, and to sing, to dance, to act; and they are adorably proud of their children's accomplishments. Of course, we are as quick to demonize this in The Other while ignoring the same feeling in our own pride in our own kids' stage accomplishments.

I would like to view this video (old, in internet time) as an assertion of our commonalities in our family dynamics. Others: feel free to call it creepy. Realize, though, that "being on the same page" carries different implications in musical performance than it does in cooperation with a tyrannical government. The pairing of the two might cause cognitive dissonance in some people, but there is no logical or aesthetic reason to conflate the two positions.

So it goes.
posted by kozad at 9:38 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The American equivalent?
posted by metaman livingblog at 9:39 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


This post says, "Nightmare." The linked video calls the performance "creepy." So I kept waiting for one of the kids to stand up and yell, "Kim Jong-il is evil and his son is fat and I fart at them both!" on live TV.

I listen to NPR. I know North Korea is not a happy vacation spot for the well to do and disenfranchised Americans, but if you want me to jump to OMG THAT'S FUCKED! you have to give me a little context. I see talented kids playing admirable music. Toddlers & Tiaras this aint.

For fuck's sake, it's not like this is a video of kids making iPads!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:44 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


at 3rd Street Music School here in NYC, they don't allow children under the age of 10 in their guitar program. i really tried to get THING1 into the program before that age but they wouldn't allow it. the program directors felt very strongly about the pain kids go through learning how to play such a demanding instrument (and yes, they had some negative things to say about the Suzuki violin program).

if you've ever played guitar, you know the excruciating pain in your hands of those first few months of continuous practice. guitars wreck havoc on your fingers, there's no way around it.

and then there's the issue of guitar size.

the school would never allow a child that small play on a guitar that big. those guitars barely fit on the kids' laps. if you look at them, they're awkwardly hunched over the guitars while trying to fake NOT being hunched over. hours of practicing like that could only mean back, stomach and leg pain --beside the pain in their still developing hands.

so know, am not enjoying seeing these kids play knowing the amount of pain and suffering they've gone thru to achieve what theyre doing. those kids' bodies must be somewhere close to a world of pain.
posted by liza at 9:44 PM on February 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


North Korean is creepy because of what's not said, they truth behind the fiction, as Malor says *But* that is equally true elsewhere, like metaman's link to Michael Jackson, we are all creepy just depends whose doing the looking.
posted by stbalbach at 9:48 PM on February 24, 2012


Sure, they're probably being coerced to that extreme level of virtuosity, but in 10 years one (if not all) of those kids is going to be in a kick-ass North Korean punk band.

North Korean prog rock band, surely. Those little fuckers will all sneer at the whole 'three chords, badly played' enterprise and will fancy themselves the world's next Greg Lake or Robert Fripp.

Kinder to everyone to pack them off to the reeducation camps now, IMO.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:23 PM on February 24, 2012


3. Find a catchy little song for them to play.

By "catchy little tune," I presume you mean "ferocious flamenco."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:24 PM on February 24, 2012


I prefer this kid. I don't sense any coercion.
posted by philip-random at 11:29 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any guitar players/teachers out there know why these kids are playing full-size guitars and not half or three-quarter?

Also, I agree with those who think they look bad-ass.
posted by colie at 1:13 AM on February 25, 2012


a) Those kids definitely aren't smiling. Their teeth are clenched throughout their whole performance. Only intense stress does that to children (or adults).
b) The performance is about as spontaneous as a Red Square parade, ca. 1950. I sometimes had the feeling of watching an animatronics display. Even without taking in consideration the excruciating pain of playing a full-size guitar at that age (which liza mentions), these kids have been drilled way beyond Toddlers and Tiaras level. You don't get this level of compliance without a real threat of physical violence. Exhibit One: the Jackson Five (which looked like a half-baked preschool pageant performance compared to this...and we all know how well those kids performed in later life).

To those who nevertheless found the performance "adorable": watch it again with the sound turned off.
posted by Skeptic at 2:37 AM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


This looks like one of those carefully rehearsed, carefully choreographed song and dance numbers from the high double-knit, Kanekalon-wig years of Lawrence Welk in the 1970's. Watch a solo female performance from that period, and wince with recognition. Which, I imagine is about as recent a cultural touchstone for the outside world as they are allowed to have in that society.

