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March 17, 2004

Chris De Burgh; why is he so popular in Iran?
Babak Farzad  [info|posts]

CdeB.JPG Chris De Burgh, the British pop singer, has recently released his last album called "The Road To Freedom." The album will be available in Canada on April 19, 2004. A pure Chris De Burgh. As one of the most popular western pop singers in Iran, many Iranians have been following his music for years. If we compare this with their world-wide popularity, then with no doubt, Christopher J. Davison alias Chris de Burgh (CdeB) is the number one. Why is he so popular in Iran? He, himself, is very surprised about the CdeB phenomenon in Iran. I try to find an answer to this question.

Suggested answer: CdeB has been strongly in touch with Iranians and that is why Iranians appreciate him. I list some evidence which I think would be interesting for the reader:

He has never lost an opportunity to make a connection with his fans in Iran and to express his dream of having a concert in Iran:

-I know that this is a country that I am popular in and I was speaking to some Iranian people recently about my desire to go back there and they gave me the feeling that it may not be possible at the moment. Certainly not to go there and play and sing. But it’s certainly a dream I will like to continue with, and I would love to do it some day.

-I would of course very very strongly wish to visit Iran and perform there, even a solo concert I would be very happy to do that.
-I'd like to stress how excited I am to receive all those messages from my fans in Iran. … I would love to do concerts in Iran. I know there are big changes going on in that country, and I certainly would like to feel that I would be welcome in Iran by so many fans who have been in touch and so many people who want to hear me what I do. I think if the authorities would relax a little bit and let people like me in.
-I had no idea that my lyrics have been translated into Farsi. ... I have been particularly impressed by the number of people who log on my website from Iran. And trust me when I say that I cannot wait to go there and sing on probably a solo tour to start with. It is difficult, but I want to say a very personal thank you to all my supporters from Iran.

On Shirin Ebadi’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize:

-When I read the news, I was absolutely delighted for a number of reasons that I have mentioned in the past like my interest in Iran and the continuing struggle there to change things. And I was absolutely thrilled and delighted when I heard about this major, major victory. Particularly when it's on a world stage like the Nobel Peace Prize. So again many congratulations for that! Because I am sure, all Iranian people share in her joy and her belief that things can change, if you work hard enough, if you sacrifice yourself and if you take risks.

A special message from Chris de Burgh on the earthquake in Bam:

-I am sending my sincere condolences, thoughts and sympathy to all my friends and fans in Iran who have suffered during the recent earthquake in Bam-Kerman. My thoughts are with you.

However, his reminding of his interests in Iran and his Iranian fans has nothing to do with his popularity for a couple of reasons:

(1) It is not more than a few years that CdeB has realized about his surprising popularity in Iran. His popularity in Iran is almost 20 years old. He was a beloved pop singer in Iran when he would never talk about his Iranian fans.

(2) CdeB has sung only one song which has something to do with Iran: "Eastern Wind." Surprisingly, this song, and in fact the whole album (album is called "Eastern Wind" too), is one his least popular songs in Iran.

-I was writing this from the point of view of a farmer in the Midwest of America, who doesn't understand too much of what's going on. But he puts his own feeling to it and his own thoughts and he doesn’t like what's happening [in particular, 1979 revolution in Iran]. And he knows that this is something that should it come anywhere closer to him like a bad storm to a farmer, he will have to react and protect himself and his family and indeed his country from further threat.

I believe, however, the following reasons, altogether, made him a big shot in Iran:

(1) In the early 90’s in Iran, right at the time when CdeB was blooming, the pop music was totally banned. Note that it was only in the late 90’s when specific forms of traditional music could be produced in Iran. Iranian pop-music-in-exile had not been entirely formed. So, western music became the first musical resource for Iranian youth. Western pop music was the closest category to the Iranian musical habits (in compare with Rock, Jazz, etc.). For the same reason the only Rock album of CdeB—"This Way Up"—did not meet his Iranian fans’ expectations.

