Moneka Arabic Jazz

Rooted in jazz and blues, Moneka Arabic Jazz draws from bandleader Ahmed Moneka’s Afro-Arabic heritage and influences along with Toronto’s own multicultural mix to create a distinct, funky, and unique sound.

Moneka Arabic Jazz reflects Ahmed Moneka's journey to his new home in Toronto from Baghdad – with many stops in between. Soon after arriving in Toronto in 2015, Moneka was welcomed into the local music scene with open arms, making a name for himself working with musicians across the spectrum in various projects including the border-hopping band Moskitto Bar. All the while, he’s been committed to not simply sharing his heritage, traditions, and outlook through music, but also to incorporating what he’s learned and experience since joining Toronto’s diverse music community.

Moneka Arabic Jazz takes Moneka’s commitment to the next level, introducing maqam, the Arabic music that he learned growing up, while weaving his African identity, heritage, and influences into the mix. With the contributions of the five talented musicians along for the ride, the resulting sound is a unique representation of what Toronto sounds like in 2019.

Ahmed Moneka (vocals, percussion) acted in theatre for nine years – including a stint in a production that participated in the World Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare’s birthplace – before switching to television and film, becoming Iraq’s first black television presenter. His appearance in a short film about Iraq’s homosexual community that had its world premiere at TIFF, in 2015, brought threats that prevented his return to Baghdad, and he has remained in Toronto since. In addition to performing in several local bands, he has worked with the Canadian Opera Company, Tafelmusik, Jaberi Dance Theatre and more.

Hailing from Greece, Demetri Petsalakis (guitar, oud) is a busy freelancer who performs on Greek and Middle-Eastern lutes and guitar. He holds a Master of Music degree in jazz guitar and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music from York University, and performs with Kuné (“Canada’s Global Orchestra”), Near East Trio, and many others.

Majd Sukar (clarinet, vocals) is a member of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra and teaches clarinet and Arabic music theory at the Canadian Arabic Conservatory. A Syrian native, Sukar performed with a range of well-known Arabic performers across the Middle East and, since moving to Canada in 2016, has appeared across the country with renowned singers and composers. Currently studying jazz performance at Humber College and collaborating with a range of artists, he has lead master classes at University of Toronto and York University in Arabic music theory and incorporating the clarinet in Middle-Eastern music.

Max Sennitt (drums) is one of Toronto’s most in-demand drummers, who mixes jazz, funk, and a range of traditional musics. In addition to a busy teaching schedule he has performed with Josh Groban, Selcuk Suna, Alex Cuba, Hilario Duran, Eliana Cuevas, Odessa Havana, and more.

Waleed Abdulhamid (bass, vocals) was born in Sudan, and began performing at the age of 6. Before leaving Sudan at age 18, he toured across the region, and was wellknown for bringing traditional rhythms into popular music. He’s also toured across Europe and North America, and has mastered a huge range of instruments, both stringed and percussive. In addition to teaching at Humber, he’s worked with and been music director for a range of music and theatre projects.

Ernie Tollar (saxophone, Arabic flute) has been performing around the world for nearly forty years. In high school, he was a featured performer on CBC's after-school documentary Going Great, and has since been praised by jazz writers across media. He performs in a number of groups including Near East Trio and many others, and has studied under a variety of teachers in South Asian, Arabic, and jazz traditions.

Jessica Hana Deutsch (violin, viola, vocals) began the violin at the age of four, and studied with Mark Skazinetsky, the associate concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She was a three-time national finalist at the Canadian Music Competition and performed as a soloist with the Huronia Symphony at 13. Branching out to a wide variety of styles, she founded the group Ozere in 2011, whose second album was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award. She is a busy sidewoman, playing and recording with many artists including Tamar Ilana and Ventanas, the Canadian Arabic Orchestra, Lenka Lichtenberg, Jayme Stone, Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Cris Derksen's Orchestral Pow Wow, Beyond the Pale, and more, and is currently performing with the hit Mirvish musical Come From Away.

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