Dawn Elder

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Dawn Elder
Dawn Elder profile picture.jpg
Background information
Born San Francisco
Genres Pop, rock, Arabic music, world, jazz, classical
Occupation(s) Record producer, songwriter, artist manager, event organizer, musician
Instruments Piano
Years active 1980s-present
Labels De Music, Ark 21/Mondo Melodia, CIA, Six Degrees, Universal, Virgin, Sony, etc.
Associated acts Cheb Khaled, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, MC Rai, Simon Shaheen, Sting, Cheb Mami, Amina, Souad Massi, Hakim, Kazem Al Saher, Wadi al-Safi, Sabah, Mohammed Wardi, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Cole, Karina Pasian, Carlos Santana, Quincy Jones, Mayssa Karaa
Website Dawn Elder Management

Dawn Elder (San Francisco, California) is an American composer, record and television producer, director, event organizer, and artist manager,[1] best known for her efforts to fuse Middle Eastern music with contemporary rock and pop music.[2]

Since the 1980s she has served as a manager or representative for artists such as Woody Harrelson, Manly Moon Dog & the Three Kool Kats, The Beach Boys, George Clinton, Quincy Jones, Simon Shaheen, and Hakim, as well as various diplomatic figures. She spent several years as the vice president of Ark 21/Mondo Melodia starting in 1999, and she has helped produce albums such as Desert Roses & Arabian Rhythms Vol 1 & 2, (with Sting, Cheb Mami, and others), Blue Flame (2001) by Simon Shaheen & Qantara, and Ya-Rayi (2004) by Cheb Khaled featuring Carlos Santana and Don Was. Five of the albums she has produced have been nominated for Grammys.[3]

After her work at Ark 21, Elder founded Dawn Elder World Media & Entertainment Enterprises, an entertainment firm based in California.[3] Elder has developed and directed specials by networks such as ABC, NBC, PBS, MTV, and NPR.[3] She founded the annual International Friendship Festival in California,[1] Peace Through Music, Team Up America, and several other cultural festivals and conferences in the United States.[3]

In 2012 Elder co-founded the label World Harmony Studios and DE Music in Santa Barbara.[1] That year Elder brought together Voices of Afghanistan,[4] an Afghani ensemble featuring vocalist Ustad Farida Mahwash, rubab master Homayoun Sakhi, and The Sakhi Ensemble.[5] Elder helped compose several tracks on the group's debut album.[6]

Early life, education[edit]

Dawn Elder was born and raised in San Francisco, California.[2] She is of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ancestry;[3] her mother is from Lebanon, while her father is of Palestinian descent. Elder was named after the Lebanese diva Sabah, whose first name means "early morning" in Arabic.[2]

Growing up in the 1970s Elder listened avidly to rock bands such as The Eagles and The Beatles. While in school she often took part in public speaking competitions, also training figure skating at the local ice rink, and studying classical piano At one point her father took her to see a Lebanese diva perform in a concert hall, and Elder stated the event had a profound effect on her. "It was like a moment out of the space-time continuum. This exotic woman singing these ancient sounds, and thousands of Arab Americans from all over California singing along and cheering her like she was a rock star."[2]

Elder attended the University of California, Berkely in the early 1980s, pursuing a double degree in biochemistry and music.[3] She took a hiatus to direct and produce a series of festivals, artists, and events in Santa Barbara, California promoting world, Latin and rock artists.[2] She later graduated from the University of California with a degree in Music Education, and at that point was fluent in French and multiple Arabic dialects, also learning Italian and Spanish.[3]

Music industry career[edit]

Early management, festivals[edit]

In 1990 Elder began managing and representing American actor Woody Harrelson. A year later she helped direct and produce the Halloween ABC Special - Woody Harrelson on ABC, one of her first television jobs. Also in 1990 she began working with Mike Love from The Beach Boys. In 1992 she started managing his son Christian Love and his musical group Alex's Cane, also working for Arlo Guthrie on a two-year project.[3]

In 1991 she started developing and co-organizing the first bi-annual conference 'T.E.A.M EXPO - Teaching. Entertainment. Arts. Music.' The first event drew 100,000 participants, and she worked with the organization until 2000.[3]

She produced the first P.A.T.H.E.S., Preservation of Artistic Traditional Heritage Entertainment Society festival in May 1995.[3] According to the Los Angeles Times about the events, "When Latin rock took off as a popular strain in California music, [Elder] pioneered a Spanish dance festival and concert events to celebrate the Latino history of the Central Coast."[2] Also in 1995, she coordinated the Project Teach Tomorrow’s Teachers scholarship program,[3] working with Mike Love on fundraising concerts. In 1995 she also became artistic manager and representative for bands such as George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.[2]

