ROHM presenting Amir El Saffar and Omar Bashir


An innovative Iraqi-American musician and composer based in New York, Amir ElSaffar plays the trumpet and santur (dulcimer) and sings jazz and classic Arab music as well as an exciting fusions of the two genres. Amir ElSaffar is distinguished by his mastery of diverse music traditions and his ingenuity in creating new sounds in contemporary jazz.
In a unique approach to harmony and melody, ElSaffar has developed special techniques to play microtones and ornaments from Arab music on the trumpet. Having studied with Hamid Al Saadi, one of the most renowned maqam singers in Iraq, ElSaffar is well-versed in Iraqi Maqam, a centuries-old and presently endangered form of music which employs traditional Arab melodic modes.
Honoured with the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, ElSaffar has been described by the Chicago Tribune as “one of the most promising figures in jazz today”. Certainly his is an important voice in the present age of cross-cultural music.
ElSaffar leads four critically acclaimed ensembles: Two Rivers, which combines the music languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam with contemporary jazz; the Amir ElSaffar Quintet, which features ElSaffar’s microtonal compositions with standard jazz instrumentation; Safaafir, the only ensemble performing traditional Iraqi Maqam in the US; and the Alwan Ensemble, specialising in classical music from Egypt, the Levant, and Iraq.
ElSaffar has participated in numerous recordings, as well as releasing six well received albums under his own name, Maqams of Baghdad (2005), Two Rivers (2007), Radif Suite (2010), Inana (2011), Alchemy (2013), and Crisis (2015). ElSaffar is Director of the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at Columbia University in New York where he also teaches jazz ensembles.
This exciting jazz concert at the ROHM is a double-bill performance that features Iraqi-Hungarian oud virtuoso, Omar Bashir who plays in prestigious concert halls and has won numerous international awards. Omar first studied music at the age of five with his father, an oud maestro and supreme master of the Arab maqamat scale system. Two years later, the young child studied at the Baghdad Music and Ballet School and made his solo debut at the Baghdad Conservatory at the age of nine.
In 1991, as a young man, Omar left Baghdad in 1991 to continue oud studies at the Music Academy in Budapest, Hungary where he also learned classical guitar and studied Western music. Since graduating from the university in Budapest in 1997, Omar has performed internationally, both solo and with other musicians. Bashir has created his own band which he leads in a mix of traditional Arab styles with a jazz-like improvisation.
Omar Bashir performs for charity and is recognised by Unesco as contributing to the preservation of an important art for world heritage. Bashir has released a total of 23 CDs.
His 2010 EMI album Crazy Oud topped the charts in several Arab countries.
Amir ElSaffar and Omar Bashir will perform at the Royal Opera House Muscat on Saturday, March 25, at 7:30 pm. For further information and booking consult the ROHM website –