On Canada Day, join us for a memorable performance by CultureLink Nai Children’s Choir and Jawa with special guest, Syrian-American poet and rapper, Mona Haydar. The Toronto-based Nai Choir provides a unique space for young Syrian newcomers to participate in a musical project that maintains their relationship to their homeland while connecting them with their adopted home. Jawa, whose members are exclusively comprised of Syrian refugee musicians, have been instrumental to Nai’s growth and integration.
For this event, 40 young singers from the Nai Choir – who range in age from five to 15 – will present a blend of classic folk songs. They will also perform the world premiere of Canadian composer Hussein Janmohamed’s new multilingual work, “Rise Children, Let’s Rise to Peace,” which includes lyrics drawn from Haydar’s poetry.
Mona Haydar’s 2017 song “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)” was named by Billboard as one of the “25 top feminist anthems of all time.” NPR described the video as “reminiscent of Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album. It has a diverse female cast, vibrant modern choreography and camera work that creates intimacy with the viewer.” Haydar’s new song, “Barbarian,” was released on June 15, and explores ideas of beauty.
As part of the event, the Museum audience will be treated to a livestream of a portion of the 8th annual Serenade! Choral Festival at the Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C., which this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and honours his values of justice and humanity. Since the Nai Choir is unable to travel to Washington to participate in person, the Kennedy Centre will present a recorded video of the Nai Choir’s work during the Festival’s finale concert, while the Toronto audience will experience in person, the choir performing Janmohamed’s new piece.
CultureLink Nai Children’s Choir was established in April 2016 with a focus on healing, learning, and rejoicing, and they have since engaged with more than 200 refugee children aged five to 15. The word Nai means “the sound of the flute” in Arabic, referring to Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran’s belief that “singing is a fine prayer and the sound of the flute remains even after life ends.” The Nai Choir has performed at a range of venues and events, including for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the House of Commons.
Mona Haydar is a rapper, poet, activist, meditator, composting devotee, mountain girl, solar power lover, and tireless God enthusiast. Billboard described Mona Haydar’s debut song, “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)” as one of 2017’s top protest songs, later naming it one of the “25 top feminist anthems of all time.” Haydar grew up in Flint, Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan, lived in Damascus, Syria, where she studied Arabic and Islamic spirituality, then went to live in the mountains of Northern New Mexico at Lama Foundation, and then in the Redwood forest of Northern California. She currently lives in Harlem, New York, where she is pursuing her MA in Christian Ethics.
Hussein Janmohamed is a Toronto-based choral artist, composer, and music facilitator/conductor passionate about excellence in the choral arts as a medium for cultural dialogue, building positive relations, and accessing the human spirit. Janmohamed works with all ages to bring interactive choral experiences in community, education, and business settings to inspire creative leadership and connection. He is pursuing doctoral studies in music education at the University of Toronto focussing on the role choral music can play to support Muslim youth identity in dialogue with a diverse Canada. Janmohamed is the first recipient of the B.C. Choral Federation Malcolm McDonald Youth Achievement Award for his distinguished service, community building, and inspirational leadership.
Jawa, an ancient Arabic word meaning “passion,” is a new band founded by recently arrived Syrian professional musicians. The band presents traditional Arabic and Syrian music in a modern style to raise awareness of Arabic music and culture, aiming to create a feeling of home among the diaspora and introduce these traditions to their new neighbours. Esmaeel Abofakher, a resident musician with the CultureLink Nai Children’s Choir, plays bozok; Hanna Touma plays oud; and Rahaf Alakbani and Cristina Touma round out the group as vocalists.
An Associate Partnership presented by CultureLink Nai Children’s Choir.
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