Pioneering U.S. singer enthralls Syrian students

Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:04pm EDT
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Avant-garde musician and performance artist Meredith Monk enthralled Syrian students on Monday with a lesson on vocal and choreographic techniques in a rare cultural exchange between the two countries.

Monk, an innovative singer, composer, filmmaker and choreographer, gave a workshop at the national conservatoire before a concert in Damascus on Monday with vocalists Theo Blackman and Katie Geissinger.

Washington has imposed sanctions on Syria over its support for anti-U.S. groups in the Middle East.

Politics featured little as Monk and Geissinger gave Syrian singers, dancers and actors lessons in choreography, vocal techniques and how to construct complex singing forms.

"Everybody was nervous and little by little we spoke the same language. I shared some of the discoveries I have made in very direct way. It will help people experience the concert with more knowledge," Monk told Reuters.

"If we come and just perform we will never find out where Syrian artists are coming from and what they know."

Monk was invited by the Syrian government as part of performances to celebrate Damascus as the 2008 capital of Arab culture.

The last U.S. group to perform in Syria was the jazzy Freddie Bryant and Kaleidoscope in 2004.   Continued...

<p>Singer Meredith Monk (front L) gives a workshop at the national conservatoire in Damascus April 20, 2008. Monk, the first U.S. artist to visit Syria in years, was invited by the Syrian government to perform at the national opera house on Monday as part of celebrations marking Damascus as this year's Arab capital of culture. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri</p>