The Arab World Festival of Montréal (FMA) has just unveiled its program for the 24th edition, set to take place from October 28 to November 11, 2023. This year’s theme, titled “A Part of Me, Fragments of Nomadic Identities,” promises a diverse array of artistic and cultural experiences for two weeks in the vibrant autumn city of Montréal. The festival will feature captivating live performances, stimulating debates, intriguing films, and enlightening lectures across its sections: Performing Arts, Aleph Space, Culture Forum, and Cinema.
Continuing its tradition, the FMA’s 24th edition revolves around the central theme of “A Part of Me, Fragments of Nomadic Identities.” Matias Ollivier, the FMA’s assistant artistic director, poses thought-provoking questions about cultural boundaries and the universality of art. He asks whether art belongs exclusively to the communities from which it originates or is a shared treasure of humanity. In a world where borders and constraints threaten artistic freedom, the festival explores the evolution of art, welcoming influences and traditions from various cultures to create new and innovative forms of artistic expression.
Under this theme, the FMA delves into “the Other within us” from various angles, exploring the universal desire for beauty and art. In a globalized world with compartmentalized identities, where borders can limit freedom, the festival’s singers, musicians, dancers, composers, filmmakers, actors, and thought leaders will celebrate unrestrained creativity. This space will serve as a melting pot where identities and cultures intersect, blend, and redefine themselves.
Ericka Alneus, a member of Montréal’s city executive committee responsible for culture and heritage, acknowledges the festival’s contribution to cultural diversity in the city and encourages Montrealers to participate in its enriching program.
TD Bank Group, through its corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment, recognizes the vital role of artists in shaping communities. Sylvie Demers, Chair of Quebec Market at TD Bank Group, highlights the festival’s role in fostering unity and bringing people together through unique moments of synergy.
Don’t miss the Arab World Festival of Montréal, where cultural diversity, creativity, and unity take center stage in the heart of Montréal this autumn.
- Guellal Montréal (opening performance, an FMA original production) – A new installment in Sidi Bémol’s global adventures. This exceptional composer, singer, and musician will deliver a heartfelt love letter to First Nations peoples and a passionate tribute to American Indigenous cultures. -> October 28 at Le National.
- Roots of Flamenco (closing night performance, an FMA original production) – In a story told through song and dance, meditative Arabic taqsims will weave together with flamenco falsetas as their shared roots are unearthed. This musical odyssey will be led by a lineup of peerless artists including Omar Bashir, Carlos Piñana, Sidi Bémol, Ana Mochón, Cristobal Muñoz, and Miguel Angel Orengo, for an exciting closing performance true to the theme of the 24th FMA. -> November 11 at Théâtre Maisonneuve.
- Cheikha Rimitti, the Mother of Rai – A tribute to the beloved icon of this Algerian musical genre, featuring singers Cheikha Rabia and Youba along with dancer Warda. -> November 10 at Le National, in partnership with Gosbat Music.
- Persia Belongs to Us All (an FMA original production) – Golshan Ensemble will explore the influences and borrowings that have helped shape Persian music through the ages. -> November 1 at Cinquième salle.
- Maïs Harb, Returning to My Native Syria – This show will tell the story of singer Maïs Harb’s artistic evolution, tracing her path from her humble roots in rural Syria to her discovery of the wider world.-> November 2 at Cinquième salle. Click Here to get a ticket and promo code
- Koum Tara – This inspired musical ensemble distills a blend of musical influences to extract the essence of rhythm, poetry, and melody. A surprisingly fluid fusion of genres and eras that opens up unexpected avenues of exploration. -> November 3 at Cinquième salle.
- Listen to My Voice by Myriam Beldi Under the musical direction of Ptit Moh– Beldi is one of those rare female artists who dare to tackle the traditionally male-dominated genre of chaabi. A unique musical experience that combines chaabi with a hint of rock and groove. -> November 4 at Cinquième Salle, in partnership with Gosbat Music.
- Ifriqiyya Electrique, an adorcist and possession ritual (concert film) – The Banga community arrives to conduct an adornist ceremony, a healing ritual of possession and trance. This concert film by musicians, filmmakers, and anthropologists François R. Cambuzat and Gianna Greco is the result of years spent living among a desert population. -> November 2 at Théâtre Plaza, produced by Trans-Aeolian Transmission.
- Xinjiang, Taklamakan & Karakoram (concert film) – Nomadic artists Francois R. Cambuzat and Gianna Greco engage in a frenzied musical dialogue in this gripping concert film. The essence of Uyghur people and their musical traditions is rendered using computers and electronic instruments before melting into an electro-rock performance, for a thrilling neo-shamanic musical experience! -> November 1 at Théâtre Plaza, produced by Trans-Aeolian Transmission.
- Leila Gouchi & Mohamed Jebali – A part of The Immortals concert series, this show will pay tribute to Wadih Al-Safi and Warda, highlighting the shared musical influences that broke down borders between identities across the Mashriq and the Maghreb, leading to the emergence of a rich and inclusive Arabic repertoire. -> October 29 at Théâtre Marcellin-Champagnat, in partnership with GouchiCom.
