Saturday, 3 February 2018

The first Annual Festival of Arabic Music and Arts – a success!

By: Rolla Bahsous

It’s no surprise that the first Festival of Arabic Music and Arts (FAMA), the first of its kind in Ontario, was a huge success.

From October 28th to November 12th audiences across Toronto, Brampton, and Mississauga, enjoyed a variety of musical and cultural events. The Canadian ArabicOrchestra, along with Arab and non-Arab performers, and world renowned artists like Ilham AL Madfai, Charbel Rouhana, Naseer Shamma and Faia Younan provided a great inaugural festival.

The Canadian Arabic Orchestra put together a fantastic lineup of artists, including political satirist, Bassem Youssef, which was sold out. The Orchestra also premiered two original shows: Jazzy Arabia and Origins-Indigenous/Arabic.


Jazzy Arabia showcased the fusion of jazz and classical music, while Origins was the first collaboration between the Indigenous nations of Canada and the Canadian Arabic Orchestra. Orchestra poet and singer Hasan Tamim worked with Indigenous artist Laura Grizzlypaws, and performed songs that highlighted the shared struggles of the Indigenous nations of Canada and the Indigenous populations of the Levant (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan).

The Canadian Arabic Orchestra was also fortunate to perform alongside master percussionist, Michel Merhej Baklouk at several of the FAMA performances. The legendary Lebanese riqq player is known for playing in the orchestras of the iconic Rahbani Brothers and Fairuz for over half a century. Baklouk’s presence not only brought authenticity to the festival, but he was genuinely proud of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra’s work.

 “Having a Festival of Arabic Music and Arts was a very successful idea thanks to The Canadian Arabic Orchestra. It was a pleasure to perform with the orchestra. I want to congratulate them for their hard work and I hope they continue to progress quickly and successfully in reaching their important goals. God give them success and growth in the world of Arabic music and art.”

While each show had its own genre, the themes that held all the unique performances together were simple, yet important: unity, humanity, and art driving change. When asked what message they hope their music brings, each artist echoed the idea that music and art has the power to unite people, especially in the face of political and social adversity.
The festival organizers expected around 14,000 audience members over the span of 16 days of both ticketed and free performances.

The second annual FAMA is already scheduled for October 29th to November 11th, 2018.  
Fans of The Canadian Arabic Orchestra don’t have to wait until next year to enjoy performances. Their 2018 program is set from January 19th to May 12th, with performances across Ontario and Montreal.

For more information about the Canadian Arabic Orchestra, visit http://canadianarabicorchestra.ca


The CAO is a not-for-profit organization registered in Mississauga with the prime objective of promoting multi-cultural dialogue and understanding through the universal language of music. The mission of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra is "To Connect, Enrich, and Inspire through Music"; to connect people from diverse cultures, and reconnect people from Arab origins with their roots. The organization also aims to enrich by educating people about the vast Arabic cultural and musical heritage, and to inspire more musical creativity resulting from exposure to this type of music by both Arab and non-Arab musicians who wish to contribute to the music scene in Canada by composing and writing new music. Over the past two seasons, from September to May, the Orchestra has held more than 30 concerts in Ottawa, Montreal, Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Toronto, and Oakville performing to an audience of 12,000. The CAO has performed at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre, the Aga Khan Museum, the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall in Waterloo, the Algonquin Commons Theatre in Ottawa, and most recently at the Stratford Summer Music Festival (2016) and Luminato Festival (2017).

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