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The Pomegranate Gallery presents Safaafir

Friday June 16, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.


The Pomegranate Gallery and the Oded Halahmy Foundation for the Arts are proud to present a performance by Safaafir in celebration of their first CD release, featuring:


Amir El Saffar: santur and vocals          

Dena El Saffar: joza, violin and vocals

Tim Moore: percussion and vocals       

Johnny Farraj: riqq and vocals

The Maqam of Iraq

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, sucas the Bedouins, rural Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, as well as neighboring Persians, Turks, and other populations that have had extensive contact witIraq 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 whiccompositions and improvisations are based. In Iraq, maqam refers to the composition itself, eacof whicis a semi-improvised musical recitation of poetry, performed within a formal structure that governs the use of melodies, structure, rhythm, and poetic genre.

is a name that evokes the ancient art of coppersmithing in Iraq. Soug al-Safaafir, or “the coppersmiths' market,” is a well-known market in Baghdad, memorable for the din of hammers on copper and the glowing beauty of eaccreation. The sound of the Iraqi Maqam - the timbre of the joza and santur and the hammering of ancient rhythms - has often been likened to the Soug al-Safaafir. Amir and Dena El Saffar, brother and sister, come from a lineage of coppersmiths (saffar is the singular of safaafir), and their ancestor's legacy has also inspired the music that they perform. Witthe release of its first CD, "Maqams of Baghdad," Safaafir is bringing the gift of this intricate vocal tradition to the ears of Americans, Iraqis, and others, breathing nelife into the music of old, against the backdrop of the 21st century.

Amir El Saffar (Santur, Vocals) was born in 1977 near Chicago, Illinois to an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother. From a young age, Amir was exposed to a wide array of cultural influences that have affected him throughout his musical career. In 2001, Amir, already an established Jazz and Classical trumpet player, began to delve into a completely different musical tradition, that of his ancestral past, the Iraqi Maqam. This Classical music form, whichas fesurviving masters, is one of the most sophisticated and complex traditional music forms of the Middle East. In 2002, Amir set out on a journey that took him to Iraq as well as several other countries throughout the Middle East and Europe, where he encountered masters of the Iraqi Maqam, sucas Hamid al-Saadi, Baher al-Rajab, and Farida Mohammed Ali and her ensemble, as well as masters of various other Middle Eastern musical styles. From these teachers, Amir learned to sing the Maqam and to play the santur, a hammered-dulcimer that is native to Iraq, and has nomastered a significant portion of the repertoire. Over the past two years, he has performed, solo and withis ensemble, nationally and abroad, in NeYork, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Bloomington, IN, Montreal, Cairo, Beirut, and London. 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
(Violin, Jowza) of Iraqi and American heritage, was exposed to Arabic music in the suburbs of Chicago, where she greup attending Iraqi gatherings wither 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 whichas performed throughout the United States. She has studied witHamid Al-Saadi and Munis Sharifov and has performed witthe Master Musicians of Jajouka and Youssou N'dour. Dena, who plays the viola, violin, djoze and kemanche, has also performed witsalsa 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
(Percussion) greup in the Midwest, and began playing drums at the age of 12. He studied drumming throughout higschool and college, gaining experience as a percussionist in a variety of genres including jazz, blues, salsa and rock. A degree in Computer Science from IU brought him to the East and West coasts as a computer programmer, but in 1993 he began to pursue a music career. His drumming took on greater diversity, learning rhythms and instruments from around the world, and eventually bringing his focus to Middle Eastern percussion, whiche has played witSalaam since 1997. Tim plays the dumbek, riqq, naqqarat and bendir, tabl and zanbur as well as drum set and guitar.

Johnny Farraj
(Riqq) studied the riq (Egyptian tambourine) and frame drum witKarim Nagi and Fairuz's percussionist Michel Merhej. He also studied the oud witSimon Shaheen and Bassam Saba, and classical Arabic singing witRima Khcheicand Youssef Kassab. As a percussionist he has performed witSimon Shaheen/Qantrara (Symphony Space) and recorded on the soundtrack of the play "9 Parts of Desire" by Heather Raffo. Johnny has performed and given lecture demonstrations in universities and museums throughout the US and Canada, and has taken part in several fusion collaborations involving classical Indian, Persian and Jazz.  Johnny has created the maqamworld.com http://maqamworld.com web site to teacclassical Arabic music (maqam) theory. Johnny was born and raised in Beirut from a Palestinian family.            

For more info, please visit ww.amirelsaffar.com <http://ww.amirelsaffar.com>

This event is supported in part by the Oded Halahmy Foundation for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural organization created to fund original artistic expressions that promote a greater cultural understanding of the Middle East, thereby fostering peace and hope around the world.  The Foundation has already supported a number of Middle Eastern writers and poets by bringing their translated works to an American audience.



Suggested Donation for this event is $15.

Please RSVP as space is very limited