Chris de Burgh says concerts in Iran not political

TEHRAN Thu May 29, 2008 12:56am EDT

British singer Chris de Burgh walks past a picture of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R) and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he leaves for the airport, in northern Tehran May 29, 2008. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

British singer Chris de Burgh walks past a picture of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R) and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he leaves for the airport, in northern Tehran May 29, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Singer Chris de Burgh said in Iran on Wednesday that his plans to hold concerts in the Islamic Republic sprang purely from a desire to sing for ordinary people.

In his first visit to the Islamic state, De Burgh who has loyal fans in the country expressed hope that the Iranian authorities would give him and a local pop band called Arian the permission to hold concerts late this year.

"This has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy (to visit Iran)... I am here to see and play for people," de Burgh said at a press conference in Tehran.

"We are not politically naive ... I am not here for any political reasons. I am a humanist," he added.

Born of British parents and brought up in Ireland, de Burgh enjoys fame in Iran and his concert would be the first time since the 1979 revolution that an Iranian pop band had played alongside a Western singer inside the Islamic Republic.

"I want to play a concert here. That is all I have to say and that is why I am here," he said.

When asked about Iranian authorities, de Burgh said: "I don't get the impression of a big, powerful state body crushing people. There appears to be freedom."

Western pop songs with lyrics are banned by Iran's authorities although state radio sometimes plays instrumental versions. Iranian pop bands say their lyrics and tunes are vetted before they can be officially sold in Iran.

Pirate versions of the latest Western albums or songs by underground Iranian groups are available on the black market.

Arian's manager Mohsen Rajabpour said he would start seeking approval for the concerts as soon as de Burgh left the country on Thursday.

"I promise you that Mr. de Burgh will hold concerts in Iran," he said, adding the plan was to hold the concerts in November or October.

Rajabpour also praised the singer for his humanitarian views: "The attitude of our friends has been such that the humanitarian aspect of it has been more clear than the financial aspects of the concerts."

Arian and de Burgh have recorded a song called "A Light for Eternity" which was played at the cultural center where the news conference was held.

Plans to hold concerts in Iran usually go through a lengthy process to obtain permission. Lyrics and music styles are studied to ensure they do not contradict Islamic values.

Iran is locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear ambitions which Western nations fear are aimed at building bombs. Tehran insists its intentions are entirely peaceful.

Asked whether he felt safe visiting Tehran, de Burgh said: "I feel very safe here. In fact I feel safer here than some places in Los Angeles."

Reuters/Nielsen

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