Al Qahwa – Maryem Tollar, Ernie Tollar, Demetri Petsalakis, Naghmeh Farahmand

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James Strecker Reviews the Arts

MARYEM TOLLAR: EGYPTIAN-CANADIAN VOCALIST IS WIDELY-ACTIVE (TAFELMUSIK, CBC’S LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE, WINNIPEG SYMPHONY IN CHRISTOS HATZIS’ “SYN-PHONIA – MIGRATION PATTERNS”) AND DECLARES “I HAVE TO REALLY FEEL THAT I CAN EXPRESS THE MUSIC IN AN AUTHENTIC WAY THAT IS RESPECTFUL TO THE TRADITIONS OR THE COMPOSERS” ….. A REVIEWER INTERVIEWS PEOPLE IN THE ARTS
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Tafelmusik’s Tales of Two Cities at Disney Hall

… “Members of Trio Arabica [3 of the 4 members of Al Qahwa] showed their virtuosity throughout, but especially in a series of solos and duets that featured them in the second half of the show. Demetri Petsalakis displayed the range of the oud, a plucked string instrument. Vocalist Maryem Tollar sang a florid and melismatic solo; and then Naghmeh Farahmand did a mesmerizing improvisation on that “moon drum,” the seemingly simple daf, which is both struck and shaken to produce an astonishing range of effects. All were met with enthusiastic applause.”

violinist.com (March



Tafelmusik’s Tales of Two Cities joins East and West over coffee

… “Mackay uses as her cultural glue, the introduction of coffee into both the East and West in the 17th and 18th centuries, so that the coffee house eventually becomes a centre of Arabic culture in Damascus, but also a centre of Western culture in Leipzig, Germany. To represent the West, we had the Tafelmusik orchestra; for the East, Trio Arabica [3 of the 4 members of Al Qahwa], vocalist Maryem Tollar, percussionist Naghmeh Farahmand and oud player Demetri Petsalakis. …

Tollar’s solo was only one of several phenomenally inspired bits of music-making on display all evening – another example of correspondence between cultures. We humans like to display, we like to achieve perfection in music-making, and it really doesn’t matter who we are in this regard or where we’re from. … “

The Globe & Mail (


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“…the most stunning musical moment of the evening, the superb Tollar singing, a capella, Afdihi in Hafidhal Hawa Ow Diy’a, a solo that transcended cultural barriers, a passionate, soulful, heart-rending bit of intense emotion that reached every person in Koerner Hall, Eastern, Western, whatever.” ~ The Globe and Mail

TORONTO,14.06.19- – Local world music group AL QAHWA ENSEMBLE breathes new life into traditional Arabic songs alongside innovative originals on their sophomore album CAIRO MOON. The musicians, now all based in Toronto, but from varied backgrounds 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. The official release date is August 9 with a live album release concert on Saturday, August 10, from 8:30-11:30 pm at Hugh’s Room Live, 2261 Dundas St. West, Toronto, ON, with special guests ALFRED GAMIL, WALEED ABDULHAMID, and FETHI NADJEM. The album will be available on Spotify, CD Baby, Apple Music / iTunes and all platforms where music is streamed or downloaded.

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