- My Immortal Icons, by Miray Dahab – Heir to the golden age of Arabic music, Dahab will perform inventive renditions of songs made famous by such legendary figures as Fairouz, Ziad Rahbani, Abdel Wahab, Sayed Darwish, Zaki Nassif, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Lotfi Bouchnak. -> November 5 at Salle Claude-Léveillée. Click Here to get a ticket and promo code
- From Damascus to Cordoba, a Journey in Music – Virtuoso oud player Nazih Borish will conjure a panoply of musical landscapes, from the deserts of Damascus to intimate flamenco tablaos to ancient roadways traversed by wandering bards. Borish’s captivating melodies will bring a centuries-old heritage to life. -> November 7 at Salle Claude-Léveillée. Click Here to get a ticket and promo code
- Tehrani Drom: Taraf Syriana and guests – An eclectic lineup of musicians invites you to discover the unique and rarely performed music of Syria’s and Persia’s Roma communities. An opportunity to delve into the thousand-year-old musical heritage of these nomadic peoples. Featuring Iranian singers Parisa Karim Molan and Habib Hoseini.-> October 29 at Le Ministère.
Aleph Space – Performing Arts (free admission)
A free performance series featuring local and international artists, Aleph Space is a destination for unique events that take a deep dive into the Festival’s theme. Hosted by musician and musicologist Hamdi Makhlouf, My Instrument Tells a Story is a concert-lecture series that invites musicians specializing in a range of musical styles to showcase their instruments and explore their history and cultural significance. Ptit Moh, Saeed Kamjoo, Walid Gharbi, Jheinsen Montalvo, and others will shed new light on the oud, Algerian mandole, sitar, kamancheh, violin, and flamenco guitar, revealing their ancient secrets.
Artists Sidi Bémol and Tacfarinas Kichou will open up about their discovery of American Indigenous cultures, which inspired the creation of the Festival’s opening concert, Guellal Montréal. Singer and musician Azzedine El Maghrabi will deliver a pulse-pounding show that’s 100% rai, Nacira Adem will introduce audiences to the Algerian ritual of Bouqalate, and choreographer Pétia Iourtchenko will lead a nomadic odyssey through the lands of the Roma, accompanied by Duo PopaZa and the Ethereal Tribal dance troupe. Festivalgoers will be able to enjoy an exhibition of award-winning photography, hosted in partnership with Wipplay, that explores humanity’s never-ending fascination with the Other. Finally, flamenco dancer MariA will take to the stage in a new show with percussionists Phyrras Haddad and Bertil Schulrabe. Guitarist Carlos Piñana, one of this year’s closing-night headliners, will use the opportunity to examine the close relationship between flamenco and Arabic music.
Culture Forum – Presented by TV5, free admission
The Culture Forum offers events that awaken cultural curiosity and promote a deeper understanding of world issues through open debate.
Thought leaders, journalists, and artists will come together to share their insights and spark discussion. This year, the Forum focuses on the ways in which one’s culture influences artistic creation, as well as on issues around identity that are currently top of mind in many academic circles. Other topics on the agenda include social media, mixed couples, and the role of museums in society.
The program will also feature the films Arab Women Say What?! (in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada) and Dounia et la princesse d’Alep.
Cinema – At Cinéma du Parc
This year’s Cinema section boasts a diverse lineup of films from the Arab world, reflecting a multitude of perspectives. From gripping historical dramas to moving explorations of modern life, these feature films examine the ideas and beliefs that have shaped societies both past and present, revealing hidden undercurrents and challenging assumptions.
The Last Queen by Damien Ounouri and Adila Bendimerad (Algeria) tells the legendary story of Queen Zahphira as it delves into the history of 16th-century Algeria. The first feature film by Liana Kassir and Renaud Pachot, La Mer et ses vagues (Lebanon) is a dreamlike tale set in Beirut, where an old lighthouse keeper works to restore electricity to his neighborhood. The Siren by Sepideh Farsi (Iran) is an animated film centered around the siege of Abadan, a major event of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Un été à Boujad by Omar Mouldouira (France/Morocco) examines the connections and conflicts that define family, identity, and culture. Souad by Ayten Amin(Egypt) tells the story of a young woman from a conservative family who curates a secret life on social media.
In conclusion, the Arab World Festival of Montréal’s 24th edition promises to be a remarkable celebration of cultural diversity, artistic innovation, and the universal power of creativity. Under the theme “A Part of Me, Fragments of Nomadic Identities,” this festival invites us to explore the rich tapestry of human expression that transcends borders and defies constraints.
As we embark on this two-week journey of live performances, engaging debates, captivating films, and enlightening lectures, let us remember that art knows no boundaries. It is a treasure that belongs to all of humanity, inviting us to embrace our shared connections and appreciate the beauty that emerges from the collision and fusion of cultures.
We extend our gratitude to the organizers, artists, and partners, such as TD Bank Group, for their unwavering commitment to fostering unity and enriching our cultural landscape. Together, we celebrate the spirit of Montréal’s diversity and the creative force that binds us all.
So, mark your calendars, embrace the vibrant autumn atmosphere of Montréal, and join us at the Arab World Festival of Montréal from October 28 to November 11, 2023. Let us come together to celebrate the beauty of our shared humanity and the endless possibilities of art. We look forward to seeing you there!