Emmanuel Jal (Sudan/US)
Emmanuel Jal has won worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with its message of peace and reconciliation born out of his experiences as a child soldier in Sudan. His music can be heard alongside Coldplay, Gorillaz, and Radiohead on the fundraising ‘Warchild – Help a Day in the Life’ album, as well as in three ER episodes, the National Geographic documentary God Grew Tired of Us, and more recently in the feature film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio. He also featured on John Lennon’s ‘Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur’ amongst the likes of U2, REM and Lenny Kravitz.
Mohsen Namjoo (Iran/US)
Mohsen Namjoo is an Iranian artist, songwriter, singer, music scholar and setar (traditional Persian lute) player based in New York City. Hailed as “the Bob Dylan of Iran” by the New York Times, Namjoo is a visionary artist who speaks for the youth in Iran. Seamlessly blending the Classical Persian setar with electric guitar, and rock and blues vocal techniques with Persian avaz (singing), he fuses the ancient with the current.
DJ Meddi (Libya/US)
Dena El Saffar (Iraq/US)
Dena El Saffar, of Iraqi and American heritage, grew up in a very musical family in the suburbs of Chicago. She began playing violin at age 6, and though Classical music was in the foreground, Arabic tunes were playing in the background. This was particularly true at Iraqi parties, which were a regular occurrence. Her family attended and sometimes hosted them, which meant days in the kitchen preparing traditional dishes. During a trip to Baghdad, a musical paradigm shift occurred; El Saffar became enchanted by the music of Iraq and the Middle East, and took it upon herself to learn how to play Arabic music. While working towards her degree in Viola Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, El Saffar recruited some like-minded musicians to join her in playing and performing Arabic music, founding the group Salaam (www.SalaamBand.com), which has a huge repertoire of music from the Arab World and Turkey. She plays the viola, violin, joza and oud. Over the years, she has increased her knowledge, studying with Iraqi musicians Hamid Al-Saadi, Mohammed Gomar and Anwar Abudragh, as well as Azerbaijani kemanche player Munis Sharifov. She has performed with the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Youssou N’dour and the National Arab Orchestra, as well performing and recording with countless ensembles. When she is not busy performing, she is attending to her music teaching studio, and spending time with her family.
Khaled M (Libya/US)
Son of a Libyan revolutionary, Khaled M is a Chicago-based Libyan-American hip hop artist who was born into the struggle. The reigning Chicago Urban Music Awards “Lyricist of the Year” has been featured in Rolling Stone, CNN, ABC World News, the New York Times, Yahoo! News, BBC, Complex Magazine, the Huffington Post, NPR and more. With a story fit for a Hollywood script, a loyal international fan base and a live show setting stages ablaze, it’s no wonder he was listed as one of CNN’s “Most Interesting People.”
Mamak Khadem (Iran/US)
Called “…one of the wonders of world trance music”, by The Los Angeles Times, Mamak Khadem captivates audiences by blending her roots in the ancient poetry and music of the Persian masters with a bold and revolutionary new sound. By nature, she is a nomad, one who thrives on open spaces. By occupation, she is a bridge, one that connects geography to lore. In music, she is open to cultural influences, but she has chosen the classical Persian style as her base. Formerly of the sensational cross-cultural fusion ensemble AXIOM OF CHOICE, Mamak weaves a canopy, both simple and rich, for a stunningly emotional and spiritual musical experience that inspires new listeners to embrace cultural diversity and an awareness and appreciation of Persian arts and culture through a blending of old and new.
Bassel & the Supernaturals (Syria/US)
Bassel & The Supernaturals combines neo-soul and funk with captivating lyrics about love, loss, and a war in Syria that has directly affected Bassel Almadani’s family along with 10,000,000 others. The soulful Syrian-American front man and his 7-piece ensemble released their full-length album, Elements, on February 24th, 2017. In addition to performing in clubs and festivals across the nation, Bassel has partnered with universities and charity organizations nationwide to host seminars, workshops, and benefit concerts drawing attention to the crisis in Syria.
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