Remembering Elias Lammam

Celebrated Lebanese Accordionist 

Elias Lammam, highly respected vocalist, arranger, conductor, composer and teacher has passed away. The son of a Greek musician mother who loved Arabic music and an Egyptian movie-producer father, Lammam was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. He began playing the piano and the accordion at age 8. As he matured as an artist he absorbed and reflected the music of Egyptian diva Om Kalthoum, composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Lebanese composers Assi and Mansour Rahbani, and singers Fairouz and
Abdel-Halim Hafez as well as many other classical and popular musical performers.

Before moving from the Middle East to the United States in 1998, Maestro Lammam toured as a featured soloist with notable singers Ragheb Alama, Georges Wassouf, Ghassan Saliba, Joseph Nemnom, and the famous Lebanese raqs sharqi (belly dance) dancers Amani and Samara.

Lammam’s original compositions have been heard on Middle Eastern television dramas as well as commercials for companies including Coca-Cola, Gillette, and Lipton Iced Tea. He was the band leader and principal soloist at the Escoba Arabic Nightclub in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for 10 years. His accordion music was a central feature of the score to the 2009 movie: Amreeka - A film by Cherien Dabis starring Hiam Abbass. Lammam was frequently referred to as the best microtonal accordionist of his generation. In 2016 he performed to great acclaim at the World Accordion Festival in Torres Vedras, near Lisbon, Portugal.

Elias Lammam was a master of Tarab, the Arabic musical style whose goal is ecstasy for the audience. A musician who is capable of inspiriing ecstasy in the audience experiences an exalted inner state where he or she becomes a conduit for melodic and rhythmic invention. This higher state of being is known in Arabic as Saltanah. It is rare. Elias reached it in every performance.

Each summer for the past four years he directed the Santa Cruz Arabic Music Week, an event which attracted students and professional performers of Arabic music from around the United States. As a teacher he inspired his students with his love for and depth of knowledge of Arabic music theory and performance.

His passing has left a void in our hearts. We will carry with us and treasure the gift of his teaching and the inexpressible magic of his music forever. Mark Bradlyn

Elias Lammam In Concert - 2013