Presented by globalFEST, Mundial Montreal, Folk Music Ontario, Global Toronto, Small World Music, and Drom. Supported by FACTOR, the Government of Canada, and Canada’s private radio broadcasters; Ontario Creates/Ontario Créatif; the City of Toronto’s Music Office; and the Consulate General of Canada in NYC
Toronto’s Polky, led by multi-talented female musicians, delights audiences with haunting vocal harmonies, unusual instruments, and joyful performances. Drawing deep inspiration from Poland’s rich cultural tapestry, they push musical boundaries by fearlessly blending Polish traditional music with sounds and rhythms from across the globe, carving out a niche entirely their own. With their infectious charm, captivating performances, and unyielding passion for folk music, Polky is undoubtedly a band that stands apart. Their music celebrates cultural diversity and women’s empowerment, and it’s an invitation to revel in the joy of life and a reminder that, deep down, we are all connected by the power of music.
Montreal-based Waahli is an artist of Haitian descent, integrating elements of Afrofuturism in the aesthetic of his sound and bridging his ancestral past, present, and future. Raised in a family where music was omnipresent, he was immersed in traditional Haitian melodies, and developed his own hip-hop style.
In 2004, Waahli co-founded Nomadic Massive, a mythical hip hop group in Montreal, still active in 2023. Performed in English, French, and Haitian Creole, the music of his first album, Black Soap (2018), and follow-up EP Soap Opera (2020), is a fusion of catchy rhythms at the crossroads of rap and Afrobeat and are a true tribute to Haitian culture. In 2022, Waahli returned with Soap Box, a vibrant tribute to his roots. The tracks, co-produced with Boogat & Lou Piensa (Nomadic Massive), are an amalgam of instrumentals, live vocals and percussion influenced by Haitian and African sounds.
Natu Camara, is a powerhouse hailing from the vibrant heart of West Africa. As a dynamic singer, songwriter, and humanitarian, she blends Guinean traditional sounds with pop, soul, and rock, creating an Afro-rock experience that knows no borders. Natu’s mesmerizing performances tackle global issues, from love to child marriage, loneliness, unity, and pressing concerns, touching hearts worldwide. Beyond her musical talent, she embodies, resilience, and hope, connecting spirits in a way that feels almost spiritual. Her unwavering commitment to social justice adds an inspiring dimension to her artistry, making her a true luminary in the world of music.
Drawing on his Afro-Sufi musical heritage, Ahmed Moneka delivers a joyful and transcendent mix of African grooves and Arabic melodies informed by funk, soul and jazz. Also an actor and activist, Moneka provides a musical reflection on his personal journey as a refugee to Canada after appearing in a movie about gay rights. Through both original compositions and Middle Eastern classics, Moneka and his all-star global ensemble draw listeners into an ecstatic celebration of life, exploring love in all its forms alongside nostalgia for one’s home.
Akawui is a multidimensional singer-songwriter with a powerful, socially involved and conscious music of Chilean and Indigenous Mapuche origin.
Performing most often in Spanish, the quadrilingual musician (English, French, Spanish and Portuguese) found his sound in Latin hip-hop with elements of electronics, bass and traditional Andean folk. Immensely talented and creative, for lovers of urban alternative music around the world, Akawui fuses the tribal with the modern. His lyrics convey an uplifting and uplifting message with an energetic presence and at other times with a round, romantic sound. His primary objective with his art is to break down psychological barriers and to prove that it is through union that one grows as an individual.
Akawui combines a multitude of seemingly opposite sounds in his music, creating an exciting and powerful musical experience for all listeners.
Artist-composer, lyricist and educator Firas Zreik has performed and recorded across the world as a leader and highly sought collaborator since 2013. A sonic revolutionary, the Palestine-born New Yorker has transformed global perception of the Kanun. His treatment of the instrument preserves its identity as a vital part of the Maqam tradition, and stretches its potential as a cultural chameleon enhancing a range of fresh, evolving sounds. He views the Maqam’s improvisation-driven legacy as a vessel for unbound creative expression across musical styles.