International Friendship Festival

Elder is the founder of the International Friendship Festival in California.[3] The origin of the project was in late 1996, when songwriter Michael Sembello asked Elder for help planning[2] a Santa Maria[7] video shoot for his song "One Planet One People." The project expanded, and the Los Angeles Times states "What became known as the International Friendship Festival aspired to bring to one California venue as many ethnicities and bands as possible."[2]

Elder was introduced to Arab composer musician Simon Shaheen and such groups as the Kan Zaman Community Ensemble in Arcadia, an "all-volunteer Arabic orchestra" who create symphonic sounds based on ancient musical traditions. She also learned that her namesake Sabah was visiting Los Angeles. When Elder mentioned she was "trying to introduce Arabic music to a massive L.A. audience," Shabah offered to perform for free. For the first event, the LA Times stated "Sabah assembled an all-Arab American orchestra to back her up, performed to a packed Southern California crowd and added her voice, along with the Kan Zaman players, to a live rendition of Sembello's song about global oneness. The moving event was a turning point in Elder's career, and a milestone for L.A.'s Arab American community."[2] She continues to organize the events.[3]


By 1995 she had produced hundreds of concerts and festivals, including programming the entertainment for the US Latin world festival Old Spanish Days. In 1998 Elder spent a year managing Lebanese singer Sabah, and also in the 1990s she started producing and managing Wadi al-Safi, Michael Sembello, The Bridge, Simon Shaheen, Mohammed Wardi, George Clinton and the P-Funk, Cheb Khaled, Cheb Mami, and certain projects for Stevie Wonder.[3]

She helped on the One Planet One People global broadcast and PBS special from 1997 to 1998, and also in 1998 she worked on the first Arab-American Music, Arts, and Literature (AMAL) Awards, with over 50,000 attendees at the live broadcast and events in Washington D.C.. In 1999, she created and produced the Debka for Peace event in Los Angeles, which focused on the Arab folk dance debka. Featuring the Adam Basma Dance Company, the televised version won a Tele Award.[3]

Ark 21 years[edit]

Early production credits (1998-2002)

Elder helped arrange and co-produce the 1998 album Mohammed Wardi with the African Birds by Sudanese singer-songwriter Mohammed Wardi, which won a National Award of Excellence. The following year she produced a second album by Wardi, titled Longing for Home.[6]

In 1999, Ark 21/Mondo Melodia CEO Miles Copeland hired Elder as the label’s vice-president, and she brought a number of her artists to the label.[8] The following year she began producing a large number of albums on Ark 21, starting with Historic Live Recording of Arabic Masters by Two Tenors & Qantara (Wadi al-Safi and Sabah), The Lion Roars Live (Hakim), and Blue Flame (Simon Shaheen & Qantara). She recorded, arranged, and produced the albums, also serving as executive producer and directing the live TV broadcast for Historic Live Recording of Arabic Masters. That year she also was the executive producer on an album by Kazem Al Saher.[6]

She also worked periodically on non-Ark 21 albums; she developed and produced the first United States tour and release for Raoui by Algerian musician Souad Massi, which was released on Wrasse Records in 2001.[6] In 2000 she started managing Kadim Al Sahir, Egyptian singer Hakim (for North America), Riffat Sultana & Party, Shabaz, Cheb Mami, along with other artists and a US concert project for Lebanese singer Fairuz, and cultural projects for Sting. In 2001 she started managing Amina Annabi and the late DJ Cheb i Sabbah.[3]

In 2001 her Ark 21 productions included an album by Hakim, The Lion Roars.[6] That year she was traveling in the United States with eighteen musicians, about to embark on a ten-city US tour with Khaled and Hakim, when the tour was cancelled because of 9/11.[9] She stated the celebratory nature of the tour would have been inappropriate, and travel had become unsafe.[10] The tour was successfully rescheduled for February 2002.[11]

Other Ark 21 albums she produced in 2001 included Nomad: Best of Amina by Amina, Blue Flame by Simon Shaheen and Qantara, and Dellali by Cheb Mami, which peaked at #7 on Top World Music Albums chart. Also in 2001 she was executive producer on the compilation Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms, Vol. 1, and Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms, Vol. 2 in 2002 as well.[6] According to The Boston Phoenix in 2001, "this past summer, two savvy world-music labels, Putumayo and Six Degrees, released Arabic-music samplers. But most of the credit for the Arabic-music boom has to go to the California-based Ark 21 imprint Mondo Melodia."[8]

Management and songwriting (2002-2004)
Elder and Quincy Jones in Rome

In 2002 she started managing special projects for Quincy Jones, assisting him in coordinating the inclusion of Middle Eastern artists into the World Economic Forum. She worked with Quincy Jones again in 2004 to coordinate including world artists into We Are the Future, a program of performances in Rome including artists such as Khaled of Algeria, Kadim Al Sahir of Iraq, Simon Shaheen of Palestine, and Riffat Sultana of Pakistan. It was broadcast live on several international networks, including MTV.[3] Elder also co-wrote with Rod Temperton the lyrics to a composition by Simon Shaheen ("Everyone Everywhere") originally written as an instrumental piece for the United Nations.

