Dena El Saffar, of Iraqi and American heritage, was exposed to Arabic music in the suburbs of Chicago, where she grew up attending Iraqi gatherings with her family. She began learning the violin at the age of six. At age 17, completely engaged in classical music, she accompanied her father to Baghdad and became enchanted by the music of Iraq and the Middle East . In 1993, while obtaining a classical music degree from Indiana University , she founded the group Salaam, a Middle Eastern music ensemble which has performed throughout the United States . She has studied with Hamid Al-Saadi, Munis Sharifov, Mohammed Gomar and Anwar Abudragh, and has performed with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and Youssou N’dour. Dena, who plays the viola, violin, joza and kemanche, has also performed with Central Eurasian ensembles, salsa groups, bluegrass, blues and rock bands. She is the older sister of Amir, is married to percussionist Tim Moore, and is the mother of two: Jamil and Layla.
Tim Moore grew up in the Midwest , and began playing drums at the age of 12. A natural percussionist, he began performing with different groups early on, gaining experience in a variety of genres including jazz, blues, salsa and rock. After earning a computer science degree from Indiana University in 1989, he worked on the East and West Coasts as a computer programmer, but in 1993 he left that world in order to devote himself to music. In his quest to become a better, even more diverse musician, he began learning rhythms and instruments from around the world, eventually bringing his focus to Middle Eastern percussion. He has studied Iraqi-style percussion with Wessam Ayoub, Sattar al Saadi, Lateef al ‘Abeedi, and Mohammed Khalil Salih. Tim plays the dumbek, riqq, naqqarat and bendir, tabl and zanbur as well as drum set and guitar. Tim is married to Salaam violist, Dena El Saffar, and enjoys spending his free time with their two children, Jamil and Layla.