April 17-28, 2022

Amir ElSaffar

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Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar
New York, NY
Grant amount: $15,000 

About the Artist

Amir ElSaffar
Composer, trumpeter, santur player and vocalist Amir ElSaffar is a recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2018 US Artist Fellow. He is an expert trumpeter with a classical background, conversant not only in the language of contemporary jazz, but has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. Additionally, he is a purveyor of the centuries old, now endangered, Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the subtle microtones found in Iraqi maqam music to create an innovative approach to harmony and melody, and has received commissions to compose for large and small jazz ensembles, traditional Middle Eastern ensembles, chamber orchestras, string quartets, and contemporary music ensembles, as well as dance troupes.

Rivers of Sound
An expansion of Two Rivers, a six piece ensemble formed by ElSaffar in 2006, Rivers of Sound presents 17 musicians from a broad spectrum of traditions playing on a range of instruments, including the Middle Eastern oud, buzuq, santur (hammered dulcimer), jowza (spike fiddle) and percussion, arrayed with the piano, bass and drums of the American jazz tradition, along with trumpet, saxophones, oboe, strings and voice. The modal language of the maqam combines with the aesthetics of contemporary music and jazz to create a new musical vocabulary. The unifying principle of this composition, exploration of pure resonance, allows the assembled musicians to explore and experiment together along a continuum of sound encompassing timbre, harmony, pitch and rhythm.


Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Urbana, IL

April 19, 2021

Walker Art Center - McGuire Theater

Minneapolis, MN

April 21, 2022

Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts

Los Angeles, CA

April 23, 2022

Hopkins Center for the Arts

Hanover, NH

April 26, 2022

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

Troy, NY

April 27, 2022

Kaufman Music Center

New York, NY

April 28, 2022