Events

Musical Performance: Safaafir: Iraqi Maqam and Folk Music

Sat, March 1, 2008 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all musical performances »)

$15 ($10 Students with valid ID)

House opens 8:30PM

Amir ElSaffar: vocal and santoor
Dena El Saffar: jowza
Tim Moore: percussion
Johnny Farraj: percussion

THE MUSIC:

Maqam is the urban classical vocal tradition of Iraq. Found primarily in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Basra, the maqam repertoire draws upon musical styles of the many populations in Iraq, such as the Bedouins, rural Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen as well as neighboring Persians, Turks, and other populations that have had extensive contact with Iraq throughout history.

The use of the word maqam in Iraq is distinct from its use in the rest of the Arab world and Turkey, where the term refers to a musical mode on which compositions and improvisations are based. In Iraq, maqam refers to the actual compositions, which are highly-structured, semi-improvised melodic recitations of Classical Arabic and colloquial Iraqi poetry. Typically, the maqam is performed by a singer, who is accompanied by an ensemble, known as the Chalghi, which consists of the santoor (hammered dulcimer), jowza (bowed spike fiddle) and riqq (tambourine), and dumbek (goblet drum).

Until the 20th century, the maqam was ubiquitous in the urban centers of modern-day Iraq, its melodies heard in various settings, religious and secular. Today, there are very few keeping this musical tradition alive, and Safaafir is the only Chalghi ensemble in the US that is actively performing this music. For this performance at Alwan, Safaafir will focus on both the urban maqam, as well as some of the folk and rural songs found throughout the rest of Iraq.

THE MUSICIANS:

Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar put his career as a jazz trumpeter on hold in 2002 to travel to Iraq and explore the music of his ancestry, the Iraqi maqam. ElSaffar, who was born in the US in 1977 to an Iraqi father and an American mother, was already an accomplished trumpeter, having performed with many esteemed jazz and classical artists and winning several international competitions. He spent several years traveling in Iraq, throughout the Middle East and in Europe, where he encountered masters of the Iraqi maqam, such as Hamid al-Saadi, Baher al-Rajab, and Farida Mohammed Ali and her ensemble, as well as masters of various other Arabic musical styles. From these teachers, Amir learned to sing the maqam and to play the santoor, a 96-string hammered-dulcimer that is native to Iraq, and quickly mastered a significant portion of the maqam repertoire. In 2005, Amir joined forces with his sister, Dena El Saffar, and her husband, Tim Moore, and formed Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US that performs the maqam in its traditional format. Hamid al-Saadi, Amir's teacher, who is one of the leading maqam singers in Iraq, regards Amir as one of the important carriers of this tradition in his generation, and has said "Amir is a great addition to the maqam…he is preserving the true essence of this music."

Dena El Saffar

Dena El Saffar, of Iraqi and American heritage, was exposed to Arabic music in the suburbs of Chicago , where she grew up attending Iraqi gatherings with her family. She began learning the violin at the age of six. At age 17, completely engaged in classical music, she accompanied her father to Baghdad and became enchanted by the music of Iraq and the Middle East . In 1993, while obtaining a classical music degree from Indiana University , she founded the group Salaam, a Middle Eastern music ensemble which has performed throughout the United States . She has studied with Hamid Al-Saadi, Munis Sharifov, Mohammed Gomar and Anwar Abudragh, and has performed with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and Youssou N'dour. Dena, who plays the viola, violin, joza and kemanche, has also performed with Central Eurasian ensembles, salsa groups, bluegrass, blues and rock bands. She is the older sister of Amir, is married to percussionist Tim Moore, and is the mother of two: Jamil and Layla.

Tim Moore

Tim Moore grew up in the Midwest , and began playing drums at the age of 12. A natural percussionist, he began performing with different groups early on, gaining experience in a variety of genres including jazz, blues, salsa and rock. After earning a computer science degree from Indiana University in 1989, he worked on the East and West Coasts as a computer programmer, but in 1993 he left that world in order to devote himself to music. In his quest to become a better, even more diverse musician, he began learning rhythms and instruments from around the world, eventually bringing his focus to Middle Eastern percussion. He has studied Iraqi-style percussion with Wessam Ayoub, Sattar al Saadi and Lateef al 'Abeedi. Tim plays the dumbek, riqq, naqqarat and bendir, tabl and zanbur as well as drum set and guitar.

For more information, please visit www.amirelsaffar.com or www.myspace.com/iraqimaqam.

Last updated: 2008-02-04 14:35:03

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