Official request guitarist for concert

North Korean officials have invited rock guitarist Eric Clapton to play a concert in the Communist state, a diplomat at the country’s embassy in London said Tuesday.

The diplomat confirmed reports in the British media that Clapton had been officially invited to Pyongyang – the first such invitation to a Western rock star to the isolated nation.

“Eric Clapton is a well-known musician and guitarist, famous throughout the world,” said the official, who declined to give his name. “It will be a good opportunity for Western music to be understood better by Koreans.”

Clapton’s spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The Financial Times newspaper reported Tuesday that Clapton, 62, had agreed in principle and suggested 2009 for the gig.

North Korean authorities have long shunned rock and pop music, although Kim Jong Chol, the Swiss-educated son of national leader Kim Jong Il, is reportedly a huge Clapton fan.

Recently North Korea has begun to build tentative cultural ties with the West. The New York Philharmonic played in Pyongyang on Tuesday, and North Korean State Symphony Orchestra is due to perform in London and the English city of Middlesbrough in September.

The Financial Times said the invitation to Clapton was in return for the Korean orchestra’s British tour.

Clapton is regarded as one of rock’s greatest guitarists, with a string of hits since the 1960s including include “Layla,” “Cocaine” and “Tears in Heaven.”

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