Unveiling of the program for the 19th edition of the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal SONGS OF MUTANTS on the Shores of Gibraltar


Montréal, Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Today, at the Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme in the Place des Arts, the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal, with many of its partners, artists and friends present, unveiled the program of its 19th edition, to be held October 26 to November 11, 2018, under the theme Songs of Mutants on the Shores of Gibraltar. Performances by artists Alida Esmail, the Trio Nomad’s Land and Delphine Mantha enlivened the news conference with music and dance.

For its 19th edition, the Festival du Monde Arabe is lending an ear to the musicians, creators, dancers, storytellers, producers and thinkers who, through their personal experience, their heritage of complex identities and their journeys “between two shores,” will tell us about their atypical path as “mutants.” From East to West, fortuitous encounters, bold combinations and original productions kick off this edition, which looks exciting with more than 50 unique gatherings, original productions, shows, projections, lectures and roundtables.

The City of Montréal, a long-time FMA partner, continues to support the Festival in its development initiatives from year to year. “Each year, the City of Montréal puts tremendous effort into supporting cultural production and dissemination and encouraging openness and diversity,” says Magda Popeanu, Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee, responsible of housing, real estate planning and managment as well as Montréal diversity. “Its support for the Festival du Monde Arabe pays eloquent tribute to this. This major Arab cultural event in North America strengthens Montréal’s status as a major cultural metropolis open to the world.”

TD Bank, a major FMA partner for the last five years and official presenter of the Festival Orientalys, is again consolidating its commitment to development of the arts derived from diversity. “At TD, the inclusion of every community along with enrichment through exchanges between different cultures is fundamental,” states Roy Nakhal, Sales Manager, Mobile Mortgage Specialists, TD Bank Group. “That’s why TD, again this year, is proud to serve as a partner of the Festival du Monde Arabe, a true event for providing an opening to the world. We urge all Quebecers to join us and draw inspiration from the wealth of this encounter between various cultures.”

A number of major development and partnership projects have emerged this year, notably the partnership with the Opéra de Montréal for the presentation of the great soprano Joyce El Khoury and the collaboration with the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto for the Canadian tour of the FMA 2018 production Qudud-Flamenco.

“The influence of the great Arab-Muslim civilization on the arts world is fathomless, not only throughout the Mediterranean basin but around the world,” says Michel Beaulac, artistic director of the Opéra de Montréal. “Many composers have been fascinated by the Arab world. That’s what gave rise to this collaboration between the Festival du Monde Arabe and the Opéra de Montréal, with the presentation of a concert recital by the renowned Lebanese-Canadian soprano Joyce El Khoury.”

Salon de la Culture and Film

Programming assistant Maxime Garrigue unveiled the highlights of the free Performing Arts, the Salon de la Culture and the Film programs.

Salon de la Culture

More than ever, the FMA’s Salon de la culture conveys the year’s theme. Hard-hitting topics inspired by Québec and international literary, social and political currents stir two weeks of debate and reflection. Eminent researchers, intellectuals, journalists and artists will invigorate this space of freedom and exchanges. They will raise topics such as immigration, online radicalization, living in harmony, the perception of Arab identity in the Arab countries, illumination of the situation in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Iran, fear as political pathology, a reflection on regulation of the link between religious and political issues in Islam, the new forms of post-Arab-spring marriage and the current status of Lebanese cinema. A prominent place has been given to the project J’irai migrer chez vous in partnership with the Passeurs de voix collective, which is bringing to the theatre the voice of refugees here in Québec. In addition, two screenings of Algerian films will round out this series of activities, including Tahia Didou, a cult film by actor Mohamed Zinet.


The FMA is presenting the North American premières of two major films. Still burning by Georges Hachem, with the leading role played by none other than Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad, starring on the big screen for the first time. The film will be shown in the presence of the director, who will also give a talk on his work as a filmmaker within Lebanon’s orphaned film scene. Also being presented is Morine by Tony Farjallah, a work of historical fiction telling the story of Marina, the “transvestite saint” who, to be admitted to a convent where women were prohibited at the time, concealed her sex for several years. The film highlights one of the first fighters for women’s rights in the seventh-century Orient.

The Film component is also presenting the Québec premières of a selection of feature films in partnership with the Cinéma du Parc. Wajib – The Wedding Invitation by Annemarie Jacir (Palestine), an award-winning film nominated at several European festivals, addresses the Palestinian tradition of the “wajib” and deals with the complexities of father-son relationships; Israfil by Ida Panahandeh (Iran) touches on the amorous uncertainties of disillusioned Iranian youth; and Le Clair obscur by Khaoula Assebab Benomar (Morocco), presents a different point of view on the world of blind people and their relationship with the society around them.