(2) The English that CdeB sings is easy for his Iranian fans to understand. His songs are more audible in the sense that an Iranian can catch most of the words when he sings. The lyrics usually do not contain high level English vocabulary such that an Iranian high school graduate can understand the most of it.

(3) CdeB used to dress the way that Iranians call it normal. He neither has a strange hair style nor wears make up. He is not accompanied by a bunch of sexy girls on the stage. He does not make the so-called dandy gestures there (just compare him with other singers of his era—which is not over yet). This makes him fit in our cultural definition of a "gentleman."

(4) Iranian culture is sexually shy. Songs about earthy loves are not that welcome in this culture. And, most of CdeB’s love songs can be easily interpreted as holy love songs. The fact that CdeB has not made many video clips for his songs has intensified this picture of him.

(5) While this culture seeks for spiritual qualities of this singer, his fate-based songs such as "Spaceman," "The Risen Lord," "Saint Peter's Gate" and etc. fit well even in the Islamic system of beliefs. This search for spiritual qualities in a person, has sometimes made the culture to see the person as they like ad not as he/she is. In Iran and only in Iran, there has been this rumor that CdeB has been a priest (or his mother wanted him to be a priest) but he has understood that his songs has more influence than his preaching. Another interesting fact is that many of his Iranian fans have asked him why he has never sung a song for his mother and her true love. We like him to be one of us, so we see him that way.

(6) Last but not least, who can ignore the fact that for some strange reason, he has always had our lullabies. When our soldiers were leaving for the battle field he had "Borderline"; when they were coming back he had "Last Night"; when their bodies were coming back he had "The Simple Truth"; and you name it.

Walking past the border guards,
Reaching for her hand,
Showing no emotion,
I want to break into a run,
But these are only boys, and I will never know,
How men can see the wisdom in a war...
Comments
SG at March 17, 2004 08:24 AM [permalink]:

Popular?! Try "obscure", honey.

Is it the same Iran we've been so far talking about? The land of Ferdowsi and Hafez and Khayyam and Mowlavi and Sa'di? CdeB?

JESUS!

WhoMan at March 17, 2004 09:33 AM [permalink]:

Is that why attending his concert where I am was one of the first things I did in Canada?

yahya at March 17, 2004 09:42 AM [permalink]:

Cdeb's Spanish Trains and Lady in Red were quite popular.

Ara at March 17, 2004 10:34 AM [permalink]:

Unrealistic reasoning. Your reasons are based on logic, but when you listen to a music and like it it's your emotions. One doesn't give logical reasons for a piece of music and then say oh I like it! You just start liking it dude! Iranians like his music. I'd say Persian music gives very much importance to singer's voice. That's simply why he's so popular in Iran. Why Sting is not popular in Iran? His style and techniques are awesome but his voice is not good at all if you ask an Iranian :-)

Ara.

Kaveh Kh. at March 17, 2004 10:48 AM [permalink]:

Good stuff, I didn't know that he knew about his extreme popularity in Iran. As a matter of fact it wouldn't be wrong to say most of his "young" fans are in Iran.

I am too old though.

Babak at March 17, 2004 12:03 PM [permalink]:

Ara,

The rason that Sting is not popular in Iran is that his English contains higher level vocabulary and it is not very clear for an Iranian what he sings specially with the pauses that he makes in between of the words. For the very same reason, Brian Adams, which has had very poor voice by an Iranian standard, was quiet popular again since his English was understandable for them.


SG at March 17, 2004 12:11 PM [permalink]:

Unlike what Ara is suggesting, I think it *is* meaningful to ask why some music is popular and one can come up with explanations for the [alleged] popularity of a song or a faith system or whatnot. In my case, I don't really listen to non-Iranian singers (unless Ifind the *music* superb), basically (but not solely) because of what Babak is saying: I can't hear them well. That is, I have a hard time fidning out what they are singing about. This of course may have to do with what Kaveh Kh. said: just being too old.

hossein at March 17, 2004 12:28 PM [permalink]:

Somebody up there said "reason", but I don't think this post has much reason into it after all.
Definitely Chris de Burgh's lyrics are not that hard, but there are too many biblical references that not many Iranians would understand.
The only reason that I can think of, is that his songs are melodic and Iranians like melodic songs, the same reason why 50's and 60's music is popular too.
I don't think families who were sending their children to the war, would think of "Borderline" or something like that!

