Make more music!

Saalik Ahmad Ziyad

“Z” (formerly known as Saalik Ziyad), a native Chicagoan born in 1978, began singing at the age of seven. “His unique style of singing creates deep, melodic vocals that many who have witnessed his craft, soon not forget.” His first introduction to music was when he was accepted as a member of the Chicago Children’s Choir. This experience opened the door to opportunities to perform with many musical greats including Charlie Haden, Amina Claudine Myers, Willie Pickens and renowned institutions such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Saalik A. Ziyad

While working on his Bachelor Degree in Vocal Performance at Northern Illinois University (NIU), Z’s talents continued to flourish and landed him the position of lead jazz vocalist with the Northern Ilinois University Jazz Ensemble, including tours with Hammiet Blueitt, Steve Turre and Rufus Reid. Additionally, the multi-faceted Saalik has appeared in George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” under the direction of Grammy Award winner, Bobby McFerrin at the Ravinia Music Festival in Illinois and has also performed with The Chicago Sinfonietta under the direction of Maestro Paul Freeman. While exploring his continued quest for understanding the creative influence of music at NIU, Saalik formed “The 5 after 7 Project,” a collaborative of diverse musicians residing in the Chicagoland area, who continued to hone their skills and thrill audiences at the Velvet Lounge, and other venues.

As a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Saalik has been able to explore the different areas of creative music by composing and performing with the organization. He is a former student of the AACM and has taught in the AACM School of Music since he was 18.

Z’s unique style and voice ranged from jazz to classical and has afforded him the opportunity to perform worldwide, from the Sons D’hiver Jazz Festival in Paris, France to the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy, just to name a few. One of Z’s crowning achievements was performing at the Made in Chicago Jazz Festival in Poznan, Poland at the world-renowned Blue Note Jazz Club with members of his 5 after 7 Project, and pianist,Willie Pickens.

Always a proponent for giving back to the community, Saalik helped others hone their craft through teaching and mentoring. Z has taught in the Chicago Public Schools as an artist- in-residence for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Saalik has conducted multiple clinics with the Polyrhythms Organization. All these experiences have led him to grow his voice into a truly powerful vocal instrument that will continue to be enjoyed by music lovers for many years to come.

Saalik, Z, or as he liked to be called Slik, left this earthly plane too soon. He lived for 40 years, but in that time Saalik/Z/Slik, accomplished and traveled more than most could realize in their lifetime. He is and will be, truly missed.


Z FEST is a trademarked festival title and logo. In memory of musician Saalik A. Ziyad, the Z FEST is a collaboration of the following people: Lewis Achenbach – artist & executive director of Jazz Occurrence; Adam Zanolini – musician & executive director of Elastic Arts; and Taalib-Din and Daaiyah A. Ziyad – parents of Saalik A. Ziyad. The committee is deeply indebted and thankful to this year’s Z Fest sponsors: The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts; Constellation; Elastic Arts; and the Stony Island Arts Bank.

The slogan “Make More Music!” was Saalik’s theme for himself and any artist he met. The committee try to honor that theme in our endeavors. We would like to also thank artist Arthur Wright for the drawing of Saalik (used in the logo) and all musicians, creatives, press, photographers, engineers, and volunteers who helped to make this festival possible.

your donations help keep his legacy alive!

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