November 25, 2010

American roots artist makes his Palestine debut

Bill Kirchen and his band perform at Ma`an studio in the southern West Bank
city of Bethlehem, 22 November 2010. (Maan Images)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Grammy-nominated American roots musician Bill Kirchen made his Palestine debut Monday, in a special performance highlighting his week-long tour through the occupied West Bank.

The guitarist, singer, and songwriter, who has performed for audiences in the US and around the world for more than 40 years, was in Bethlehem for a workshop in a refugee camp after a televised performance at Ma'an studio.

In the region on behalf of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem's Palestinian-American cultural exchange program, Kirchen said he was looking forward to meeting local musicians to "find a common ground and play together."


Kirchen's performance Monday was one of several in Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, and East Jerusalem introducing his band's unique mix of “rockabilly,” which includes elements of rock, blues, and bluegrass.

"We call it roots music," Kirchen said. "We draw on the blues that came over from Africa originally and settled in the southern states in the US. Music that started in England, ballads that started in England and morphed into American culture music.

"It comes under the general heading of roots rock ‘n’ roll, I think, best, with a lot of country influence and some boogie-woogie, some swing influence. Music that's drawn from the roots of music that, if it's American music, ended up in America."

His visit is funded by a performing arts initiative grant from the US Department of State, and received special funding from the US Consulate and America House, both of which are located in occupied East Jerusalem.

"It's really a pleasure for us to host Bill Kirchen and his band," Frank Finver, the US consul for press and cultural affairs, told Ma'an. "They've been here a few days, and we don't want them to leave."

Finver said the US hosts programs "very often. We try to bring American artists -- musicians, dancers, visual artists, and guests speakers -- to really show what America's all about, to exchange cultural ideas and learn about Palestinian culture."

Kirchen is accompanied by his band, including vocalist Louise Kirchen, percussionist Jack O’Dell, and bassist Maurice Cridlin. The group will share the stage with Palestinian rock group Sheibat for performances in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Kirchen performed a community concert at Cinema Jenin and Al-Hambra Palace in East Jerusalem, and will close out the tour Tuesday at the Movenpick Hotel in Ramallah. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open 7:30 p.m.


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