In 2003, she co-wrote the song "Love and Compassion," which featured Kazem Al Sahir performing his first English and Arabic song with Paula Cole and Karina Pasian. She co-produced the song with KC Porter. The track was featured on the CD Love and Compassion by the National Arab American Museum, which Elder compiled.[2] She also co-produced “We Want Peace,” featuring Lenny Kravitz, Kazem Al Sahir, Simon Shaheen and Jamey Haddad. Originally, the Redondo Beach-based youth organization Rock The Vote released the track in February 2003.[2] It was re-released in 2006, and Elder produced for the Rock the Vote and the Olympics CD it was included on.[3]

"Love to the People" (2005)

Elder was an executive producer, co-producer, and co-writer on the 2005 song "Love to the People," a duet between Carlos Santana and Algerian vocalist Cheb Khaled. The Los Angeles Times stated, "Today, American pop stars are embracing these foreign musical styles, due in no small part to Elder's prodding. Hybrid sounds like [in "Love to the People"] typify a new style of American ethnic fusion that's largely emanating from California."[2] "Love to the People"'s album Peace Through Music was nominated for a Grammy, and in 2006, ABC News dubbed Elder one of the most influential producers of her time.[3]


In 2004 she co-produced the album Ya-Rayi by Cheb Khaled, released on Universal International.[6] That year she also started working with Def Jam recording artist Karina Pasian, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, and Bassam Saba. Around 2006 she started managing tabla player Salar Nader, followed in 2007 by Mory Kante in the Americas and Middle East and Magida El Roumi.[3]

From 2007 to 2008 she co-conceived and produced the The Sudanese Music & Dance Festival,[1] which brought together Sudanese artists from diverse regions to perform in New York, Detroit, and Chicago,[3] including for free at Central Park Summerstage.[12] Also in 2007, she began managing Italian singer-songwriter and saxophonist Enzo Avitabile and his group i Bottari, touring with them both in the United States and Middle East. In 2008 she produced a music special for StaytunedTV.[3]

In 2009 she began handling special projects in the Middle East for Jennifer Lopez, and started managing Assala Nasri and Rida Al Abdullah[3] in the United States.[13] She organized the event SAHRA in association with the National Arab Medical Association. Featuring artists such as Khaled, Assala Nasri and Rida Al Abdullah, funds were raised for Children's Medical Aid in the Middle East.[14]

In 2010[1] she organized and co-produced all the international artists for a recording and video shot at the Capital Recording Studios entitled Citizens of the World with US producer Spencer Proffer and director Henry Winer, originally written by a young rock band Flying Machines. Cheng Lin was brought on, and Elder later began helping manage her.[3]

In 2010 she organized the Citizens of the World event, followed in 2011 with the first concert in the Middle East for Quincy Jones' Global Gumbo All Stars. She also co-produced the All Stars' song project "Tomorrow-Bokra."[1]

2012 she worked with Phil Ramone, Don Was, and Sam Nappi to organize the One World Concert. The event was opened by the Dalai Lama in the Carrier Dome, and had around 27,000 attendees. Elder wrote one of the main songs, "A New Day on the Horizon," which was introduced by Whoopi Goldberg and performed by TEAL-ONE 97, a band of young Middle Eastern artists. She also coordinated the performance of Afghani artist Ustad Farida Mahwash at the event, which was seen by 44 million viewers.[15]

Dawn Elder Management[edit]

Dawn Elder (left) at a press conference with Syrian singer Assala

After her work at Ark 21, Elder founded Dawn Elder World Media & Entertainment Enterprises, an entertainment firm based in California.[3] The company is sometimes stylized as "DE Mgmt/DE Music."[1] As of 2014, she remains president and CEO.[3]

Elder has a long history working with diplomatic and cultural institutions, heads of state, and ambassadors from countries including Egypt, France Algeria, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. Among her past clients are Amnesty International and the World Economic Forum.[3]

