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Alwan for the Arts
New York, NY
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Alwan for the Arts debuts:



George Ziadeh & Zafer Tawil duo -- Music of Umm Kulthum

Safaafir -- Iraqi Maqam and Pesta

Tareq Abboushi -- Solo Buzuq improvisations

Yousif Yaseen -- Contemporary and traditional Kuwaiti songs

Abdulrahman Al Akhfash -- Songs of Yemen

The Alwan Ensemble -- Classics from Aleppo, Baghdad, and Cairo

Tarab Edition is an evening of musical renditions demonstrating diverse instrumental, rhythmic and vocal techniques that vivify different regions of the Arab world. The musical styles featured are varied yet intimate and contemplative; all are unified under the aegis of the Maqam model system, a system whose "essentialist" element, or logos, strives to adhere, seamlessly, to the brilliance, miraculous and pure eloquence of the Arabic language.

The range of readings include the Syrian Muwashah, Iraqi Maqam, Kuwaiti Sawt, Homayni songs from Yemen, and 20th century Egyptian compositions made once alive in the memorable vocal experience and enduring interpretive resonance of the legendary Umm Kulthum.


Abdulrahman Al Akhfash, an oud player and vocalist, hails from a line of musicians steeped in the Yemeni musical tradition. Over the past 20 years, Al Akfash has contributed significantly to the natural development and enrichment of the Sanani repertoire. His mix of traditional Yemeni music recordings and his own compositions have made him popular across Yemen and have built a bridge between different cultures. His performance style embodies the Yemeni tradition consisting of a solo singer with 'oud accompaniment and percussions highlighting rhythms in subtly expressive and poetic ways.

Amir ElSaffar is an Iraqi-American trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer. Amir has mastered disparate musical styles and a singular approach to combining aspects of Middle Eastern music with American jazz, extending the boundaries of each tradition. A skilled jazz trumpeter with a classical background, Amir has created new techniques to play microtones and ornaments that are idiomatic to Arabic music but not typically heard on trumpet. He is an acknowledged performer of the classical Iraqi maqam tradition, and performs actively in the US, Europe and the Middle East as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the microtones found in maqam music to create a unique approach to harmony and melody, establishing an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making.

Dena ElSaffar began learning the violin at the age of six. At age 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, she founded the group Salaam, a Middle Eastern music ensemble at Indiana University, while studying classical music. She studied with Hamid Al-Saadi, Munis Sharifov, Mohammed Gomar and Anwar Abudragh, and has performed with the Master Musicians of Jajouka as well as Youssou N'dour. Dena plays the viola, violin, joza and kemanche and has performed with Central Eurasian ensembles, salsa groups, bluegrass, blues and rock bands.

George Ziadeh, born in Palestine, pursued music from a young age. In 1986 he moved to the United States, where he studied 'oud with Simon Shaheen and classical singing and voice with Youssef Kassab. Ziadeh has performed as a soloist and as a member of various ensembles including the Alwan Arab Music Ensemble and the University of Chicago's Middle East Music Ensemble with Issa Boulos. He toured at the University of Colorado (Boulder) and performed at the United Nations. Ziadeh lectures annually at the Columbia University Department of Ethnomusicology. In 2008, he was a featured soloist and ensemble performer in the Brooklyn Maqam Festival of Arab Music. From 1995 to 1997, he taught at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah and Birzeit University. Ziadeh is an authority on maqam theory and Arab classical repertoire.