Zreik’s music is honest and authentic. His nuanced approach translates the kanun’s resonant depth of emotion, with a mastery of microtonal soundscaping. Comfortable in both heavily orchestrated and spontaneous settings, he creates waves of layered expression and lyricism among his fellow artists. Over the years, he has collaborated with a cross section of leaders, including Roger Waters, Simon Shaheen, Amir ElSaffar, Fabrizio Cassol, Marwan Khoury, Abeer Nehmeh, Elias Karam, Shreya Goshal, Shankar Mahadevan, Aynur Dogan, G.E. Smith, David Broza and his internationally-renowned mother and frequent artistic partner Amal Murkus, for whom he serves as musical director.
In live performance, Zreik conjures a complexity of emotion that shapeshifts throughout his sets. He enters fragile places and sits inside them. This commitment to stark exploration has sent him around the world, performing at storied venues, intimate clubs and international festivals. He has appeared at WOMEX international music expo, Smithsonian Museum, Savannah Music Festival, Tunisia’s Carthage International Festival and Hill Auditorium, as well as The Jazz Gallery, Lincoln Center and Historic Greenwood in New York City; Boston Symphony Hall and Berklee Performance Center in Boston; Institute du Monde Arabe and La Bellevilloise in Paris; Palais de Congres in Belgium; and Teatro Mediterraneo in Italy.
Following the release of his two singles “Lullaby for Nature” (Levantine Music) and “Sentiments of Emptiness” (Universal Music Group), in 2020, during the pandemic lockdown, Zreik issued his debut EP Solo (Levantine Music), featuring a shimmering, contemplative set of kanun music. In fall 2022, the young artist is poised to release his first full-length recording of original music featuring his 8-piece band.
Before leaving Boston for New York in 2020, Zreik received his Bachelor of Arts in Music from Berklee College of Music — where he received a full presidential scholarship — completing a double major in Performance and Jazz Composition and appearing on the Dean’s List eight times. He has received global recognition for his artistry as a member of the Medinea Network and participant in the 2013 Beit Al-Musica Guildhall Exchange program in London and the Intercultural Session in both Aix En Provence and Sardinia, Italy in 2017 and 2019, respectively. In 2019, Zreik received coveted placement at the Blue Mountain Center Residency where he served as Artist-in-Residence. Recently, Zreik was chosen as the sole musician for inclusion on the Arab America Foundation’s 30 Under 30 list. In 2020, “Lullaby for Nature” received praise from Makan Radio as Instrumental Piece of the Year.
Zreik credits his spirit of experimentation, in part, to the dedicated instructors who have guided his artistry, including Mahran Moreb, Simon Shaheen, Greg Hopkins, Manuel Kauffmann, Ed Tomassi, Fabrizio Cassol, Bob Pilkington, Eugene Frissen, Leo Blanco and Alain Mallett. A consummate educator himself, Zreik has taught at the Arabic Music Retreat in Western Massachusetts and Circle World Arts in Brooklyn, and delivered workshops at NYU Abu Dhabi, Tufts and Berklee. He has been offering private Kanun lessons to an international community of talented artists since 2020.
Mitra Sumara turns classic 60s/70s Iranian pop songs into contemporary jazz, funk, and psychedelic tunes.
This groundbreaking project features dynamic singer, bandleader, producer Yvette Massoudi, dance-groove Persian beats, brilliant jazz keyboards, and soulful trombone.
Mitra Sumara, part of the NYC-based international floating party Disco Tehran, brings everyone to the dance floor with their new arrangements of beloved Middle East classics. The group’s music harkens to a bygone era of freedom and progress in Iran when women were allowed to sing as soloists.
Yvette was awarded the competitive NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theater and City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment grant to record Mitra Sumara’s new album, Dream — released November 2023 and a tribute to the trailblazing Iranian women of the Golden Age of Persian Pop.
Yvette Massoudi (vocal), Ben Rubin (electric bass), Jack Gruber (keyboards), Kaveh Haghtalab (drums), Joe Giordano (trombone).