Amir ElSaffar - Rivers Of Sound

Iraq USA
Jazz Classical Experimental Middle East
Amir ElSaffar - Rivers Of Sound

Iraqi-American trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar has mastered disparate musical styles and created a singular approach to combining aspects of Middle Eastern music with American jazz, extending the boundaries of each tradition.

ElSaffar’s Rivers of Sound orchestra presents 17 musicians from a broad spectrum of traditions; together, the group creates an entirely new musical language that transcends established notions of style and convention. In performing Not Two, a composition by ElSaffar, each musician in the Rivers of Sound orchestra interacts with the group to create a new approach to transcultural music through the combination of improvisation and composition, the merging of musical languages, maqam and polyphony, and the novelty of the sound.

ElSaffar received funding from the MAP Fund and Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, to create Rivers of Sound. The 17 members came to New York City from as far away as Qatar, Palestine, and Brussels in April for three days of rehearsal, the premiere of Not Two at the
Lincoln Center, and an epic 14-hour day at Avatar Studios, where they recorded the 80-minute suite directly to tape. ElSaffar believes that the nature of this sound cannot be captured digitally and has committed to all analog.

Recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the winner of the Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition, he currently leads four critically-acclaimed ensembles:

  • Two Rivers , which combines the musical languages of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz
  • The Amir ElSaffar Quintet, performing ElSaffar's microtonal compositions with standard jazz instrumentation
  • Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing and preserving the Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format
  • The Alwan Ensemble, specializing in classical music from Egypt, the Levant, and Iraq.

  • Amir ElSaffar and Rivers of Sound – Jourjina Over Three
    Amir ElSaffar and Rivers of Sound – Jourjina Over Three
  • Amir ElSaffar’s Rivers of Sound Orchestra - "Not Two" Album Trailer
    Amir ElSaffar’s Rivers of Sound Orchestra - "Not Two" Album Trailer
"Alles ist da, in der Partitur fein verteilt, der Posaunenchor, die Ruf-und-Antwort- Tradition des Blues, die Atmosphäre des basars, das geräuschig Rätselhafte der Neuen Musik"
Zeit Online
Not Two
Not Two
New Amsterdam Records
Line up
Rivers of Sound

Amir ElSaffar - Santur / vocal, trumpet
Carlo DeRosa - upright bass
Ole Mathisen - tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Fabrizio Cassol - alto saxophone
Nasheet Waits - drums
Tareq Abboushi - buzuq
Dafer Tawil - Oud / percussion
George Ziadeh - oud / vocal
JD Parran - clarinet, bass saxophone
Mohamed Saleh - oboe / English horn
Tim Moore - Dumbek / frame drum
Miles Okazaki - Electric guitar
Aruán Oritz - piano
Rajna Swaminathan - mrudangam
Naseem Alatrash - cello
Dena ElSaffar - violin
Jason Adasiewicz - vibraphon




2018 November, October
Michael Winkler
Michael Winkler
Booking Agent / +49 30 26 103 29 25
Leya Jerzy
Leya Jerzy
Production & PR / +49 30 26 103 29 33

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