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UF alumnus brings musical talent overseas to North Korea

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 12:14 am | Updated: 12:26 am, Thu Jul 26, 2012.

The first person to DJ in North Korea will be a Florida Gator. Whether written, read or spoken aloud the sentence sounds a bit absurd, but for 27-year-old Brian Offenther, also known as DJ B.O., the absurdity is not unintentional.

Offenther, originally from Coral Springs Fla., graduated from UF in 2007 with a degree in philosophy. He says the city of Gainesville saved him. Offenther dove into Gainesville life in every way through involvement on campus and in Gainesville’s cultural community, something he never felt he could do in his hometown. His first DJ gig was at the now-closed bar Tim and Terry’s Music & More, where he played the type of retro music that he wanted to dance to. “I wasn’t very good but it was unpretentious and fun,” he said.

So when the former Peace Corps volunteer was asked by David Thomas Broughton, a British folk singer living in North Korea, to help him set up performances in Offenther’s current home of China, the UF graduate asked for only one thing in return, a chance to DJ in North Korea.

Broughton put Offenther in contact with Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, a company that organizes tourism to North Korea. After a few months of planning, the date was set for Aug. 13, and tickets became available.

Offenther said the absurdity of trying to DJ there is what initially drove him to pursuing the idea, but he also feels it could make a difference in some way. “If I can open up North Korea in the tiniest amount, that would be a big plus,” he said.

Although the show will not be open to the general public and will take place in a room that holds about 100 people in the bottom of a hotel in Pyongyang, there is a chance that a few North Koreans will be in attendance.

According to Offenther, the hotel is in the diplomatic section of the country where the embassies are located. He said that along with tourists who are with Koryo Tours and expats who live within the embassy section, there could also be North Korean tour guides and security personnel in the audience.

“There is so little that can be known right now,” Offenther said of the event, but so far there is enough demand for tickets that they have scheduled a second performance during his visit.

As for what he will play in Pyongyang, “An eclectic mix of rock, pop and hip-hop,” Offenther said, “and probably some Eric Clapton.” He heard the Kim family is a big fan. Among the restrictions are South Korean music and any remixes of the North Korean pop-propaganda type music he recently discovered.

In the future, Offenther would like to see himself working in the Department of State. “Most embassies internationally have someone whose job it is to promote dialogues between American culture and other countries,” Offenther said. “I want to be that person.”

He sat in his Shanghai apartment wearing the T-shirt of a Gainesville band, and he said over Skype he would love nothing more than to see some orange and blue in the audience on Aug. 13. “In fact, I’d even play a couple Gainesville native songs if a Gator were there.” He also said they would absolutely have a free ticket to the show.

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