It represents everything the American cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's was railing against, multiplied by the Korean spiritual dedication to get everything. absolutely. perfect. Perfectly rehearsed, perfectly performed, perfectly produced to show glorious NK to the world. The boys are wearing tights.

Also, no auto-tune.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:16 AM on February 25, 2012


This post and thread tell me a lot more about the USA than about North Korea.
posted by howfar at 4:28 AM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find beauty pageant kids creepier, to be honest.
posted by mippy at 4:46 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It represents everything the American cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's was railing against,

Huh? The North Koreans have universal health insurance, full employment, no 1% ruling class, no private property, and no white oppressors. It's a bloody utopia. Why they hate?
posted by three blind mice at 7:01 AM on February 25, 2012


It's creepy because of the artificial emotions expressed by these poor children. It's not just the rictus, but the way the lead girl looks encouragingly at her bandmates while in the transitions in songs, the way their heads bop to the music, the formal bow at the end. They are mimicking the actions of adults in a way that's terribly unnatural. We expect children to act like children.
posted by Nelson at 7:15 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is really not that different than grade school concerts all across the globe.

Are you serious? There's a world of difference in the level of skill these kids are playing at compared to the average school performance.

As others have mentioned, being able to play guitar that well at that age is concerning for various reasons, including hand strength (esp on a guitar too big for their age).
posted by evening at 7:19 AM on February 25, 2012


This looks like one of those carefully rehearsed, carefully choreographed song and dance numbers from the high double-knit, Kanekalon-wig years of Lawrence Welk in the 1970's. Watch a solo female performance from that period, and wince with recognition.

And we all know how well most of those female artists turned out. Most of their bios are a succession of domestic and drug abuse. The few who survived had the psychological strength of a Tina Turner.

Most importantly, those robo-folk singers of the 70s were in their 20s. Even the youngest (and ultimately most fucked-up) were already in their late teens. These kids are hardly ten, and they play with the concentration of young adults with PTSD.
posted by Skeptic at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2012


You want creepy? Lena Zavaroni, age ten in 1974. Following various woes including anorexia nervosa, Lena died aged 35.
posted by StephenB at 7:54 AM on February 25, 2012


Holy shit what grade school performances have you been to? Because the one's I've been going to for the past 8 years are absofuckinglutely awful.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:18 AM on February 25, 2012


Yeah if you looked you could find the exact same thing happening in many places in America. Capitalism and relative personal freedom only exacerbate the behavior of the particular kind of parents that put their kids in situations like this.

The joys of seeking status vicariously through your child are vouchsafed to ALL world citizens.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2012


Lawrence Welk + Kim Jong-il = This
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:33 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


These kids are hardly ten,

I was thinking five.
posted by philip-random at 9:37 AM on February 25, 2012


You want creepy? Lena Zavaroni, age ten in 1974.

Yeah. Children should not be achieving adult-level mastery of ANYTHING. It's unnatural. It's why we call them children (ie: make a point of separating them from the rest of us). Because they're different, they're incomplete, they're works in progress.

Beware the perfect child.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2012


For those thinking that this video was taken by a proud parent in a grade school recital...yeah, that isn't what it is. Those things do not exist in North Korea. I reiterate my previous comment that NK operates in a way that is completely different from what goes on in the rest of the world--not just N. America, I mean it's different from other surrounding Asian countries, including S. Korea. It's a world apart. Citizens don't have any autonomy in NK. There is no process by which a parent can say, "Hey, I want my kid to be a good guitar player. I think I'm going to enroll them in guitar lessons and make my kid practice and then take a cute video of them in a recital."In NK, parents don't get to choose what happens to their kids. Seriously. The government chooses the kids--whether the parents are OK with it or not, whether the kids are OK with it or not--and then the kids get put into a grueling program where perfection is the goal, and are forced to practice under frightening conditions, in a situation of coercion and threat of violence.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I for one can't wait for some North Korean death metal!
posted by Joe Chip at 9:57 PM on February 25, 2012


What song is that, who wrote it, and does that kind of song have a name?
Isn't it the theme to Tetris?
posted by Metro Gnome at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2012


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