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Letters 07-28-14

Worry About Legals

I can’t figure out what perplexes me more, the misinformation everywhere in the media or those who believe it to be true. Take the Hobby Lobby case; as a company that is primarily owned by a religious family, they felt their First Amendment rights were infringed upon by the “Affordable” Care Act...

Stop Labeling and Enjoy

I have been struggling to find a simple way of understanding for myself the concepts of conservative, liberal, and moderation as it relates to our social interactions with each other...

Proposal One & The Public Good

Are you kidding me? Another corporate giveaway with loopholes for large corporations who rule us? Hasn’t our corrupt and worthless governor done enough to raise taxes, provide corporate welfare, unjustly tax pensions, and shut down elected officials with his emergency manager racket...

The Truth About Road Workers

Apparently Mr. Kachadurian did not catch on to the fact that the MDOT Employee Memorial in Clare is a tribute to highway workers who lost their lives building our transportation systems. It was paid for by current and former MDOT employees who likely knew some of these people personally...

Idiotic and Misguided

As a seasonal resident, I always look forward to reading your paper, if only because of the idiotic letters to the editor and off the wall columns...


Home · Articles · News · Music · Salaam
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Salaam

Kristi Kates - October 25th, 2010
Salaam Bringing Peace Through Music
By Kristi Kates
Singer and musician Dena El Saffar grew up in Chicago in an Iraqi-American household, learning classical violin at the age of six. But it was the Arabic music listened to by her family - and initially not given too much thought by her - that would draw her into forming the band that is now called Salaam, a musical expression of El Saffar, her culture, and her bandmates’ wishes for peace - and simply good music.
“Salaam is actually the Arabic word for ‘peace,’” El Saffar says. The band - El Saffar (on vocals, violin, viola, djoze, and ‘oud) along with percussionist/husband Tim Moore; Kevin MacDowell on accordian, guitar, and bass; and Sam Finley on guitar and bass - was formed in 1993, after El Saffar’s life-changing trip to her family’s homeland.
She traveled to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad with her father at the age of 17, and had taken her viola along to practice. Soon, she found herself playing along to cassettes of Iraqi pop music on her viola with her newfound friends, where she says it became like a ‘huge party’ as everyone started clapping and dancing along.
“When I went to Iraq, I heard the Arabic music in a new way, and I had a vision to form a group to perform Arabic music,” she explains. “Salaam, the band, started as an idea in my mind, back when I was getting my degree in Classical Music Performance at Indiana University. I envisioned a group of capable, like-minded and versatile musicians who could play Arabic and Middle Eastern music authentically, as well as explore other styles with ease; musicians who could sight read anything. And I am happy to say that’s what I got.”

MELTING POT MUSIC
With 15 years of performing together, the band is now based in Bloomington, Indiana. They’ve gradually added other genres and sounds into their songs - and have affected the musical outlook of more than a few other musicians, as well.
“Tim Moore and I are the core of the band, and over the years we have worked with numerous talented people, including Turkish, Iraqi, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, Tunisian, Kurdish and American musicians,” El Saffar says, “I have also introduced many talented musicians to Middle Eastern music. It’s so infectious, that they became hooked,” she laughs.
“I like to draw on the strengths of these players,” El Saffar continues. “All of the musicians in my group are capable of playing different styles of music, besides Middle Eastern. Some have a classical, minimalist, and avant-garde background; others rock and roll, blues and jazz. I feel like it doesn’t matter where a musician comes from; if they are good musicians, they will have something to contribute.”
It’s definitely working - not only are Salaam’s live shows highly regarded, but their latest CD (the eponymous Salaam) had a track chosen as one of NPR’s Songs of the Day, and El Saffar herself was interviewed about the album on NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered.

COMPLEX CIVILIZATION
El Saffar’s group plays music from North Africa to Iraq, and as far North as Turkey. El Saffar says that she loves the depth and complexities of these particular genres.
“Middle Eastern music is the deepest style of music I know. There is so much to it, you can never stop learning. It has clear structure and yet is still open for self expression, making it wonderfully compelling and complex. Music is also a way to feel the connection with my Iraqi roots. I miss Iraq terribly, and I am thankful that playing the music can fill a little of that void.”
Music is also one of the many ways that the focus can be put back on the Iraqi people as individuals, as opposed to being merely symbols of the country’s political troubles. El Saffar says that another important part of her work as a musician is being an “ambassador for peaceful coexistence,” as she calls it.
With so many cultural misperceptions at large about the Iraqi culture, El Saffar hopes that the arts can create an avenue via which people become better educated about one of the oldest civilizations in the world; the band performs a Middle Eastern educational show for schools in addition to their concerts.
“As an Arab American musician living in the Midwest, I feel I have a unique opportunity and responsibility,” El Saffar says. “I see music as a bridge that connects people. The American population at large is undereducated about the Middle East, and so music is a nice gateway into the culture. I truly believe that in this world we are all brothers and sisters, and that we are all equal.
“Many people really like Arabic music, not even knowing what it is,” she concludes, “many times I have been asked, ‘what is that music you’re playing? I really like it!’”

Salaam will perform a pair of shows in Petoskey on Friday, October 29 - in the afternoon they will perform their Middle Eastern Musical Journey education show for a local school, and in the evening, at 8:00 p.m., they will be in concert at the Crooked Tree Arts Center. For tickets to the evening show, contact CTAC at www.crookedtree.org or telephone 231-347-4337. A new CD from Salaam is also on the way this winter - for more info, visit www.salaamband.com.
 
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