Workshop: Workshop on the Iraqi Maqam: Classical Music of Baghdad

Sun, July 31, 2005 1:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all workshops »)

Workshop held by Amir ElSaffar,
Iraqi Maqam singer and santur player

Sunday, July 31 1:00-5:00 PM
Fee: $40

The Maqam of Iraq is a highly-sophisticated classical music form that has played a vital role in both secular and religious aspects of Iraqi society for many centuries. This urban vocal tradition, which is unique in the Arab world, contains elements that reach deep into Iraq's heritage and history. Performed primarily in Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Basra, the Iraqi Maqam draws upon musical traditions of the geographical area of present-day Iraq and its neighboring lands. Melodies of Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Turkoman, and Arab origins are woven together into a cohesive repertoire of elaborate, semi-improvised compositions, known as maqamat, which are organized according to strict rules of structure and aesthetics of beauty.

The focus of this workshop will be on the Maqam tradition of Baghdad, which contains about sixty maqamat, each of which has a unique form and spirit. In performance, a maqam is always followed by a popular song, known as a pesteh, which creates a light-hearted, joyful mood, in contrast the heavy, contemplative nature of the maqam.

In this workshop, intended for musicians and non-musicians alike, Amir ElSaffar will give an overview of the maqam system, show how melodies form individual compositions, and teach participants some of the maqam melodies as well as some of the pesteh repertoire.

This workshop is a rare opportunity to learn about this rich and unique musical tradition and a chance to expand one's musical listening and appreciation skills.

About the Presenter:
Amir ElSaffar was born in Chicago to an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother. He began studying the trumpet at the age of nine, and by the time he was 15, he was playing his first professional engagements. Subsequently, he established himself as a Jazz and Classical trumpet player, performing with many world-renowned musicians and winning several major competitions in both styles of music. In 2002, Amir took leave of his performing career in New York to travel to Baghdad, where he began learning santur (hammered box-zither) and singing Iraqi Maqam. Upon leaving Iraq in the beginning of 2003, he continued his studies in other parts of the Middle East, as well as in Europe, where he encountered a large Diaspora of actively performing Maqam musicians. His primary teacher, Hamid al-Saadi, is a renowned master of the Iraqi Maqam and is currently the only living singer to have mastered the entire Baghdadi Maqam repertoire. Over the past year, Amir has performed Iraqi Maqam in New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, as well as abroad, in Beirut, Cairo, and London.

Last updated: 2008-01-11 06:02:44


Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

Alwan Auction 2016

Join Our Mailing List:



Classes are currently being scheduled. Please check back soon for updates.



There are currently no upcoming events.


16 Beaver Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732 3261
Email Us

Alwan for the Arts is accessible to people with disabilities. Please call 646 732 3261 in advance, or, buzz at the door to arrange a ramp.

© 2020 Alwan for the Arts

Hosting donated by:, the Arabic Encyclopedia