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Journey through music in Victoria

Moneka Arabic Jazz and Zakir Hussain Trio bring global community to the stage
Moneka uses jazz, maqam and funk to bridge his Afro-Arabic background to the diversity of Toronto performers. Here is his full band, Ahmed Moneka Arabic Jazz. (Courtesy Caravan World Rhythms)

For world music that will make you groove, look no further than Caravan World Rhythms. The organization is known to bring some of the hottest talents from around the globe, and this month, it hosts two outstanding acts.

Ahmed Moneka Arabic Jazz - from death threats to freedom

Almost eight years ago, musician Ahmed Moneka was a refugee seeking asylum in Canada after receiving death threats for starring in a film about homosexuality. Since landing in Toronto, his journey has grown into a passion for telling stories of human struggle and freedom while using art to promote human rights, love, peace and acceptance.

His latest project, Ahmed Moneka Arabic Jazz, comes to Hermann’s Jazz on April 17 and tells his stories through lyrical, lively Afro-Arabic music. Jazz and funk are melded with melodies from Moneka’s homeland, Iraq, along with the African groove and rhythms inherited from his Kenyan ancestry. The band reflects the cultural diversity of Toronto, having amassed members from across the globe.

Through his music, Moneka fulfils his desire to connect cultures and create a “global community” while countering the negative, stereotypical perspective towards Middle Eastern culture.

The group’s talent has garnered recent recognition, including being named one of the 2019 Stingray Rising Stars finalists at the Toronto Jazz Festival and winner of the 2022 Stingray Rising in Mundial Montreal.

At Hermann’s, Moneka will play a more intimate show, joined by five group members bringing a full sound to the stage with drums, clarinet, bass, guitar, oud, and violin.

This group puts the fun in funky, bringing a distinct sound to the stage worth experiencing live.

Hermann’s Jazz is located at 753 View Street. The show on April 17 starts at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $26 plus fees or $5 more at the door. Learn more at

Zakir Hussain had a triple Grammy win this year for his tabla talents. (Jim Bennett)

Zakir Hussain Trio - TISRA on tail-win of three Grammys

Widely considered one of the greatest tabla players of our time, Indian classical and world music legend Zakir Hussain performs at the Royal Theatre on Sunday, April 28.

Hussain, 73, comes to Victoria on the heels of winning three Grammy awards this year, becoming the first Indian to win three in a single night. He won in the Best Global Music Performance, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album and Best Global Music Album categories.

Showcasing rich folk and classical traditions from across India, Hussain will be presenting his new show TISRA accompanied by bansuri flautist Debopriya Chatterjee and sarangi player Sabir Khan.

Hussain will showcase his skills on the tabla, an instrument of North India estimated to date back to ancient rhythmic tradition 5,000 years ago.

The tabla is made up of two drums that are played while seated on the floor. The larger drum, considered the bass, is called a Bayan and can encompass a range of expressions determined by the techniques and skill of the drummer. The right-hand drum is called the Dahina.

A child prodigy, Hussain started touring in India at age 12 and began his international touring career at 18. He has won extensive awards including several Grammys and the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the U.S.’s highest honour for a master of traditional arts.

He has collaborated with the likes of John McLaughlin, L. Shankar, George Harrison, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Henderson, and Van Morrison.

Also on stage, Sabir Khan plays the sarangi, a bowed instrument said to possess the sound closest to the human voice. Khan, now a popular composer for film and TV, began training at the age of six with his grandfather and is the 10th generation of his family to play the instrument.

Bansuri flautist Debopriya Chatterjee is one of few women flautists who performs Hindustani classical music and plays in a popular duo with her sister known as the “flute sisters.”

TISRA takes place Sunday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Royal Theatre. Tickets are available in person at Royal or McPherson Theatre box office, online at or through 250.386.6121.

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Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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