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LI band builds bridges during Mideast tour

Cathy Henderson, Nini Camps, Kristen Henderson, and Dena

Cathy Henderson, Nini Camps, Kristen Henderson, and Dena Tauriello of Antigone Rising. (April 13, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Antigone Rising has rocked its share of venues, having toured with Joan Jett, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith.

But the band -- begun by two Glen Cove sisters -- earlier this year performed in Israel and the West Bank for energetic audiences it won't soon forget.

"By taking us out of the context of our life here in the U.S., that definitely changed my view on what our music can do," said one of the sisters, Cathy Henderson, who sings and plays lead guitar. "We're not just a band playing and having a good time . . . You actually can go and do some real good in the world."

The all-female "Americana rock" group visited Jerusalem, Ramallah and other cities in February as arts envoys for the State Department. They played about 15 shows in eight days to crowds the band said ranged drastically in age, religion and ethnicity.

What the audiences had in common with each other and Antigone Rising was their affinity for music, band members said.

"What we see on TV -- the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the suicide bombings, the missiles -- isn't all you see when you go over there," said Henderson's sister, Kristen, who sings and plays bass, and now lives in Sea Cliff. "There's real, nice people who are just living their lives there."

That isn't to say that the bandmates didn't feel the constant weight of the conflict.

They described the stark differences in landscape, with Israel "flush and plentiful" and the West Bank "struggling and rundown."

They experienced language and cultural divides as well as the literal barrier separating Israel from the West Bank -- a tall concrete wall -- and that left a deep impression on lead singer and guitarist Nini Camps.

"The wall, regardless of where you are on it, is a very real and emotional thing," said Camps, also of Sea Cliff.

Residents on either side of the barrier -- Israelis, Palestinians, Arab Israelis and Bedouins, among others -- inspired with their life stories, Kristen Henderson said.

She said learning their complex histories made it easier to see every side of the conflict and to understand why peace has been so difficult to achieve.

"Culturally, we're all so different," Camps said.

"But the power of music bridges that," Cathy Henderson continued.

In Be'er Sheva, a young Bedouin girl in a head covering came up to the band and said she felt empowered by them.

Dena Tauriello, of Morristown, N.J., who plays drums, said music is a language everyone can speak. "It kind of defuses things," she said.

The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, which offers programs that seek to strengthen ties between Palestinians and Americans, said the band had moved those they met, especially the women of the region.

Antigone Rising writes and sings about being mothers, sisters and partners.

"Borrowed Time," for example, is about family and children, and "One Foot In" -- which an East Jerusalem girl learned from YouTube and sang with the band -- is about relationships.

"Antigone Rising's music speaks to themes that unite us all as human beings," consulate spokesman Frank Finver said in a statement, "and I hope that Palestinian audiences enjoyed hearing their messages of empowerment, equality and hope."

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