Friday, March 30, 2007

Laibach's "Volk"--it's an anti-nationalist record.

Or CD or MP3 or AAC file, as the case may be. "Volk" is the latest recording by Yugoslav art/music group Laibach, who came out of Slovenia, part of Yugoslavia, with a radical analysis comparing right wing bureaucracies to left wing ones, then as time moved on and Yugoslavia fell apart shifted their focus to questions of nationalism.

Don't be put off by the title "Volk". It's intentional--the songs are general repurposings of national anthems in the interest of making social criticism of those countries, particularly the role of nationalism in them. So "Volk", the Nazi associated German word that means "People" but has very ethnic-centric connotations is used to comment on the idea of nationalism.

Generally, after listening to all of these tracks, you really begin to hate the sentiments included in national anthems.

"Germania" starts off somewhat normally but then goes into commentary about how Germany needs to reconcile itself with its past in order to move forward, among many other things, like "and Fatherland no more, only unity, justice, and freedom for all".

"Anglia", to "God save the Queen", soon goes into chants of "So you think you still rule the world?" and "So you still think you're superior?".

"Nippon" sounds like a funeral dirge, like the last act before death.

"Zhonghua", China, is one of the few upbeat songs, although it contrasts the emerging status of China with the sentiment of the still leading role of the party "walk into the gunfire, march on and on and on".

"Espana", a testament to Spain's new found prosperity, probably the happiest song on the album, even includes a reference to "Pray to your Jesus, El Conquistador".

"America" comes in for a beating, asking how people in the U.S. can delude themselves that they really provide liberty and justice for all.

"Yisra'el" is another very critical one, rightly. It intones "MY country, MY country, MY land, MY home, MY ancestors; MY country, MY country, MY nation, in the land of struggle".

"Slovania" is probably the, not quite optimistic, but it talks about a general upturn in Eastern Europe, while pointing out the somewhat fascist notions contained in some of the Slavophilic discourse out there.

This is probably Laibach's most explicitly political album; most of the previous ones have been veiled in what they actually mean, but there was recently an unfortunate shift in the line up, with the founder leaving for personal reasons. Maybe this has something to do with the shift from implicit criticism to explicit. It's sort of sad.

1 comment:

klav said...

A good album indeed. Laibach never cease to surprise their listeners.

Note, in the case of "Yisra'el", that it is in fact a mix of both the israeli and the palestinian anthems - the sample you're quoting belongs to the latter (see for instance).