Weird post!

SG at March 17, 2004 01:06 PM [permalink]:

Like I said, I'm not big on music really, even though I'd like to think of myself as "musical", but here's a question to ponder: How come there is no (serious) criticism of songs in Iran? Or is there?! You see, one of the best things about the West is that they have a tradition of evaluating every cultural product. Movies, they critique. Books, they critique. They don't even spare CDs.

Now, the absolute lack of criticism in Iran in general is not the subject of this comment. But, one may ask oneself: How come Shajarian's new CD, for example, don't undergo criticism? Are they too good to be critiqued?! Or is it that people respect the Master and don't say anything that may bother him?! Or is it that nobody knows that much about the kind of music that he (or CdeB) is involved with, that is, no enough to evaluate the work?

My perception is that we did have some budding movie criticism in Iran, and perhaps a very slim book criticism in very elite journals, but music? The younger ones may remember things that I don't!

Mamdali at March 17, 2004 01:57 PM [permalink]:

Babak jaan,
nice post, he is popular in iran. In Europe 99.9% percent of 20-30 year old generation haven't even heard his name. Older people like more his songs and know him better. Probably calm gentle music suits better the taste of the majority of Iranians.

SG jaan,

you "criticism" argument doesn't apply! kako, it seems that you have never listened to any music or haven't been in any live concert ! Music doesn't (or didn't) have freedom in Iran. Ten years ago, Iranian government was going to ban learning instrument for under age, so you may probably guess how hard it is to have a permission for a live concert or so. Fortunately it's getting better nowadays.

Dude! open a newspaper and look at the music section and compare it to Film or literature section. "Criticism" doesn't apply in the same way as in literature or movies. The nature of music is very different and hard to analyze. That's why you can't find the same kind of review for music while in literature ....

listen to music, appreciate it, tell and write about your favorites. That's who it works for music esp. pop rock house hip-hop even classical music.

Again the role of live concert (small in a bar or large in stadium doesn't matter) and radio stations should be emphasized.

Arash Jalali at March 17, 2004 02:19 PM [permalink]:

Just for the record, a couple of years ago (I'm not quite sure about the exact date), the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, removed the ban on selling the music albums of Chris de Burgh and Elton John. Don't ask me why, but they actually did.

I was at the "Book City" shop in Niaavaran sometime ago, and they were playing one of CdeB's songs. Yes, songs not just the music.

Also, if you have ever been a music hunter/window-shopper like me in Tehran, you must have at least heard of the "Beethoven" music shop. It's changed a lot since the good old days when I was in highschool, when it only used to sell classical music cassettes. Now, it's being run by some young chaps and you can find pretty much anything there, including CdeB's CD's.

SG at March 17, 2004 03:36 PM [permalink]:

You wrote:

"Dude! open a newspaper and look at the music section and compare it to Film or literature section. "Criticism" doesn't apply in the same way as in literature or movies."

Gotcha!

P.S. I guess perfumes don't get reviews for a similar reason. Hmmm.

The Pagan at March 18, 2004 03:25 AM [permalink]:

Can somebody explain to me what "THE POINT" is? I seem to have difficulties appreciating the subject itself (let's not talk about the arguments). "Black Cats" may be even more popular than CdeB in Iran, so what? My experience shows that the majority (101%) of people are musically illiterate in Iran. You don't even have to dye the crow to sell it them to these people as the nightingale.

WhoMan at March 18, 2004 09:09 AM [permalink]:

Firstly, I don't think that there should be a point to everything.

