NPR, Album Pick >>
Iraqi tradition meets American innovation: That's the story behind Salaam, a band founded by the multi-talented Dena El Saffar, the daughter of a 12th-generation American mother and an Iraqi immigrant father and who plays violin, viola, oud, joza (a four-stringed spike fiddle) and sings. Not incidentally, Salaam is a family affair: El Saffar is the sister of trumpeter, santour player and jazz composer , and Salaam includes Dena El Saffar's husband, percussionist Tim Moore, and features both her brother and her sister-in-law, saxophonist and ney (flute) player Lety ElNaggar, on several tracks. (The Mexican-Egyptian ElNaggar, by the way, plays in the band M.A.K.U. SoundSystem, a group beloved by our colleagues over at and featured at last year's edition of in New York.)
10/01/13 >> go there
Given the extended clan's propensity for musical experimentation, it's not surprising that the textures are surprising and yet light and lovely, such as on the album's title track, in which El Saffar evokes the long-faded memories of her father's childhood rail rides from Baghdad to Basra — in a tune underpinned by a double bass.