Thursday, February 6

Khyber Pass Concert and Conversation – Amir ElSaffar

Community Events & Programs

Thursday, February 6, 2020, 9:30pm

Khyber Pass Cafe – 1571 Grand Ave, St. Paul

$10 per person. Registration required. Register here.


Composer, trumpeter, santur player, and vocalist Amir ElSaffar has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music,” (the Wire) and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” (Chicago Tribune). A recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2018 US Artist Fellow, ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background, conversant not only in the language of contemporary jazz, but has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. Additionally, he is a purveyor of the centuries old, now endangered, Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the subtle microtones found in Iraqi maqam music to create an innovative approach to harmony and melody, and has received commissions to compose for large and small jazz ensembles, traditional Middle Eastern ensembles, chamber orchestras, string quartets, and contemporary music ensembles, as well as dance troupes.
In advance of ElSaffar’s performance with Ragamala Dance Company’s Written in Water at The Ordway on Saturday, February 15, join ElSaffar for a performance and conversation exploring the rich maqam music tradition and delving into how ElSaffar has used his maqam and jazz backgrounds to develop intersections with other musical traditions.
This event is part of Ragamala Rooted: Written in Water. To learn more about Ragamala Rooted, please visit
Ragamala Rooted is supported in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
through the Knight St. Paul Arts Challenge, the Mardag Foundation, the F.R. Bigelow
Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation, Target, Fredrikson & Byron, RBC Wealth
Management, and the City of St. Paul Cultural Sales Tax Revitalization Program. In-kind
support has been provided by MOD.