Secondly, I didn't have time yesterday. But I came back to say that the reason I took part in his concert was that I was dragged into it by two Iranian friends. Other than that, he doesn't particularly strike a cord with me. Although it was the first few months that I had come to Canada, it wasn't too hard for me to realize the crowd wasn't similar to crowd that would gather at a rock concert. I thought I was going to a casual church with the avergae age of people above 40.One more thing is that those Canadians who I know and know the singer think his songs are too Christian. They are surprised that Iranians like him.

Black Cats at March 18, 2004 02:24 PM [permalink]:

We thank the Iranian people for their support.

Iranian People at March 18, 2004 06:51 PM [permalink]:

Black Cats,

Anytime!

Richard Bean at March 19, 2004 07:40 PM [permalink]:

I know the answer! The reason for his popularity is that he looks like an older version of Babak Farzad. (They both have large eyebrows, designer stubble, and a ``Mona Lisa'' smile. Also CDB's hooded eyes remind Iranians of you-know-who.)

Since everyone loves BF in Iran, and age is respected, this makes Mr de Burgh extremely popular. Also, CDB is wearing a black shirt, and this is Iranians' favourite colour.

:-)

I had never heard of CDB or Modern Talking before I came to Iran. "no face, no name, no number"? De gustibus non est disputandum.

Watching a video of "Willst Du?" by Alex, my Iranian hostess commented she liked the way Alex didn't have the backup singers fawning all over him. So there's something to be said for reason (3) - the conservatism of Iranian society.

Wellesley Girl at March 23, 2004 02:07 PM [permalink]:

I am not sure if eastern wind was related to Iran, because I always thought it's about Ireland claiming independence from Great Britain. (Eastern refers to GB which is the east of Ireland). But I am sure the songs "revolution," "Light a Fire," "Liberty," "Leader," "Vision," "What about me," "Making the perfect man" and "Last night" and many more, are quite relevant to the situation, the revolution, and the war in Iran.

Babak at March 23, 2004 03:48 PM [permalink]:

CdeB has said that Eastern Wind is about Islamic Fundamentalism which has started at around 1970's, and ofcourse, the revolution in Iran was the symbol of this new-born movement. The songs that you (Wellesley G) have mentioned may have something in common with the situation Iran but with no intention (as far as I know). In particular, "Making the Perfect Man" is always mis-understood by assuming that the statement "watch your money going west" has a political point of view which is not true. It is just an American idiom.

Amir at March 23, 2004 05:47 PM [permalink]:

Hi,

You wrote a nice article! Also I can add there is a very nice and complete about chris de burgh in english and also Persian (Farsi). You can go to www.chrisdeburgh.net and see a farsi version there. There are a lot of intersting things about Chris de burgh there in Farsi! This is another reason that Iranian love Chris de Burgh and his music and design such a wonderful website for him...

Wellesley Girl at March 25, 2004 12:31 AM [permalink]:

I wasn't refering to specific intentions! I don't know what Chris thinks when he writes a song, but what I care about is the interpretations! In fact, I am more of an interpretations person. I don't like people to chew the food and put it in my mouth as Iranians would say.

Mohammad at March 27, 2004 05:31 AM [permalink]:

There is another factor that's not mentioned in this post. That has to do with the way pop music is (or was) distributed in Iran. Because of the ban on the pop music, the majority of people obtain copies of songs by copying tapes/CDs from their friends. Therefore, we have a huge network of music-lovers whose connection with the outside world is through a few "gateways". This has two effects:

1. it encourages conservatism in the selection of music, since in order for me to like a singer and own his/her albums, not only I should like him/her, but I should have a friend that likes him/her, and so on.

2. it highly increases the variance, i.e., it is more likely that a singer is either too popular, or not popular at all. This is because the "gateways" whose number is quite small compared to the total number of people play an important role.

I think both of the above factors have been contributing to the popularity of Chris de Burgh in Iran.

It would be interesting to study the network of music distribution in Iran from a social networks perspective. Unfortunately it's hard to gather data about this extraordinary network.

