“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
Raga Maqam—a collaboration between BrooklynRaga Massive, The India Center Foundation, andLincoln Center—explores the shared threads ofIndian ragas and Iraqi maqam, the venerable tradition of structured-improvisatory composition. Featuring new work composed by Iraqi American multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Amir ElSaffar in conjunction with members of Brooklyn Raga Massive and maqam virtuosos from NYC and beyond, Raga Maqam imbues fresh life to their unique conversation between these ancient styles. Raga Maqam’s 15-performer ensemble unites a combo of virtuosic artists hailing from America, India, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and Jordan with instrumentation just as eclectic as its musicians, featuring champions of the santur, oud, violin, sitar, bansuri, kamancheh, tabla and more.
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.