Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Music · 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.”

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.

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.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5