Khurusali Saadeghi-Ghahhaareh at April 16, 2004 08:42 PM [permalink]:

No wonder Chris deBurgh is so popular in Iran. In fact, he is the only english speaking singer who sounds like Moein (and sometimes like Aghassi or Zia).

bluei at April 18, 2004 05:23 AM [permalink]:

I read the last comment, really can not see the similarity between Moien and Chris de Burgh,I need someone to elaborate on that! Wonder if Moien is popular at all!

arash at April 29, 2004 04:15 PM [permalink]:

in my opinion Cdeb s carry me(like a fire in your heart)of album Flying Colours is quite popular opinion of people s Iranian and Turning Round Under excuses his first melody is very lovely opinion of in all people s world

ali&shima at April 30, 2004 08:16 PM [permalink]:

CdeB is a best singer in the world espically in
iran because he is doning an amusing job and his songs are heartfelt and velvety.
listening his songs is enjoyable like having an apple for us.

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Arash at March 30, 2005 03:02 PM [permalink]:

I think cdeb is the Best singer.for you can hear the shout of humanitarian in most of his beautiful songs.Chris I love you.

Farshad Rezai at April 1, 2005 12:00 AM [permalink]:

Hi, I am an Iranian-American musician, also pop (piano) and Hiphop...

Just wanted to connect with you somehow... maybe we can do a concert in Iran together someday


sadaf at July 22, 2005 11:03 AM [permalink]:

I just have a question! Tell me how I can get in touch with Chris De Burgh,the best of all!

Wahid Tehrani at August 10, 2005 10:02 AM [permalink]:

I've been 5 times in his concerts in Germany.He is a real gentelman in his concerts. You enjoy the performances which can be only performed so nice, so beautiful, so exciting, only by him.I feel pity for my friends, his real fans in Iran, who are not able to be in such concerts...we will meet him someday in Iran. GOD WILLING!

Peter at December 19, 2005 07:43 PM [permalink]:

"The road to "fredoom"" is this the same "fredoom Blair was tlaking about?. In Britain everything is politics!"

Pishtool at August 30, 2006 09:09 AM [permalink]:

Arash Jalali,its not true.we all live in Iran and know much about Our country.its not true that they removed cdeb's music and just playing the sung.

mina at November 30, 2006 02:32 PM [permalink]:

Wow I was quiet surprised when I realized he knows us or even he cares that we fans him!!I think the literacy that floating in deep meaningful sentences has the Iranean's people.I'm just 17 and may be I'm not old enough to say this but at least I dare say his voice take our mind and heart to the beyond!

YOUR VOICE IS THE HIGHEST KITE i'VE EVER FLYED WITH

Babak at April 2, 2007 08:00 PM [permalink]:

i love him forevermoooooor.

P at August 7, 2007 12:50 AM [permalink]:

Hi
1.His songs are almost easy, beautiful and emotional,
But full of metaphors.
His voice is nice.
But at last your emotions tell the whole story, U listen to it, then U think U like it.

P at August 7, 2007 12:52 AM [permalink]:

2
But what are you telling? Holy love!

Natasha brings me kisses in the moonlight…

In the last moments of the dawn, before the day begins,
Before we say goodnight, hold me now, kiss me now,
My hands are shaking and my heart is aching,
At the thought of making love with you; …

I have many of his songs, but I haven’t seen a song about “holy love” yet.

P at August 7, 2007 12:53 AM [permalink]:

3
I 'm just wondering: Did U ask all Iranians whether they liked "This Way up" album or not? It is just your opinion.
How many Iranians did U ask?
"This Way up" is nice, including good songs: "Here Is Your Paradise", "You Are The Reason", "On My Brave Hearts", "The son and The Father", and "The Snows of New York".
"I don't think families who were sending their children to the war, would think of "Borderline" or something like that!"
Yes, I think that way too.

P at August 7, 2007 12:55 AM [permalink]:

4
It isn't right as Chris de Burgh himself said:
"There has been this rumor that CdeB has been a priest (or his mother wanted him to be a priest)"
It is wrong.

Samira at September 26, 2007 10:41 PM [permalink]:

The FanSite ModernTalking In Iran :

www.ModernTalking.ir