Concerts & Events

Wednesday, February 27, 2019  ·  8:30 PM

Hamid Al-Saadi with Safaafir: the Maqam of Iraq

World Music Wednesday

4544 N Lincoln Ave · Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall · 773.728.6000


World Music Wednesdays

A weekly showcase of world music and dance featuring the best local and touring talent! Most shows are Wednesday nights at 8:30 PM.

Most World Music Wednesday concerts are free with a $10 suggested donation. TO GUARANTEE YOUR ENTRY MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE EITHER ONLINE OR BY CALLING THE BOX OFFICE AT 773.728.6000. Reservations unclaimed 10 minutes before showtime will be released to waiting patrons.

Hamid Al-Saadi

Through his powerful and highly ornamented voice, and in his comprehensive knowledge of the intricate details of the music and poetry of Iraq, generations and layers of the maqam tradition resonate through Hamid al-Saadi's magnificent presence on stage. The only person in his generation to have memorized and mastered all 56 maqamat from the Baghdad repertoire, Al-Saadi is one of the few vocalists who is keeping the maqam alive today, at a time when so many elements of this profound tradition are in danger of extinction.

Born in Iraq in 1958, Hamid Al-Saadi's artistic, musical and scholarly journey with the Iraqi maqam began from childhood, inspired by his avid love of the Iraqi and Baghdadi culture, the Arabic language, music and poetry. He studied, practiced, and performed the maqam until he became one of the more renowned and highly acclaimed musicians and scholars in this subject. He learned the art of singing and performing the Iraqi maqam from the legendary Yusuf Omar (1918-1987), who pronounced Al-Saadi as his successor. Muhammed Al-Gubbenchi (1901-1989) who taught Omar and was probably the most influential maqam reciter in history, said that he considered Al-Saadi to be the "ideal link to pass on the maqam to future generations.”

Al-Saadi immigrated to Great Britain in 1999, where he lived and was active for six years as a maqam scholar, singer, artist and writer, and returned to Baghdad in 2004 where he currently resides. He authored a book on the maqam entitled,”al-maqam wo buhoor al-angham” is one of the most comprehensive texts on the Iraqi Maqam and its poetry that has ever been published.

His 2013 tour of the U.S. included performances at New York's St. John the Divine, The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, in addition to a number of private concerts for Iraqi communities around the country. This tour will include performances at Duke University, The Wexner in Columbus, the Kennedy Center Jazz Club, and the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto, and will mark the beginning of a new collaboration with his former student, Amir ElSaffar's Two Rivers Ensemble.


Dena El Saffar

Dena El Saffar is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, teacher and recording artist who has performed throughout the US as well as in the Middle East and Latin America. Born and raised in a musical family in Chicago, she learned about her Iraqi heritage through stories, music and recipes. She began violin lessons at the age of 6. At the age of 17, after winning several concerto competitions and touring Europe with a youth orchestra, she travelled to Iraq and became inspired to learn the Iraqi music traditions. After completing a Viola Performance degree at the IU Jacobs School of Music, and made Bloomington her home. While still a student, she founded the Middle Eastern music group Salaam (www.SalaamBand.com), which focuses on music of the Arab World. Salaam has recorded 7 albums, and has been featured on NPR, including an interview on All Things Considered with Guy Raz. El Saffar plays several traditional Middle Eastern instruments – ‘oud, joza, kemanche – as well as violin and viola. She has a long list of recording projects with well-known American musicians such as Krista Detor, Slats Klug, Moira Smiley and Michael White. She has toured and performed with countless ensembles including Youssou N'Dour, Rivers of Sound Orchestra, the National Arab Orchestra, and Iraqi Maqam ensemble Safaafir. When she is not busy performing or teaching, Dena enjoys hiking in the woods and spending time with her family.


Tim Moore

Tim Moore grew up in the Midwest, and began playing drums at the age of 11. A natural percussionist, he began performing with different groups early on, gaining experience in a variety of genres including jazz, blues, salsa and rock. After earning a computer science degree from Indiana University in 1989, he worked on the East and West Coasts as a computer programmer, but in 1993 he left that world in order to devote himself to music. In his quest to become a better, more diverse musician, he began learning rhythms and instruments from around the world, eventually bringing his focus to Middle Eastern percussion. He has studied Arabic percussion with Wessam Ayoub, Sattar Al Saadi, Lateef Al ‘Abeedi, N. Scott Robinson, and Mohammed Khalil Salih. Tim plays the dumbek, riqq, naqqarat, bendir, tabl and zanbur, as well as drum set, bass and guitar. Tim is married to Dena El Saffar, and enjoys spending his free time with their two children, Jamil and Layla.


Amir El Saffar

Amir ElSaffar has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music,” (the Wire) and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” (Chicago Tribune). A recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and United States Artists Fellowship, ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background and is conversant in the language of contemporary jazz, while creating 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 Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player.

Born near Chicago in 1977 to an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother, ElSaffar earned a bachelor's degree in classical trumpet from DePaul University, while playing actively on Chicago's jazz scene. He moved to New York in 2000 and played in the ensembles of Cecil Taylor, Vijay Iyer, and Rudresh Mahanthappa. In 2002, he embarked on a journey to Baghdad and throughout the Middle East to study the Iraqi Maqam. Upon returning to New York five years later, ElSaffar established himself with his work combining jazz and Middle Eastern music, in particular his microtonal harmonic and melodic approaches.

AmirFestival, Newport Jazz Festival, the Flamenco Biennale (Netherlands), Metropolitan Museum of Art, MAP Fund, and Chamber Music America. ElSaffar is composer in residence of the transcultural program at the Royaumont Foundation in France where he will create three new works between 2017 and 2019.