New York

Speaking across the divide

Exploring communication across cultures with translator Esther Allen, maqam singer Hamid Al-Saadi and trumpeter Amir ElSaffar

Our condition is one of both shared humanity, and deep differences of culture and language. How do we respect those differences while reaching out across the divide? The art of translation is a subtle and necessary one, whether in literature or music, preserving the particularity of our experiences, while allowing us to flourish together. Join us this evening to learn about how translation affects how we understand one another – and ourselves.

Image of Esther Allen

Esther Allen


Esther Allen is a writer and translator. She is a professor at Baruch College and for the PhD programs in French and in Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures at City University of New York Graduate Center. Esther is a two-time recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowships (1995 and 2010) and was a 2009-10 Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Her translation of Zama, by Antonio Di Benedetto, won the 2017 National Translation Award. In 2018-19, she was a Guggenheim Fellow. Her essays, translations and interviews have appeared in the New York Review of Books, the Paris Review, Words Without Borders, Bomb, LitHub, The New Yorker and other publications.

Esther can be found on Twitter and her official website.

Image of Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar


Composer, trumpeter, santur player, and vocalist Amir ElSaffar has 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. He was a recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2018 US Artist Fellow. Amir is a purveyor of the Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, Amir has used the subtle microtones found in 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.

Amir can be found on Twitter, Instagram and his official website.

Image of Hamid Al-Saadi
Image of Hamid Al-Saadi and Amir ElSaffar

Hamid Al-Saadi


Maqam scholar, singer, artist and writer, Hamid Al-Saadi learned the art of singing and performing the Iraqi maqam from legendary musician Yusuf Omar. Hamid is the only person in his generation to have memorised and mastered all 56 maqamat from the Baghdadi repertoire, and is recognised as one of the few vocalists keeping the maqam alive today, at a time when so many elements of this profound tradition are in danger of extinction. Hamid is also author of al-maqam wo buhoor al-angham, a comprehensive text on the Iraqi maqam and its poetry.

Sam Dresser


Sam Dresser is a senior editor at Aeon+Psyche. He enjoys, to a fault, taking interminable train rides and drinking good Scotch, both of which pair beautifully with what we do at Sophia Club New York: talk about meaningful ideas in a lively, playful way.

Event and ticketing details

Date and time

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

6:30PM ’til late


Concession - $18

Full - $25


The Jane Hotel
113 Jane Street New York 10014

  • Doors open: 6.30pm
  • Performance starts: 7.30pm sharp
  • Bar food and beverages available for purchase throughout evening
  • Access your ticket for the event QR code using the Download PDF button at the bottom of your ticket email
  • Sophia Club New York events take place in the heritage building at The Jane Hotel. If you have accessibility requirements or queries, please get in touch with our support team at
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
The Jane Hotel,
113 Jane Street New York 10014
6:30PM ’til late

The Sophia Club is a new venture from Aeon Media, the publisher of Aeon and Psyche magazines.

Aeon is based in Melbourne, Australia and we respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our Melbourne events take place, the Wurundjeri people of the Woiworung language group of the Kulin Nation.
We value the knowledge traditions and rich practice of philosophy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia, and all First Nations peoples around the world.