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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 Devotional Love songs to classics from the golden age of Egyptian film.
Al Qahwa has three highly acclaimed recordings for you to enjoy. With guest appearances by Dr. Alfred Gamil (a treasured Cairo violinist and composer) and Majd Sukar (a deeply rooted Syrian musician), Cairo Moon (2019) envisions an exotic international airspace filled with halos instead of helicopters.
The group is excited about its new North African-inspired recording African Routes (2020) with special guests Roula Said, Waleed Abdulhamid and Fethi Nadjem, who are originally from Palestine, Sudan and Algeria, respectively.
This past May, the band was proud to be presented by Mundial Montreal and Global Toronto in artist showcases at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City.