Al Qahwa (Toronto/Canada)
Streaming on Facebook & Youtube Sept. 16 @ 8:00pm EDT
Based in Toronto, Al Qahwa (the Arabic name for “coffee house”) is a contemporary Middle
Eastern ensemble that was inspired by the coffee house culture where people would go to hear
the latest news, music, poetry and stories. Its culturally diverse members are Egyptian-Canadian
Maryem Tollar on vocals, riqq (Arabic tambourine) and qanun (Arabic table harp); Canadian
Ernie Tollar on wind instruments; Greek-Canadian Demetri Petsalakis on oud (Arabic fretless
lute); and Iranian-Canadian Naghmeh Fahrahmand on Middle Eastern percussion.
A champion of harmony and understanding, the quartet originally featured traditional songs
from Syria, Egypt and Iraq, and then, in 2018, the group started adding original repertoire by
members of the band. Expect to hear everything from Sufi meditations to prayers and creative
improvisations as well as classic songs selected from the golden age of Egyptian film.
“If the songs they play with such artistry and skill are new to you, the music will touch you with
its heart and beauty. And if you are familiar with the music, it will instantly transport you to all
the places you love” (Carol Kirsh, Michael Garron Hospital).
Al Qahwa has three highly acclaimed albums to its credit. The latest release, Cairo Moon (2019),
draws on the players’ many talents and rich heritages “to envision an exotic and political
international airspace filled with halos instead of helicopters…It is a record that is cinematically
evocative of serpentine dancers, keening birds and ornate minarets” (Paul Corby, Roots Music
The group is excited about its new North African-inspired recording African Routes, featuring
special guests Roula Said, Waleed Abdulhamid and Fethi Nadjem, who are originally from
Palestine, Sudan and Algeria, respectively. Although this new live CD won’t be available until
November 6 th , you can pre-order it directly from the band by e-mailing