Universal Love

This event occurred in the past

Universal Love

This event occurred in the past

Date and Time

  • Wednesday, November 11, 2015 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.


Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, Peace & Justice Theatre

5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110




In a world wrought with global conflict, we believe musicians can show and lead the way to peace, employing our most universal language to engage us all. Exemplifying our message of arts diplomacy, Saffron Caravan united musicians from Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Morocco, India, Israel, Bosnia, Brazil and the United States for cross-cultural collaborative performance, music education and humanitarian work.


This particular program featured Badi Assad (Lebanese-Brazilian) on vocals and guitar, Aaron Bensoussan (Moroccan) on vocals and oud and Haytham Safia (Arab-Israeli) on oud, joined by guest percussionist, Tony Pesikan, from Bosnia. We were taken on a musical journey from the Balkans through the Middle East and North Africa to Brazil as we traced the cultural crossroads of Sevdah, the music of love. The concert included an original composition, specifically for Saffron Caravan, by Nigel Osborne, composer, global human rights activist and emeritus professor of music at the University of Edinburgh.

The musicians of Saffron Caravan, Guest Artist Tony Pesikan and Genesis at the Crossroads' founder and executive director, Wendy Sternberg, led a roundtable on Thursday, November 12  from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Room D of the Institute for Peace and Justice.

Badi Assad (Lebanese-Brazilian) (Guitar and Vocals) has played an array of international concerts and festivals. With 15 albums released worldwide, her CD Wonderland was selected by BBC London as among the 100 Best and Amazon.com’s 30 Best. In addition to reaching the Top 10 in Europe, her hit song Waves was featured in the soundtrack It Runs in the Family. Awarded Best Composer of the Year for her CD Between Love and Luck, she was also named by Rolling Stone as among the Brazilian guitar masters in history, and Guitar Player selected her as one of the guitar players who would revolutionize the world.

Aaron Bensoussan (Moroccan) (Vocals and Oud) studied Sephardic liturgical music with his father and master musicians in Morocco. A graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, he has trained with master Ashkenazic and Sephardic Hazzanim. Bensoussan has served as lead Hazzan for 25 years in North American congregations while performing in worldwide concerts and festivals from Carnegie Hall to the Jerusalem Theatre. His compositions — including his album A New Journey — masterfully weave together Ashkenazic/Sephardic, Middle Eastern, Jazz, Flamenco and Pop rhythms into a colorful tapestry. His interpretative compostion, L’cha Dodi, has been sung the world over.


The music of Haytham Safia (Arab-Israeli) (Oud) is colorfully sourced from his rich cultural past. He was born into a Muslim family in Kafr Kasif, a Christian village in Israel’s northern Galilee, an area strongly influenced by its neighboring Druze community. A versatile and adventurous musician, Safia graduated from Jerusalem’s Academy of Music and Dance and traveled to The Netherlands for further crosscultural challenges. His CDs Promises, Blossoms, Fresh Moods and U’D showcase Safia's oud-playing gifts, renowned for their precision and experimentation. A talented and innovative composer, his latest quartet incorporates Oriental rhythms while respecting classical Western components. 

Hailing originally from Nagasaki, Japan, Keita Ogawa (Japan) (Percussionist)  is one of the most versatile and sought-after drummers & percussionists in New York City.  He has performed with some of the biggest names in modern music including:  Yo-Yo Ma, the Assad Brothers, Osvaldo Golijov, Danilo Perez, Benny Green, as well as the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and others.  He is a proud member of the Grammy Award winning-band,Snarky Puppy.Keita can play virtually any percussion instrument and musical style with fluency and unparalleled musicality. A prolific youth leader, he has set an example for the next generation of world-class musicians. Keita exhibits his rare talent and passion for crossing musical borders and uniting cultural differences with a warm smile and an open heart.

Nigel Osborne (Composer) is emeritus professor of music at the University of Edinburgh and a human rights activist, and serves as co-chair of the World Economic Forum. He studied composition with Egon Wellesz (Arnold Schoenberg’s first pupil), among others. The winner of numerous prizes, including the Koussevitzky Award of the Library of Congress, Osborne’s works have been featured in international festivals and performed by leading orchestras from the Moscow Symphony to the L.A. Philharmonic. He has worked in the Balkans, East/West Africa, the Middle East, Caucasus and Southeast Asia, helping traumatized children heal through music, while studying the neurophysiological/neuropsychological benefits of music.

Wendy Sternberg, MD, is founder and executive director of Genesis at the Crossroads, and has forged national and international partnerships with more than 45 institutions on five continents to found Saffron Caravan. She is developing the future Genesis Academy for Global Leadership, a boarding high school embedding art in an interdisciplinary curriculum. She was one of 22 world leaders selected for the 2009 Rotary Peace Fellowship, and in 2014 was a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow in a symposium on the transformational power of arts and culture. Her medical career informs the healing aspects at the heart of Genesis.

Saffron Caravan — “The Essence of Arts Diplomacy” — is the Genesis at the Crossroads’ World Music Ensemble that unites stellar musicians from Iran, Afghanistan, Morocco, Israel, India and the United States to create new art and perform together. They demonstrate that the arts can be used to build sustainable bridges between cultures, made stronger through educational initiatives. Their repertoire, spanning seven languages and multiple keys, explores both the sacred and mystical traditions in Arab, Jewish and Persian music. Infused with sub-Saharan roots of blues and jazz, spiced with Afro-Caribbean, South American and Southeast Asian rhythms, their evocative melodies transport international audiences. 

Genesis at the Crossroads (GATC) is a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization, founded in 1999, whose mission is to use the arts as a vehicle for peacebuilding, creating and implementing innovative performance, arts-integrated education and humanitarian programs worldwide. Their vision: to help fashion a world where cross-cultural artistic expression and collaboration serve as a catalyst for interethnic dialogue and innovation, global understanding and world peace. Education and humanitarian initiatives sustain and further those bridges while nurturing global leadership. Under Sternberg’s leadership, Genesis boasts over 100 award-winning programs, internationally acclaimed by the United Nations, the Kennedy Center, Rotary, the King of Morocco, the British Council, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the U.S. State Department.  



Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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