Interview with Dena El Saffar, Bloomington, Indiana

Dena El Saffar is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, teacher, and recording artist who has performed throughout the U.S. 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 six. At the age of seventeen, after winning several concerto competitions and touring Europe with a youth orchestra, she traveled to Iraq and became inspired to learn Iraqi music traditions. After completing a Viola Performance degree at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, she settled in Bloomington. While still a student, she founded the Middle Eastern music group Salaam, which focuses on music of the Arab world. Salaam has recorded nine albums, and has been featured on NPR, including an interview on All Things Considered with Guy Raz. El Saffar plays several traditional Middle Eastern instruments, including oud and joza, as well as violin and viola.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/23/2020.