Sacred Music Festival: Concert: Ushāq

Sat, September 22, 2012 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all sacred music festivals »)

Presented in collaboration with the Asian American Arts Alliance's Locating the Sacred Festival

Ushāq presents a melding of conversant traditions of spiritual, improvisatory music from the Middle East and Central Asia that share a common ground in Sufism, poetry and related maqām systems.

This collaboration, entitled Ushāq, brings together Indian-American vocalist Falu Shah; Iraqi-American Amir ElSaffar on the santūr (hammered dulcimer), trumpet, and vocals, Palestinian Zafer Tawil on the 'oud (Middle Eastern lute) and violin; Iranian musician Hedayat Shafeei on the tār (long-necked double chamber lute); and Tunisian musician Taoufiq ben Amor on percussion and vocals.

Together, the musicians cover a vast territory of diverse but closely related musical practice and spiritual tradition that extends from North Africa across the Arab World through Iran to India. Throughout this pan-Islamic geo-cultural corridor, interrelated musical sytems (maqāmāt, malouf, radīf, rāga) and shared traditions of mystical, love-themed poetry (such as ghazal) combine organically in pursuit of a state of longing for spiritual union with the divine.

Tickets: $20 General (*buy now) | $15 for Students, Members and Seniors (*buy now) available at the door or online.

(*A small online fee is applied - use printout as your ticket)

Doors open at 7:30 p.m.


About the Musicians:
Falu Shah is widely recognized for a rare ability to blend, seamlessly and inventively, a signature modern rock style with an Indian classical vocal style. In her early years in Bombay, she was trained rigorously in the Jaipur musical tradition, at times honing her talent for up to 16 hours a day. Falu moved to the States in 2000 and developed a band of the same name. Falu’s live performances have been featured nationally on FOX TV and internationally on National Geographic TV, while her voice has been captured in multiple films including Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut A Place in Time. Other recent collaborations include with classical music legend Yo-Yo Ma, funk pioneers Parliament-Funkadelic and blues-rock band Blues Traveler.

New York based composer, trumpet player and singer and santur player in the Iraqi Maqam tradition, Amir ElSaffar has devoted himself both to jazz and the urban art music heritage of Iraq forging new pathways between the two. From commissions and residencies within the cutting edge new music scenes in North American and Europe to film scores to extended musical sojourns in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Azerbaijan, Amir has opened up new spaces for the exploration of composition and improvisation, tradition and innovation.

Hedayat Shafeei, originally from Iran, has studied the tār (long-neck, double-chamber, skin-bellied Iranian lute) and Persian classical radīf (modal performance system) with three of the foremost masters of the art Darisuh Tala'i, Mohammad Reza Lotfi, and Mansour Seenaki. Today, he teaches and performs classical Iranian art music in and around New York City.

New York based Palestinian-American Zafer Tawil is a master of Arabic music with virtuoso talents on oud, violin, qanun and a full range of percussion instruments. He has performed with numerous musicians ranging from pop star Sting to Arab music greats such as Simone Shaheen, Chab Mami, and Bassam Saba to avant-garde composer/performer Elliot Sharpe, among others. Zafer has composed music for a number of films including the Oscar- nominated Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married.

Tunisian born Taoufiq ben Amor is an active and accomplished musician within the New York City Arabic music scene, founder of the ensemble Tarab, former music curator at Alwan for the Arts, Columbia University Professor of Arabic Language and Literature and an academic writer and researcher on the musicology of Islam and North Africa.


Asian American Arts Alliance's Locating the Sacred Festival

September 12-23

Two years in the making, the festival has brought together hundreds of artists, arts workers and cultural activists to create more than twenty events over twelve days in churches, museums, cultural centers, botanical gardens and theaters across the city.

For a full festival schedule, visit:

Last updated: 2012-08-23 13:10:29

Falu Shah
Falu Shah

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