Benefit Event: The Alwan Arab Music Ensemble

Sat, November 5, 2016 7:00 pm at Unitarian Church of All Souls

(View all benefit events »)

This concert previews the Alwan Arab Music Ensemble's first album, Zaman, to be released in Spring 2017, and showcases the broad range of musical idioms it has mastered. The group performs the traditional Arab repertory with authority and a sense of tarab (musical ecstasy).


Amir ElSaffar: Trumpet Santur Vocals | Dena ElSaffar: Viola | Firas Zreik: Qanun | George Ziadeh: Oud Vocals | Layth Sidiq: Violin | Naseem Al Atrash: Cello | Tareq Rantisi: Percussion

Buy Tickets:

Friend of Alwan: $150 Includes premium seating and reception with musicians following the concert. ($100 is tax deductible)

General Admission: $40

Student:$25 (with student ID only)

Doors open at 6:00pm

At the heart of the program is Zamen, a composition by Alwan's music curator, Amir ElSaffar, which debuted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the Iraqi Cultural Festival that Alwan curated to mark the tenth anniversary of the US Invasion. Shortly after the Festival, the Alwan Ensemble went into the studio to record. This period coincided with a moment of upheaval and change that has stayed with us until today. Not immune to this turbulence, the album and the process of creative gestation led to outcomes and detours corresponding to the temperamental nature of aesthetic imagination and the complexity of cultural representation. In this regard, this concert is performed as a remembrance of memories that have left us, while simultaneously setting our gaze towards what is to come. It celebrates the spirit of an enduring organization, a community and culture in the currency of the present.

About the musicians:

Amir ElSaffar is a New York based composer, trumpet and santur player as well as a singer in the Iraqi Maqam tradition. A master of disparate musical styles and a singular approach to combining aspects of Middle Eastern music with American jazz, Amir has created new techniques to play microtones and ornaments that are idiomatic to Arabic music, but not typically heard on the trumpet. From commissions and residencies within the cutting-edge, new music scenes in North America and Europe to film scores and extended musical sojourns in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Azerbaijan, Amir has opened new spaces for the exploration of composition and improvisation, tradition and innovation.

Dena ElSaffar began learning the violin at a young age. At 17, she accompanied her father to Baghdad where she became enchanted by the music of Iraq and the Middle East. At Indiana University, Dena founded, Salaam, a Middle Eastern music ensemble that performs throughout the United States. She has studied with Hamid Al-Saadi, Mohammed Gomar and Anwar Abudragh,and has performed with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and Youssou N'dour. Dena plays the viola, violin, joza and kemanche.

Firas Zreik is a Palestinian qanun player and composer from the town of Kafr Yassif in the Western Galilee. He started playing the qanun at age 11 and studied Arab music at the Beit Almusica Conservatory. He has performed with many important artists, including Roger Waters, Simon Shaheen and Amal Murkus. He is currently at the Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, pursuing a dual degree in jazz composition and performance.

George Ziadeh, born in Palestine, has pursued music from an early age. He studied 'oud with Simon Shaheen and classical singing and voice witih Youssef Kasab. George has performed as a soloist and as a member of various ensembles throughout Europe, the Middle East and the United States. George is an authority on maqam theory and Arab classical repertoire and has taught at the Columbia University Department of Ethnomusicology, the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah and Birzeit University.

Layth Sidiq is a leading Middle Eastern violinist on the world music stage. He studied at Chetham's School of Music and with Simon Shaheen at the Berklee College of Music. A soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist, Layth has collaborated with Javier Limon, a Grammy award winner and Latin Grammy award winning artist on numerous projects. He was featured on the Grammy nominated album, The Voices of Afghanistan, and has performed throughout Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

Naseem Al Atrash is a globally acclaimed Palestinian cellist and a classically trained musician and improviser in diverse styles. Following his studies at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah, Naseem was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music. He is a two time recipient of the "string player of the year" from the National Competition of Palestine.

Tariq Rantisi is a self-taught musician who has shared the stage with some of the most distinguished musicians in the region. He is renowned for his deep musical dialogue and versatility moving between jazz, Afro-Cuban, Carnatic Indian and Brazilian rhythms. Tareq attended the Berklee College of Music on an Al-Qattan Foundation Music Scholarship, graduating with distinction.

Alwan for the Arts is supported in part, by public funds, from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and by an award of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Last updated: 2016-11-03 22:53:59

Firas Zreik (Photo Credit: Louise Bichan)
Firas Zreik (Photo Credit: Louise Bichan)
Amir ElSaffar
Amir ElSaffar
Dena ElSaffar
Dena ElSaffar
Layth Sidiq
Layth Sidiq
Naseem Al Atrash
Naseem Al Atrash
Tareq Rantisi
Tareq Rantisi
George Ziadeh
George Ziadeh

Unitarian Church of All Souls

80th Street and Lexington Avenue
Reidy Friendship Hall
New York, NY 10075

Alwan Auction 2016

Join Our Mailing List:



Classes are currently being scheduled. Please check back soon for updates.



There are currently no upcoming events.


16 Beaver Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732 3261
Email Us

Alwan for the Arts is accessible to people with disabilities. Please call 646 732 3261 in advance, or, buzz at the door to arrange a ramp.

© 2020 Alwan for the Arts

Hosting donated by:, the Arabic Encyclopedia