Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

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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