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Catch Us at the Casbah
Jan. 31 issue - More than three decades after banning Western music from Libya, Muammar Kaddafi has agreed to let the casbah rock. And an American band will do the honors. Next week in Tripoli, California's The Heavenly States will launch a six-day tour to spread its buoyant, Bush-baiting pop from the Roman ruins at Leptis Magna to the streets of Benghazi. The last Yanks to light up the Libyan stage? USO mainstays Anita Bryant and Les Brown. In 1963.
"We're totally into the idea of rattling these cages," says violinist Genevieve Gagon. To get the gigs Gagon and her cohorts spent the last year clearing hurdles: a stonewalling State Department, cagey local bureaucrats and, most alarming, Libya's lack of rock-ready drum sets (solution: hire a courier to cart a kit the 1,000 miles from Cairo). "It's about mountaineering," says manager Eugene Bari, who remortgaged his house to pay for the tour. "The higher and more dangerous the climb, the better the view." Speaking of tall orders, the band still needs to attract an audience in a place where people prefer the smooth sounds of Pan-Arab "Pop Idol" winner Ayman al-Aathar, a Libyan himself. The plan is to lure locals with leaflets. Admits Bari: "It may just be a few camels grooving in the desert."
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.