With the Player’s Pub announcing its supposed last night of business Nov. 1, Dena El Saffar worried her band’s show at the venue this Thursday would never see the stage. Saffar is the bandleader of Salaam, a quartet that performs and composes Middle Eastern and Northern African music.
“I think it would be unfortunate for Bloomington if Player’s Pub went under,” she said. “But this show is happening, and I’m happy about that.”
Saffar said this is the first year the band has played once a month at the Player’s Pub, having previously played many shows at the venue. She said every month the band plays a World Music Night with other international artists.
Saffar said the band thinks of Player’s Pub as a home base, and although the venue seems to be back on track to finish out the year, she and her bandmates are nervous about the pub closing.
Saffar, who is of Iraqi and American descent, attended IU as a Jacobs School of Music student and said she began the group as a way to learn about Arabic music.
As a world music band, Saffar and her bandmates play a variety of instruments, from the ‘Oud, which is similar to the lute, to the hurdy-gurdy, or barrel organ.
For its show Thursday night, Saffar said the band will play a mix of traditional Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian music. She said the performance will also include some of her original songs as well as moments of improvisation.
“I usually wait until the day of or night before to create the set list,” she said. “I usually finalize it after rehearsal, in case someone is inspired,” she said.
The group’s guitarist, Tomás Lozano, originally from Barcelona, will be performing twice Thursday night. He will play the Spanish guitar in Salaam as well as perform as a vocalist in his new band, Tamango. He said the new group will showcase music of the Argentinian tango.
“Tamango means the dancing shoes,” Lozano said. “Put on your tamangos and dance. We’ll play the typical stuff, some waltzes and tangos, and we hope the tango community will come out and dance.”
In its over 20 years as a band, Salaam experienced some changes in its lineup, but Saffar said she and her husband Tim Moore have been the core of the group. She said the project has been very stimulating and allowed her to connect with the larger Arabic music community outside of Bloomington.
“Music is like an instant way to connect,” she said. “You don’t have to learn a language. It’s a window into a culture.”
Saffar said there is a lot of appreciation for world music in Bloomington and Salaam’s monthly shows at The Player’s Pub help the band tap into that. However, she said without The Player’s Pub, she would be unsure of what venues her band would work at.
“There’s not a lot of clubs that make sense for us,” she said. “We really appreciate the Player’s Pub. It’s really diverse there. They have rock music and blues and all that, but they also have every other kind of music.”