SEOUL, April 2, (Agencies): North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled, clapped and said he was “deeply moved” by a rare performance by South Korean K-pop stars in Pyongyang, state media reported Monday.
The high profile appearance of Kim and his wife, former singer Ri Sol Ju, at the concert was unusual as his authoritarian regime typically struggles to prevent any infiltration of the South’s pop culture among his isolated people.
Kim, the first North Korean leader ever to attend a show by entertainers from the South, shook hands with the performers and “expressed his deep thanks to them,” the North’s official KCNA news agency reported.
“He said that he was deeply moved to see our people sincerely acclaiming the performance, deepening the understanding of the popular art of the South’s side,” KCNA said.
The visit by the South’s entertainers, seen as part of a cultural charm offensive by Seoul, comes as a diplomatic thaw gathers pace on the peninsula ahead of a landmark inter-Korean summit later this month.
Kim said he was likely to be busy “because of his complicated political program early in April,” so he was glad to make it to the concert which he credited with bringing the “spring of peace”.
The 120-member South Korean group — 11 musical acts as well as dancers, technicians and martial artists — gave one concert on Sunday with another set for Tuesday.
Kim and his wife were seen clapping their hands during the two-hour Sunday event, which was also attended by Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, and the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.
The concert at the elaborately decorated 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre ended with a standing ovation by the packed audience after a finale featuring all the stars singing a song about unification.
One of the most closely watched acts was Red Velvet, part of the South’s hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm.
Even leader Kim acknowledged that there had been “so much interest in whether I’d come to see Red Velvet or not”.
The five-member girlband — known for its signature K-pop mix of upbeat electronic music and high-voltage choreography — performed two of their hits, “Bad Boy” and “Red Flavour”.
“The North’s audience applauded our performance much louder than we expected and even sang along to our songs… it was a big relief,” band member Yeri told reporters.
The ongoing rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North’s leader Kim Jong Un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy.
Kim followed up by agreeing to a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and offering a face-to-face meet with US President Donald Trump. Kim also met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first overseas trip.
The inter-Korean summit, the third such event after meetings in 2000 and 2007, will be held on April 27. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit although it is expected before the end of May.
LOS ANGELES: Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe on Saturday night, sitting in with singer-songwriter Craig Wiseman, an old friend whom met Swift at a charity show when she was a teenager. Swift received a standing ovation.
“I wanted to say a big thank you to the Bluebird Cafe,” Swift said, seated beside Wiseman, according to a report in the Tennesean. “I think any songwriter in town would echo my sentiments and say that this is kind of the only place where this exists — this particular place where you get to come and hear the writer’s take on the songs they’ve put out into the world.”
She said one of her earliest lessons was that all a song needed was three chords and simplicity.
“If there’s truth in it, don’t overthink it,” she said. “It can be the same three chords over and over again.” To illustrate her point, she then performed “Shake It Off.”
“When I would play writers nights … I didn’t have the experience of a writer writing something and then it going out into the world and you earing it from someone else’s perspective until recently,” Swift said, referring to the song. “Little Big Town gave me the opportunity to feel that way … to be at the Bluebird and play a song you’ve maybe heard on the radio. I will always be forever grateful to them for that.”
Swift recalled inviting Wiseman to cowrite a song when she was 17, which he declined. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea,” Swift said. “I thought there was something to it. I really liked it.This is the song I almost wrote with Craig Wiseman,” she said. “It’s called ‘Love Story.’”
CLEVELAND: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will receive $4.1 million over five years to help expand its youth education programs and community activities.
The Rock Hall announced this week that PNC Bank has pledged $3.75 million to support free events, interactive exhibit storytelling and live music. The PNC Foundation pledged another $375,000 to help underwrite the youth education program Toddler Rock.
“There’s no limit to what can be accomplished when the power of rock and roll is combined with education,” Greg Harris, the Rock Hall’s CEO, said in a statement.
Paul Clark, regional president of PNC Bank, Cleveland, said music has the power to transcend boundaries of age, time and background, WKYC-TV reported.
“That power can be transformed into an educational and entertainment conductor that will bring the community together to create a stronger, more vibrant region,” Clark said.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported the Rock Hall also is partnering with others to bring a music festival downtown this summer.
The inaugural InCuya festival on Aug 25-26 will be presented by concert promoter AEG Presents in partnership with the Rock Hall, the city of Cleveland and Destination Cleveland. The cross-genre and multigenerational festival will feature national and local musicians. The full lineup and ticket prices for the festival have not been announced.
PNC’s partnership with the Rock Hall will officially kick off on April 7 with the hall hosting Celebration Day Powered by PNC. That event will mark the beginning of a week of celebrations leading up to this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 14 in Cleveland.
The April 7 event will feature activities including fireworks and a live performance headlined by 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Richie Sambora and Australia’s Orianthi, according to the Rock Hall.
City officials recently unveiled a study that showed nearly 570,000 visitors came to the Rock Hall in 2017.