OSLO, Norway — An arts festival in northern Norway is offering a rare glimpse into North Korean culture this weekend, including performances by musicians whose accordion version of A-ha's megahit "Take on Me" has become an online sensation.
Organizers said the five North Korean accordion players provided the soundtrack Saturday as 250 Norwegian border guards formed a human canvas by holding up colored cards in shifting patterns — a tradition in the reclusive communist country.
The performance at the "Barents Spektakel" festival in Kirkenes, on Norway's Arctic border with Russia, was choreographed by two North Korean directors.
Artist Morten Traavik, who recorded the YouTube clip and invited the musicians to Norway, said he wants to challenge "negative perceptions" of North Koreans.
"For many it is a revelation that North Koreans open up and play Western pop music with such great joy," Traavik told The Associated Press.
The video showing the five musicians playing the 1980s hit song by A-ha, Norway's most famous pop band, has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube. Traavik said he recorded the video during a visit to the Kum Song school of music in Pyongyang in December.
It's part of an art project that he's labeled "The Promised Land."
"I have a lot of good friends in North Korea. Like other people, they are proud of their country and nature. They are among the friendliest people I have gotten to know," Traavik said.
However, he said North Koreans are marked by a "siege" mentality, from being cut off from the rest of the world by their own authoritarian regime.
"It is important that they experience a very positive response during their visit here," he said. "That they feel welcomed and taken care of."