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Meet the Band

Dena El Saffar, Viola, Violin, Joza, 'Oud, Vocals

email: dena@salaamband.com 

Dena El Saffar is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, teacher and recording artist who has performed throughout the US as well as in the Middle East and Latin America. Born and raised in a musical family in Chicago, she learned about her Iraqi heritage through stories, music and recipes. She began violin lessons at the age of 6.  At the age of 17, after winning several concerto competitions and touring Europe with a youth orchestra, she traveled to Iraq and became inspired to learn the Iraqi music traditions.  While completing a Viola Performance degree at the IU Jacobs School of Music, she founded Salaam in order to focus on music of the Arab World. El Saffar plays several traditional Middle Eastern instruments – ‘oud, and joza – as well as violin and viola. She has a long list of recording projects with well-known American musicians such as Krista Detor, Slats Klug, Moira Smiley and Michael White. She has toured and performed with countless ensembles including Youssou N’Dour, Rivers of Sound Orchestra, the National Arab Orchestra, and Iraqi Maqam ensemble Safaafir. When she is not busy performing or teaching, Dena enjoys hiking in the woods and spending time with her family.



Tim Moore, Percussion

email: tim@salaamband.com

Tim Moore grew up in the Midwest, and began playing drums at the age of 11.  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, more diverse musician, he began learning rhythms and instruments from around the world, eventually bringing his focus to Middle Eastern percussion.   He has studied Arabic percussion with Wessam Ayoub, Sattar Al Saadi, Lateef Al ‘Abeedi, N. Scott Robinson, and Mohammed Khalil Salih.  Tim plays the dumbek, riqq, naqqarat, bendir, tabl and zanbur, as well as drum set, bass and guitar. Tim is married to Dena El Saffar, and enjoys spending his free time with their two children, Jamil and Layla.




Tomás Lozano, Guitar, Hurdy-Gurdy, Percussion, Vocals


  Tomás Lozano is an instrumentalist, vocalist and composer born in Barcelona, Spain, and raised between southern Spain and Catalonia. Known for his eclectic musicianship, Lozano's performance of Spain's traditional ballads sung in Castilian, Catalan and Galician, stand out as iconic.  Lozano also plays contemporary, popular and European folk music from France, Spain, Britain, the Middle East and Sepharad.  Beyond that, he performs his original compositions, solo or accompanied.  He currently performs with a variety of ensembles such as  Daily Bread & Butter, !Viva la Pepa!, Kativar, Istanbul Breeze,  Simkhe, M3rde, Celtica, Tamango and Salaam. Tomás has performed throughout Europe, the US, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica.


Ozan Cemali, Baglama, 'Oud, Vocals

Ozan Cemali was born in 1970 in Ankara, Turkey.  He has been playing Baglama (long-necked Turkish folk instrument) since the age of 10.  Nurtured by the love of music that comes from his family, Ozan has been singing, performing and improvising in varied cultural settings from traditional coffee houses (a significant component of becoming a troubadour in Turkey), to contemporary musical venues.  At the age of seventeen he widened his musical repertoire to include the Oud.  In addition to his skills in interpreting the corpus of traditional songs, he also has a growing songbook of his own compositions.



Amir ElSaffar, Santoor, Trumpet, Vocals


  Amir ElSaffar, born in 1977, is an acclaimed classical and jazz trumpet player who in recent years has delved into a completely different musical tradition, that of his ancestral past, the Iraqi maqam. This journey took him to Iraq and other countries throughout the Middle East, where he encountered several masters of the Iraqi Maqam and learned to sing the Maqam and play the santoor, a hammered-dulcimer native to Iraq. He has performed Iraqi Maqam nationally and internationally, including the cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Bloomington, IN, Montreal, Cairo, Beirut and London. Hamid Al-Saaidi, Amir’s teacher, who is considered by many to be the best living Maqam singer, regards Amir as one of the important carriers of this tradition in his generation, and has said "Amir is a great addition to the Maqam…he is preserving the true essence of this music."


Miguel Merino, Percussion

Miguel Merino studied drumset in the University of Miami’s jazz program. After immersing himself in Miami's diverse musical culture, he moved to Egypt in early 2009, where for the next three years he played with musicians from Egypt, the Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. This gave him the opportunity to learn many of the local hand drums, as well as the masankop,  an East-African lyre to which he was introduced by musicians in the Sudanese community. Miguel also leads the group Otaak Band, his own project based around this instrument.


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