Al Qahwa Ensemble 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. They perform 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 was awarded the inaugural 2019 Johanna Metcalf Prize for Performing Arts.
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. Ernie is currently creating an étude book for the ‘world wind’ 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 and Ventanas 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.