Developed by the Kennedy Center for their 2009 Arabesque Festival, Sounds of Desire is a concert version of Heather’s award winning play 9 Parts of Desire featuring the acclaimed Iraqi American musician Amir El Saffar. Since 2009, Heather has travelled with this concert to dozens of universities and arts institutions both performing and engaging audiences about the politics and arts of Iraq as well as leading workshops in immigrant narrative, solo show writing and her process creating 9 Parts of Desire.
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Heather Raffo, author and actress of the award winning one woman show 9 Parts of Desire, teams up with Amir ElSaffar, accomplished Jazz trumpeter and Iraqi santoor player, Syrian vocalist Gaida, percussionist Johnny Farraj and oud player Hadi Eldebek for a dramatic evening of spoken word and melodic solos. Using characters from the acclaimed one-woman show like slam poetry, together they present a concert of urban and classical sounds that spring from both their Iraqi and American roots.
Heather Raffo’s 9 Parts of Desire, described by The New Yorker as “an example of how art can remake the world”, details the lives of nine ordinary and extraordinary Iraqi women. Both mythical and contemporary, the women’s words weave in and out of the ancient quarter tone scales of the classical santoor and the improvisational heart of jazz, resulting in a melody decidedly Iraqi and American.
This is the first full collaboration amongst these artists. Amir and Heather met soon after the Iraq war began in 2003. Both children born of Iraqi and American parents, they naturally had a lot in common. Raised in the mid-west, both became artists with strong American influences. Yet the war would prove to be a pivotal point in their work. Both have large extended families still living in Baghdad, and their recent work reflects a vision of translating an Iraqi cultural experience for an American ear.
Sounds of Desire was created as a platform from which Amir and Heather could expand their already well known work with the addition of new characters, new music and new musicians. For this performance they are especially thrilled to be collaborating with Gaida, Johnny Farraj and Hadi Eldebek . As musicians they have been working for many years in some of New York’s top musical venues. Remarkably creative and diverse they have individually and together established themselves as major talents in the contemporary music scene. With the expertise of Gaida, Johnny and Hadi Sounds of Desire has taken on a full musical soundscape enveloping many more influences and textures. With each musician fully steeped in not only the traditions of their heritage in the Middle East, but with the countries of their travels, studies and their present homes.
Amir has performed extensively as a Jazz and Classical trumpeter with esteemed artists such as Cecil Taylor, Vijay Iyer, and Daniel Barenboim. After a trip to Iraq in 2002, his focus shifted to the Iraqi santoor, a hammered dulcimer instrument, and the traditional music of Iraq, known as the Maqam. He has now mastered a significant portion of the Maqam repertoire, and leads Safaafir, which is the only ensemble in the US performing the Iraqi Maqam. His newest works, Innana and Two Rivers, brings Maqam melodic structures into a modern Jazz context.
To inquire about booking the Sounds of Desire Concert, click here.