“Ultimately, we aren’t approaching this as “tradition meets tradition,” but rather as musicians meeting, having a musical conversation, an exploration, and in the moment just dealing with the sound, rather than saying “Where did this come from” or “What tradition does this belong to?”
— Amir ElSaffar, composer
Born out of a collaboration between The India Center Foundation, Brooklyn Raga Massive, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Raga Maqam is an exploration of the shared threads of Iraqi Maqam and South Asian Raga. Featuring new music composed by Iraqi-American multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Amir ElSaffar in conjunction with members of Brooklyn Raga Massive and maqam virtuosos in NYC and beyond, Raga Maqam brings to life a unique and contemporary sound grounded in two ancient traditions.
Maqam is the modal system (musical scales with specific characteristic behaviors) of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, and is considered to be the counterpart to the South Asian Raga. Much like in raga, maqam music features improvisation within a structured set of parameters. Over the centuries, these systems have developed separately, each with distinct rules, musical syntaxes, and stylistic properties. At their core, both traditions draw from the same essence with historic evidence of cross pollination between the two. Raga Maqam draws inspiration from these shared commonalities and the vibrant musical histories of the ensemble members to create a modern, only-in-New York, evolution of these sister styles. Dive deeper into Amir’s approach to this work in an interview with The Jazz Gallery here.
This 15-person ensemble features virtuosic artists hailing from America, India, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Jordan, and Turkey, the majority of whom are based in the U.S. The instrumentation is just as eclectic as the ensemble, bringing together masters of the santur, oud, qanun, violin, sitar, bansuri, ney, shehnai, kamancheh, tabla and more. The project will also feature original visual art components with projections created for the live experience.