She has been involved with both major labels such as Sony Records, Columbia Records, EMI, Capital Records, Def Jam, A&M, Universal, Warner Brothers, and Virgin Records, as well as independent labels such as Wrasse Records, Six Degrees, Rotana, and Angel Records. She states on her website that as of 2014 she has created over 1000 events, for clients as diverse as Microsoft, Time Magazine, the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, the LA Raiders, and Biosphere 2.[3]


Elder has developed and directed specials by networks such as ABC, NBC, PBS, and MTV, and NPR. As of 2014 she states that she is writing a series of reality shows for global television networks, which are "aimed at exploring sensitive issues and promoting mutual understanding between Western and Middle Eastern societies."[3]

Recent projects[edit]

She was a co-producer for the compilation album Desert Sunsets: World Fusion Rhythm & Grooves, released in 2012 on CIA Records. Also in 2012 Elder adapted the lyrics for the Arabic version of "White Rabbit" on the American Hustle Soundtrack, which was released on Sony Classical in 2013.[6] Song producer Mark Batson has suggested using non-English lyrics, and the film's music supervisor contacted Elder. Elder recruited Lebanese singer Mayssa Karaa to do the vocals.[16]

World Harmony Studio, Voices of Afghanistan
Dawn Elder and engineer Pat MacDougall recording Voices of Afghanistan

In 2012 Elder and Sam Nappi founded World Harmony Studios-DE Music Records located in New York and California.[1] That year Elder brought together Voices of Afghanistan,[4] an Afghani ensemble featuring vocalist Ustad Farida Mahwash, rubab master Homayoun Sakhi, and The Sakhi Ensemble. The group focuses on contemporary music and "a blend of ghazals, Afghan folk songs imbued with Sufi mysticism." They had their first tour in the fall of 2012, and performed at The One World Concert, which was opened by the Dalai Lama.[5] The group's debut album, Love Songs for Humanity, was recorded with Elder and Sam Nappi at World Harmony Studios, and released on DE Music Records in 2013. Elder helped compose several of the tracks.[6] According to NPR, "Love Songs for Humanity is a mix of Central Asian art music, folklore and classic popular songs."[4]

As of 2014 she is working, writing and producing two new albums and an event for MasterPeace featuring international celebrities. Elder is also developing several new festivals and managing the Lebanese-American singer Mayssa Karaa, British singer-songwriter Marcus Nand, along with continued work with artists including Riffat Sultana, Assala Nasri, Majida Roumi, Simon Shaheen, Kadim Al Sahir, Alphonso Johnson, Bassam Saba & the New York Arab Orchestra, Ustad Farida Mahwash, Homayoun Sakhi, Voices of Afghanistan, Enzo Avitabile, Amina, Souad Massi, and others.[3]

Media appearances[edit]

Elder has periodically served as a presenter and speaker; for example, in 2006 she was the keynote speaker at Glocal, a multiculturalism forum about urban cities held in Ankara, Turkey. She has also worked as a presenter for organizations such as the Arab American Arts Institute, the New York City Parks Foundation, UNESCO, The American Cancer Foundation, and in 2012 she was the keynote speaker on culture for the Arab League of States in Manama, Bahrain before various world leaders.[3]

She has had expert and guest appearances on shows on ABC,CBS, CNN, and BBC Radio and TV, and All Things Considered on NPR, as well as various radio stations in Santa Barbara.[3]

Awards, memberships[edit]

Elder has won or been nominated for various awards in the entertainment industry, from institutions including the International Music Council, the Tele Awards, and the National Association of Broadcasters. Elder has also been nominated for five Grammys as a music producer.[3]

She is a member in non-profits and industry groups such as the International Sudanese Music and Arts Institute, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the American Performing Arts Association, WOMEX, International World Music Association Pollstar, the International Concert Consortium, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the RIAA, Music Cares, the North American World Music Coalition, and the Arab-American Arts Institute.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Dawn Elder is based in Santa Barbara as of 2006, though she frequently travels internationally for work.[2]



