Musical Performance & Reading: Heather Raffo & Amir El Saffar In Concert: The Sounds of Desire

Sat, February 28, 2009 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all musical performance & readings »)

with guest artists:

Gaida Hinnawi, Vocals
Hadi Eldebek, 'Oud
Johnny Farraj, Percussion

Tickets: $20/$15 students with valid I.D.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m.


Heather Raffo, author and actress of the award-winning one-woman show 9 Parts of Desire, teams up with accomplished jazz trumpeter and Iraqi santoor player Amir El Saffar for In Concert: The Sounds of Desire, a dramatic evening of spoken word and melodic solos. Using characters from 9 Parts of Desire, described by the New Yorker as "an example of how art can remake the world," together they present a concert of urban and classical sounds that spring from both their Iraqi and American roots.


Heather Raffo

Heather Raffo is the recipient of a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation and the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship for her play 9 Parts of Desire. Most recently she has received a 2005 Lucille Lortel award for Best Solo show as well as an Outer Critics Circle Nomination and a Drama League nomination for Outstanding Performance. Heather first performed 9 Parts of Desire in August 2003 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. It later moved to the Bush Theatre in London's Off-West End, where critics hailed it as one of the five best plays in London in late 2003. 9 Parts of Desire was then developed and performed as a reading at The Public Theatre as part of their New Work Now festival in Spring 2004. Its New York premiere took place in the fall of 2004 at the Manhattan Ensemble Theater, where the show ran for nine sold out months. In 2005 the play began touring the U.S. at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Following are new productions at Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, The Wilma Theatre and Arena Stage in D.C. as well as international productions.

Heather's other recent acting credits include: Sarah Woodruff in the world premiere of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Fulton Opera House. Off-Broadway: Over The River and Through the Woods, the Off Broadway/National Tour of Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mistress Page) and The Rivals all with The Acting Company. Regionally: Othello (dir. Jack O'Brien), Romeo and Juliet (dir. Daniel Sullivan), As You Like It (dir. Stephen Wadsworth), Macbeth (dir. Nicholas Martin), and Comedy of Errors (dir. John Rando) all with The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Heather received her BA from the University of Michigan, her MFA from the University of San Diego and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. Originally from Michigan, Heather divides her time between New York and Los Angeles. Her father is from Iraq and her mother is American. Visit Heather Raffo's website

Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar, trumpeter, composer, singer, and santoor player, is garnering an international reputation for his work, both in the traditional Iraqi Maqam and in jazz music.

Described as “one of the important carriers of the Iraqi Maqam tradition” by Maqam master, Hamid al-Saadi, Amir currently leads the only ensemble in the US performing Iraqi Maqam, Safaafir. Amir sings and plays santoor, and is accompanied by traditional instruments, such as the joze (spike fiddle) and tabla. This ensemble has researched ancient practices that have been lost in recent generations, and is now reviving these sounds, continuing the legacy of the great masters of this tradition. Safaafir has appeared throughout the US, performing both for Iraqis as well as general audiences. Safaafir recently released a CD, entitled Maqams of Baghdad.

In addition to his work in the traditional realm, Amir also leads a Sextet of Jazz and Arabic musicians that performs his suite, entitled Two Rivers, which invokes elements of the Iraqi Maqam in a modern Jazz setting.

Being of mixed Iraqi and American heritage, and an expert in Iraqi Maqam and jazz, Amir has been able to organically join both musical styles in a way that preserves the characteristics of each without compromising either. As Dave Douglas said of a recent performance, “when [Amir] picked up the trumpet…he was playing in the quarter-tone scales of traditional maqam. But that seemed to be a small point ” it wasn't for effect or show, it was simply that he'd adapted his instrument to the needs of the music.” Amir was described in All About Jazz as “a virtuoso on the horn, but also an imaginative bandleader, expanding the vocabulary of the trumpet and at the same time the modern jazz ensemble.” Visit Amir ElSaffar's website

Last updated: 2009-02-12 21:30:39

Heather Raffo
Heather Raffo
Amir ElSaffar
Amir ElSaffar

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