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 Indian 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 Indian 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.

This 15-person ensemble features virtuosic artists hailing from America, India, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and Jordan, the majority of whom are based in the U.S. The instrumentation is just as eclectic as the ensemble, bringing together champions of the santur, oud, qanun, violin, sitar, bansuri, ney, shehnai, kamancheh, tabla and more.

Raga Maqam is made possible with support from our original producing partners at the India Center Foundation, commissioning partners at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and media partners at WNET’s All Arts as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

“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
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Affiliated artists

Amir ElSaffar, conductor, composer, trumpet, santur, vocals

Abhik Mukherjee, sitar

Arun Ramamurthy, violin

Dena ElSaffar, viola, joza

Firas Zreik, qanun

George Ziadeh, oud

Hamid Al Saadi, voice

Jay Gandhi, bansuri

Mari Tanaka, tanpura

Naseem Alatrash, cello

Nitin Mitta, tabla

Roopa Mahadevan, vocals

Samarth Nagarkar, vocals

Tim Moore, percussion

Trina Basu, violin

Zafer Tawil, oud, percussion