Concert series continues Saturday with trio at OUS

Published 11:02 am Friday, November 15, 2013

The Lawrence County Concert Series continues at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday when the Ironton Council for the Arts and Ohio University Southern present The Salaam Band Trio, a Chicago-based Middle Eastern ensemble with an expansive repertoire of Middle Eastern and North American musical styles.

The performance is in the Collins Center Bowman Auditorium.

“They perform on a variety of Middle Eastern instruments, with musical genres ranging from songs of Upper Egypt and the Balkans, to Latin and American blues and rock,” Dr. Pat McCoy, lecturer in fine arts at OUS and Ironton Council for the Arts Director of Communications, said. “They actively perform throughout Chicago and the Midwest, and have gotten rave reviews from such notable organizations as National Public Radio and Billboard Magazine.”

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“Salaam” is the Arabic word for “peace,” chosen as the name for this ensemble by its founder, Chicago-born Iraqi-American Dena El Saffar, to confirm her commitment to tolerance and understanding among people.

Other members of the trio are Tim Moore, percussion, and Amir El Saffar, trumpet and santoor, which is an Iraqi hammered dulcimer.

Dena began learning the violin at the age 6. At 17, completely engaged in classical music, she accompanied her father to Baghdad and became enchanted by the music of Iraq and the Middle East. In 1993, while obtaining a classical music degree from Indiana University, she founded the group “Salaam” and has performed throughout the United States. She plays the viola, violin, joza and kemanche, with central Eurasian ensembles, salsa groups, bluegrass, blues and rock bands. Married to Moore, she is a mother of two.

Moore grew up in the Midwest and began playing drums at age 12. 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 left to devote time to music. He learned rhythms and instruments from around the world, and now focuses on Middle East percussion.

Amir El Saffar, born in 1977, is an acclaimed classical and jazz trumpeter who in recent years has delved into a completely different musical tradition, that of his ancestral past, the Iraqi maqam. This journey took him to Iraq and other countries throughout the Middle East, where he encountered several masters of the Iraqi Maqam and learned to sing the Maqam and play the santoor.

Amir has performed Iraqi Maqam nationally and internationally, including the cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Bloomington, Ind., Montreal, Cairo, Beirut and London. Hamid Al-Saaidi, Amir’s teacher, who is considered by many to be the best living Maqam singer, regards Amir as one of the important carriers of this tradition in his generation, and has said “Amir is a great addition to the Maqam. He is preserving the true essence of this music.”

“The trio has delighted audiences for years with its expansive repertoire of Middle Eastern and North African music,” McCoy said. “Salaam is true to the traditions, informing the uninitiated, and evoking nostalgia in listeners who are familiar with the art form.”

Salaam’s musicians have versatility and a deep knowledge of Eastern and Western styles, which allows for flexibility to move effortlessly between genres.

The sound, while rooted in maqam, infuses tasteful forays into jazz, rock, blues, classical and avant-garde.

Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door, or by going to the Ironton Council for the Arts website at

Visit the Salaam Band’s website at