Free Performing Arts program

This year, the free Performing Arts component is devoted to the annual theme, providing an offshoot based on performance encounters with FMA artists: Stories of mutants. Leading figures in this edition will tell their stories in dance, music and song, close to their worlds, in events that form hybrids between workshop-lecture, master class and show. Appearing in the Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme and taking an approach based on sharing, exchange and learning, the artists will reveal the best secrets of their discipline, their atypical careers and their “mutant” portion. Pierre Khoury, Alida Emsail, Tanveer Alam and Florence Leclerc will bring us into the intertwined worlds of new Oriental dance, while Said Mesnaoui, Guy Pelletier, Sidi Bémol and Youcef Rais will introduce us to musical styles with deep roots, consisting of blends and virtuosity. At the cultural café L’escalier, two original oud duos will meet: oud/handpan and oud/bouzouki with Aziz Daouni, Pierre-Olivier Bolduc, Ali Omar El-Farouk and Ianson Milan Ghikadis. Finally, La Vitrola will host the launch of the album Ela Matta (Until when?) by Ali Omar El-Farouk’s trio with Mike de Masi and Joseph Khoury.

Performing Arts

Communications director Emily Awad then took the floor to unveil the Performing Arts program. “The FMA is proud to develop an exciting program that presents outstanding artists, exceptional encounters and uncommon paths,” Ms. Awad stated.

 FMA 2018 original production:

True to its tradition, the FMA has come up with a new original production for its 19th edition, Qudud-Flamenco, joining the two shores of Gibraltar, an encounter between the qudud of Aleppo and Andalusian flamenco, two musical traditions with common roots and similarities that promise the audience pure moments of creativity and ecstasy. This production, with its première set for the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, is created by Spanish guitarist and composer Carlos Piñana under the direction of Katia Makdissi-Warren with the voices of Celia Romero, Ahmad Azrak and Abdelkarim Hamdan.

“The immortals” series: 

  • Warda, the rose of the worlds: A great tribute to the Lebanese-Algerian diva Warda, borne by the sensational voices of Algerian singer Nada Al Raihane and Lebanese singer Ranine Chaar under the direction of Kamel Maati, a renowned conductor who had the opportunity to work alongside Warda.
  • Abbas Righi : The master of malouf returns to the FMA and promises lovers of Andalusian music an even more exalted concert.
  • Lena Chamamyan: In her third appearance at the FMA, the Syrian singer with an ethereal voice delivers to her ever-loyal audience a concert marked by her special touch of jazzed-up traditional songs.
  • Georges Wassouf: The “sultan of tarab,” a living legend of Arab song, will be back in Montréal after a 10-year absence, in a concert presented as a prelude to the FMA jointly with Founoun.
  • Joyce el Khoury: An outstanding concert by the Lebanese-Canadian soprano, who will revisit the greatest composers to celebrate the Orient, from Ravel to Bizet, in partnership with the Opéra de Montréal.
  • Beirut Flashback: the feverish decades, an immersion in the glory years of the Beirut musical scenes from the 1960s to the 1990s, borne by the superb voice of singer Ranine Chaar.

“Songs of mutants” series

  • L’Odyssée de Fulay: The Festival will open its doors with the new production by Cheikh Sidi Bémol, a show midway between theatre and concert, with the artist inviting us on a journey to the heart of myths and legends, a fantastic tale where we learn that the Greek gods had set foot on Berber lands.
  • Kurdes en cordes: A journey to the heart of the least known musical traditions, those of Kurdistan, through enchanting melodies from the Kamaan ensemble, joined by the fabulous French singer Eléonore Fourniau.
  • Songs of mutants, coming to visit Gnawa: A new production by the Trio Nomad’s Land, conveying the edition’s theme that visits the ancestral traditions of the Gnawa with a modern-day writing borne by the voices of guembri master Said Mesnaoui and luminous Canadian singer Karen Young.
  • HOH: A group bringing together three of Egypt’s most acclaimed musicians – Hany Adel, Ousso Lotfy and Hany Eldakkak – with an original acoustic inspiration, in co-production with Jokermail Productions.
  • Meziane Amiche and Nomad’Stones: As part of the gala of the Club Avenir foundation, an evening of contagious energy featuring two leading groups from Algeria’s contemporary youth.
  • Oumaima el Khalil: A monument of committed Lebanese song, a free voice that instils a breath of hope onto our current world, jointly with the Centre National Libano Canadien.

Discoveries and bold fusions 

  • Talween with Walid Zairi: An opportunity to discover the oud in another light, tinged with world and jazz sounds.
  • The travels of Ibn Battouta: An exquisite dialogue between the Indian sitar and the oud in the footsteps of the great traveller Ibn Battouta, who will lead us from North Africa to India.
  • Caravan: A wandering immersion in the jazzy world of Randa Ghossoub and her quintet through a journey between East and West.
  • Altérités: A trans-border mosaic of sounds from musical heritages that are both different and rich, bringing together an array of Montréal artists of different origins – Lebanese, Iranian, Irish, Chilean and Québécois.

Each year, the FMA presents a bold and hard-hitting theme around which the Festival’s various activities revolve. The thematic proposal of this edition, Songs of mutants on the shores of Gibraltar, was presented by FMA programming assistant Maxime Garrigue.

To conclude, Mr. Garrigue unveiled the highlights of the 19th edition in images.

Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal – 19th edition

At the Place des Arts and in other venues: October 26 to November 11, 2018



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