Al Qahwa is Maryem Tollar on vocals, riqq (Arabic tambourine) and qanun (Arabic table harp); Ernie Tollar on wind instruments; Demetri Petsalakis on oud and Naghmeh Fahrahmand on percussion. For their fourth recording, “Weyn Allah” they added Waleed Abdulhamid on bass and vocals. Roula Said will join the group on back up vocals, percussion and dance for their CD Release Concert in June 2023 followed by a summer tour. Al Qahwa performs original compositions, as well as popular traditional Arabic repertoire – from Sufi Devotional Love songs from the Arab World to popular folk songs, to classic Egyptian songs made famous by the stars of Egypt (the Hollywood of the Middle East).
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Maryem Tollar is a renowned Egyptian-Canadian vocalist, known for her world music performances. Her voice has been heard on the theme of CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie and A.R. Rahman’s Bollywood hit, Mayya Mayya. Tollar was the featured vocalist in Tafelmusik’s production of multi-media performances of “Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee Houses” and the narrator and vocalist in “Safe Haven”. She performed Christos Hatzis’ piece “Syn-Phonia – Migration Patterns” with The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Inuit throat singer Tiffany Ayalik; and his multi-media piece “Constantinople” with The Gryphon Trio and Patricia O’Callaghan. She performs with several Toronto musical groups including Al Qahwa (Traditional Arabic Music and Original compositions); Turkwaz (Traditional Turkish, Greek, Arabic and Balkan vocal repertoire); and storyteller Dawne McFarlane, adding music and sounds for performances at the Toronto Storytelling Festival, The Scottish International Storytelling Festival and at Silence Guelph. Maryem toured the fall of 2022 in “The Cave” (Libretto by Tomson Highway, Music by John Millard, Script by Martha Ross). January to April 2023, she is touring with the stage adaptation of Ann-Marie MaDonald’s book “Fall On Your Knees” providing music and acting in the role of Mrs. Mahmoud (Directed by Alisa Palmer, Script by Hannah Moscovitch). Maryem was awarded the inaugural Johanna Metcalf Prize for Performing Arts in 2019.
Ernie Tollar is an internationally renowned musician and composer who has been contributing to the Toronto Jazz and World Music scene since 1980. He has performed in major jazz and folk festivals in Europe, India, Egypt, U.S.A., and across Canada. He can be heard with several Toronto groups including Al Qahwa (Traditional Arabic Music and Original compositions); Near East Trio (Indian/Arabic/Jazz); Moneka Arabic Jazz (North African/Arabic/Jazz); and Armenian Jazz led by Levon Ichkhanian. In 2022, Ernie created an étude book for the ‘world woodwind’ player.
Naghmeh Farahmand has performed in many well known Iranian traditional bands in Iran and festivals around the world in places such as Germany, Switzerland, Japan (Min On Festival), France (La fête de Musique), Italy, Kuwait (Women’s festival), Austria and England. She was honoured to perform with Hassan Nahid, Iranian master of the ney and Hengameh Akhavan, a famous singer of traditional music. In 2010, Naghmeh moved to Canada and started work in world music, Arabic, Bulgarian, Turkish, Indian and Jazz music. She has been teaching in various music institutes for 15 years and has taught master classes and workshops around the world.
Originally from Athens Greece, Demetri Petsalakis is a Toronto based musician performing in a variety of styles with a focus on Greek and Middle Eastern lutes. He is involved with bands such as Al Qahwa, Near East Trio, Moneka Arabic Jazz, Moskitto Bar, Kune, Ventanas and Meltemi where he is featured playing a variety of stringed instruments including oud, guitar and lyra. Demetri has a Master’s Degree of Music in jazz guitar performance from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music from York University.
Born in Sudan, Waleed began performing at the age of six. Abdulhamid was well established in his art form before he settled in Canada in 1992, where he now resides as a musician and arts educator. He is renowned for his powerful vocals, unique bass technique, and awe-inspiring percussion skills. In addition to Al Qahwa, Waleed can be heard performing with Moneka Arabic Jazz and WaPaMa.
Roula Said is a dancer and musician of Palestinian heritage based in Toronto. In the world of Middle Eastern dance, Roula is known for her authentic, innovative and compelling style and stage presence. As a musician, Roula sings and plays percussion and qanun. She has created a song cycle called “Songversations” setting her poetry to music. She has performed with many Toronto groups including Maza Mezé, Doula and co-led Nomadica with David Buchbinder.