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Musical Magician Amir ElSaffar


Iraqi-American trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar returns to The Soraya with his 17-piece jazz orchestra, the Rivers of Sound. The group’s Middle Eastern-inspired music blends with American jazz for a unique, infectious sound. Elements that traditionally divide musicians are reimagined in a fresh, transcultural soundscape.


A musical magician, ElSaffar has made an art of inter-weaving sounds and cultures luring listeners to lose themselves in a faraway world. These journeys almost always end in an exaltation, when he releases us back into the real world. His Iraqi-American upbringing can be found not only in the Middle Eastern harmonies and rhythms but more so, in the ways in which intersections abound everywhere.


Public radio station WBGO recently called the orchestra’s music an “exhilarating wash of sound, layers upon layers, meant to induce a phenomenon commonly known in Iraqi maqam as tarab, a sense of having an out-of-body experience.” It highlights the sounds of oud, buzuq, and santur, and a Persian stringed hammered dulcimer, played by ElSaffar himself. He also weaves in Western classical instruments such as violin, cello, and oboe.


The roots of the Aditya Prakash Ensemble’s unique collaboration began during the members’ Ethnomusicology studies at UCLA, where horizons to cross-cultural musical interaction expanded vastly. The young, imaginative group of musicians, who while bridging seemingly disparate styles of music, create a boldly innovative and powerful mix of the deep-rooted tradition of Indian classical ragas, chants and rhythms with the modern sounds of brass band arrangement, jazz harmony, and hip hop-infused rhythms. The Ensemble has created an outlet for the Indian classical and jazz aesthetic to shine forth in an accessible, modern, playful yet powerful and dynamic way. The Aditya Prakash Ensemble will open the concert.

The Soraya, Sat., April 23, 8pm

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