Tareq Abboushi graduated from William Paterson University with a B.M. in Jazz Piano Performance. He began playing the buzuq in 1997, starting at the National Conservatory of Music in Palestine. He has performed with such notable musicians as Simon Shaheen, David Brosa, Omar Farouk Tekbilek, and Grammy-Award-Winner Dan Zanes in the US, Canada, the Middle East and Europe. Abboushi's discography includes Amir ElSaffar's acclaimed "Two Rivers," and appearances on three albums with Dan Zanes: "Parades and Panoramas," "House Party" and "Night Time!" (Winner of "Best children's CD of the year" by amazon.com-2002). He has composed and performed music for the award-winning film "Chicken Heads" (best short film, 2010 Dubai Film Festival). His participation in other film scores includes the award-winning soundtrack for the film "Encounter Point" (best musical score, 2006 Bend Film Festival), "Man From Plains" (2007) and the Oscar-nominated "Rachel Getting Married" (2008), the last two directed by Jonathan Demme.

A deep fascination in the phenomenon of synthesized Bedouin "Shelat" music led Yousif Yaseen, Kuwaiti composer, guitarist and vocalist, to explore traditional Kuwaiti/Bahraini "Sout" melodies within the context of a novel, yet subtle harmonic framework, primarily executed on a modified guitar. An eclectic musician and avid experimenter, Yousif has been a songwriter, arranger, electronic musician, electric oudist, short film scorer and producer. He graduated with honors from Berklee College of Music and was mentored by Simon Shaheen. His debut album, "Visions", will be released in February 2016.

Zafer Tawil is a virtuoso on 'oud, violin, and qanun and a master of Arab percussion. He has performed nationally with renowned recording artist Sting, Arab music virtuosos Cheb Mami, Simon Shaheen, Bassam Saba and George Ziadeh, and avant-garde composer/ performer Elliot Sharpe. Zafer has also composed music for a number of films including acclaimed director Jonathan Demme's Oscar-nominated film Rachel Getting Married and Zeitoun, based on Dave Eggers' book about post-Hurricane Katrin.  Zafer has collaborated on concerts covering classical Indian and Persian music, Arabic/jazz fusion, and Arabic music at many institutions and universities across the United States. A native of Jerusalem, Palestine, he resides in New York City.

The Alwan Ensemble delivers a joyful and transporting range of classical songs from the Arab World built around textures of rhythmic and improvisational intensity. In the classical art music traditions of Cairo, Aleppo, and Baghdad - three important Arab cities with great legacies in art and culture - each has a unique repertory: the "dawr" and "qasida" of Cairo; the Andalusian "muwashshahat" of Aleppo; and "al-maqam al-Iraqi" of Baghdad; with
distinct characteristics, rules, and aesthetics.  Yet all adhere to the maqam and place great importance on poetry and the vocal melody sung by a soloist or a chorus, and is accompanied by an ensemble of traditional instruments, including the oud (lute), qanun (zither), nay (flute), violin, santur (hammered dulcimer), riqq (tambourine), and tabla (goblet drum).  The Alwan Ensemble is Amir ElSaffar (santur, vocal, trumpet), Tareq Abboushi (buzuq), George Ziadeh (oud and vocals) and Zafer Tawil (qanun and percussion).

Safaafir, led by Dena and Amir ElSaffar, American-born siblings of Iraqi descent, is the only US-based ensemble dedicated to performing the classical, vocal tradition of Iraqi maqam. Safaafir is a name that evokes the ancient art of copper-smithing in Iraq. Soug al-Safaafir, or the coppersmiths' market, is a well-known market in Baghdad, memorable for the din of hammers on copper and the glowing beauty of each creation. The sound of the Iraqi Maqam has often been likened to the Soug al-Safaafir for the metallic timbre of the instruments and the percussive hammering of the ancient rhythms. Since its inception in late 2005, Safaafir has performed throughout the US in concert halls, museums, universities and private parties.


Alwan for the Arts (View)
16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


Music > Global

Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!



Khaled E.
New york, NY United States
Jan 17, 2016 10:26 AM
Judith W.
New York, NY United States
Jan 17, 2016 9:55 AM
Ralph M.
New York, NY United States
Jan 17, 2016 9:55 AM
Gabriel C.
Brooklyn, NY United States
Jan 17, 2016 9:27 AM
Athar M.
Brooklyn, NY United States
Jan 17, 2016 9:27 AM

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