Incomplete list of production credits for Dawn Elder[6]
Yr Release title Primary artist(s) Label Notes, role
1998 Mohammed Wardi with the African Birds Mohammed Wardi Arranger, co-producer, executive producer. Album won National Award of Excellence
1999 Longing for Home Mohammed Wardi Producer
2000 Historic Live Recording of Arabic Masters:
Two Tenors & Qantara
Wadi al-Safi, Sabah Fakhri Ark 21 Recorded, arranged, produced, and executive produced, and directed live TV broadcast
2000 The Impossible Love (Al Hob Al Mustaheel) Kazem Al Saher Ark 21 Executive producer
2001 The Lion Roars: Live in America Hakim Ark 21/Mondo Melodia Producer and executive producer[4][8][10]
2001 Shabaz Shabaz Ark 21/Mondo Melodia Executive producer
2001 Raoui Souad Massi Wrasse Records Unknown role
2001 Nomad: Best of Amina Amina Ark 21/Mercury Executive producer
2001 Dellali (#7 on Top World Music Albums) Cheb Mami Ark 21/Virgin Executive producer
2001 Blue Flame Simon Shaheen, Qantara Ark 21/Universal Producer, executive producer
2001 Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms, Vol. 1 Various Ark 21 Executive producer, producer
2002 Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms, Vol. 2 Various Ark 21 Executive producer
2004 Ya-Rayi Cheb Khaled Universal Audio producer, associate/executive producer
2008 Devotion DJ Cheb i Sabbah Six Degrees Management
2012 Desert Sunsets: World Fusion Rhythm & Grooves Various CIA Producer
2013 Love Songs for Humanity Voices of Afghanistan[5] De Music Producer/ executive producer, composer


Incomplete list of songs with contributions by Dawn Elder
Year Title Album Primary artist Certifications, role
1997 "One Planet One People" Citizens of the World DVD Michael Sembello Co-producer
2003 "Love and Compassion" Love and Compassion Paula Cole, Karina Pasian, Kadim Al Sahir Co-producer, co-writer
2005 "Everyone Everywhere" United Nations Simon Shaheen Co-wrote lyrics with Rod Temperton
"Love to the People" Peace through Music Carlos Santana, Cheb Khaled Producer, executive, co-writer
2006 "We Want Peace" Rock the Vote and the Olympics Lenny Kravitz, Kadim Al Sahir, Simon Shaheen, Jamey Haddad Producer
2010 "Citizens of the World" Citizens of the World Kailash Kher, Cheng Lin, King Sunny Ade, Khaled, Flying Machines Associate producer
2011 "Tomorrow-Bokra" (Arabic) Single only Various Producer
2012 "New Day on the Horizon" New Day on the Horizon Teal-One97 Composer, producer
2013 "White Rabbit" American Hustle Soundtrack Mayssa Karaa Lyric adaptations[16]

Television production[edit]

Elder has directed, developed, or produced for the following television features:

  • 1989-1996: Old Spanish Days (ABC, KEYT)
  • 1989-2000: Kenny Loggins’s Christmas Unity Telethon (ABC, KEYT)[3]
  • 1991: Halloween ABC Special - Woody Harrelson (ManlyMoon Dog)
  • 1995-to present: International Friendship Festivals (annual event)
  • 1997-1998: One Planet One People (global broadcast, PBS special) [3]
  • 1999: AMAL Awards: Arab American Music, Arts and Literary Awards: live from the Ronald Regan Building, DC (ANA/MBC)
  • 2000: The Two Tenors of Arabic Music (LBC International)
  • 2003: Kazem Al Saher and Sarah Brightman (LBC International)
  • 2005: Khaled & Friends featuring Carlos Santana (CBS special)
  • 2007, 2008: Sudan Its Music and Its Arts (Link TV/Amnesty International TV/NPR/BBC TV special)[12]
  • 2010: SAHRA - World Special (MGM Grand-Mirage, various networks)
  • 2010: Citizen of the World (PBS special)

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Dawn Elder". Voices of Afghanistan. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Braude, Joseph (November 26, 2006). "West-east". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj "Home". Dawn Elder Management. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  4. ^ a b c d "After Hard Times At Home, Afghan Musicians Seek To Be Heard In America". NPR. December 23, 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  5. ^ a b c "Performing for Peace". World Harmony Productions. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Dawn Elder credits". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  7. ^ Los Angeles Magazine: April 1998
  8. ^ a b c Eyre, Banning (October 11, 2001). "Middle East meets West - The future of Arabic music in the US". Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  9. ^ Lieberman, Joe (December 18, 2001). "Egyptian Justice, US-Style". The Nation. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  10. ^ a b Boucher, Geoff (September 21, 2001). "Crossover Dreams Grounded". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  11. ^ "The 'Arab Wave' in World Music after 9/11" (Anthropologica, Vol. 46, No. 2)
  12. ^ a b Mandel, Howard (August 4, 2007). "Echoes of Sudan and the ’60s, free in New York parks". Jazz Beyond Jazz. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  13. ^ "Almost showtime in Las Vegas...". Afropop Worldwide. November 21, 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  14. ^ SAHRA: MGM Grand Garden Arena (November 21, 2009)
  15. ^ One World Concert
  16. ^ a b Weinreich, Regina (December 25, 2013). "The Hustle in American Hustle Music: An Interview with Susan Jacobs". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 

External links[edit]