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Saturday, April 3, 2010

US musician in Kuwait looks for integration through music

Singing answers in the wind
The students sang the Bob Dylan refrain, along with the guitarist-singer on the stage: ‘the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind’. The stage, the students could see, as they sat on the carpeted floor, was made from their study desks. On the stage she was alone, with a dobro-guitar, in white pants and shirt, singing the Bob Dylan number, swaying a bit and saying a lot about American classical music. They listened, yodeled along as the ‘musical journey’ went on, clapped deafeningly at the end of the show and mobbed her just out of praise. The musician-Ruth Wyand- stood ‘blown in the wind’.

Ruth was in Jahra on Thursday. At Kuwait Bilingual School, the students for the first time were introduced to history of American music: country, blue, rock, jazz, they had it all. The pop hall of fame from history books came unfolding: Stephen Foster, WC Handy, Bessie Smith, Jimmy Rogers, Billie Holiday, jimi Hendrix, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan and of course the king of rock and roll Elvis Presley.

Ruth, guitarist, songwriter and singer, hailing from North Carolina and runs Carolinian Music School for three years, admits her musical journey to introduce American classical music stems from ‘an urge to do something meaningful to our tradition’. She questions why history books portray only Beethoven, Mozart et al and why not American classicist. Ruth has a degree in music from Stockton University, New Jersey and has not been happy about what the world actually knows about the culture of music and how culture and music are interrelated. “The African-American slave music has its own culture, history and spirituality, so as Arabic, Indian and Brazilian music,”, she said. In most of the music cultures, she added, rhythm is the base from which sprouts the tree of music and rhythm takes us back to our primitive roots.

The show, at Jahra school, was a miniature history of music with audio-video aids. Chris Creighton, Ruth’s husband as part of the team did the video presentation of musicians as Ruth introduced them. She sang a number of each musician as the ‘lesson’ advanced to the present day music. She taught the students new words like yodeling as she made the kids to ‘hey-hoo’ with her and encouraged the audience to scat singing or singing at random.

“The new generation wants to learn a music instrument as they perform”, she said, taking examples from her music school at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. “Today the world is open to anybody who wants to learn anything and one way why the world is small because we all share music”, she beamed as she plucked on her dobro and made the whining sound with her little finger and the bottle neck on it.
Ruth thanks the US Embassy in Kuwait for making this trip possible for her to come to Kuwait and share the cultural exchange. “When I’m going back I’m going to do a fusion of Arabic music and the western”, she said.

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