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Heritage Day - Arab Pride - Saturday October 18, 2008 at Harbourfront Centre
(Free public preview events also take place on Friday evening October 17)

The Canadian Arab Federation in partnership with Harbourfront Centre presents Heritage Day - Arab Pride on the evening of October 17 and in the afternoon and evening of October 18. The Arab States region represents more than 320 million people living in 22 countries stretching from Morocco in the west to Yemen in the east. This free event showcases the diverse dance, music, food, film, poetry and literature culturally co-existing within this region.

Event highlights include recreating a souk (marketplace) with Arabic sittings, archival objects and an installation of traditional carpets. Saturday dance events showcase the sensual belly dance and the folkloric dabkeh dance. Friday evening is dedicated to reciting and performing the work of renowned poet and scholar Mahmoud Darwish. Saturday events also include music by respected Toronto composer and oud player Mel M'rabet and his quartet as well as a Youth and Yalla - lets Party DJ evening event. The provocative documentary Real Bad Arabs will be also be screened. A ticketed Saturday evening concert showcases Montreal group Orchestre Rashid - featuring Moroccan born artist and musician Rashid El Guendouz and Simo Rai (a Rai singer from Alegeria).

Heritage Day - Arab Pride events:

VISUAL ARTS - Marilyn Brewer Community Space
(Oct. 17 - 6 to 9:30 p.m., Oct. 18 - noon to 11 p.m.)
This small example of a Arab souk features cultural and historical community artifacts as well as works by community artists alongside vendors selling Arab goods.

POETRY and MUSIC Reminiscing Mahmoud Darwish
Featuring Toronto vocalist/oud player Prof. Bassam Bishara
Public Preview Event - Brigantine Room (Oct. 17 - 8 to 9:30 p.m.)

Prof. Bassam Bishara and guests commemorate poet and scholar Mohamed Darwish, who passed away on August 9, 2008. This important Arab poet was born in 1942 in a Galilee village razed to the ground by the Israelis. A prominent journalist - he was also a director of the Palestinian Research Center and a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO. He lived in exile between Beirut and Paris until his return in 1996 to Palestine. His poems are known through the Arab world and he has published around 30 poetry and prose collections, translated into 35 languages. He was a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Prof. Bassam Bishara was born in Galilee, Palestine in 1954. His Middle Eastern Orchestra was much sought after throughout Palestine and in 1983, he was appointed Music Director for the Alhakawati Theatre in Jerusalem; where his concerts, music and songs were dedicated to the Palestine cause. He has toured Europe and the United States with an orchestra and as a soloist and now lives in Canada. He is the lead vocalist, oud and violin player, composer and musical director for the Arabesque Dance Company and is professor of Middle Eastern Music at York University.

MUSIC and DANCE performances
Brigantine Room (Oct. 18 - noon to 1:30 p.m.)
- Events include a music performance by prominent Toronto based Sudanese singer and lute player Mohamed Al Samari followed by Iraqi folkloric dancers from the Iraqi Kurdish Society and the Turkoman Society (noon to 12:30 p.m.). Toronto's Habeeba Dance Group ( group showcase traditional Egyptian dances (including belly dancing) from 1to 1:30 p.m.

DANCE workshops for adults
Lakeside Terrace (Oct. 18 - 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
- Events include a belly dancing workshop (11 a.m to 12:30 p.m.) by popular Toronto Egyptian belly dancer Bebe Dahl. She has performed and taught belly dancing for more than 13 years and is the official dancer for the Egyptian Canadian Club in Toronto. she is also the Artistic Director & Founder of Sheikh Shack Show Studios and the School of Middle Eastern Dance located in Richmond Hill. For more info visit Audiences can also experience a Dabke folkloric dance lesson (1:30 to 3 p.m.). Learn the traditional forms of this line dance danced for centuries by both men and women at community celebrations and weddings. Dabke is also the national dance of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan - a result of their common historical borders within the Levant region.

MUSIC event - Mel Mírabet and his quartet (oud players)
Brigantine Room (Oct. 18 - 2:15 to 3 p.m.)
Internationally known Mel M'rabet is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has performed with artists like Omar Sosa, Zakir Hussain, Ali Akbar Khan and Cesaria Evora among others. A self-taught musician he graduated from the University of Granada, Spain in the translation and interpretation department. In addition to his solo work he is the founder of three Andalusion groups and is a member of the Canadian Al Tarab ensemble. His work fuses the traditions of Spanish, Persian and Arabic music - which has evolved into contemporary music forms like Flamenco. More info at:

COMEDY and MUSIC event
Lakeside Terrace (Oct. 18 - 5:30 to 7 p.m.)
This open mic. showcase will feature comedy and music performances from up and coming local artists. Confirmed acts include poet and musician bigHead and stand-up from comedian Dave Merheje. Merheje is of Lebanese background and was born and raised in Windsor. His style is aggressive and in your face. He performs all over Canada and the U.S. and was featured at the 2nd annual Arab Comedy Festival in New York and as a headliner in the We Ainít Terrorists Show. Ahmed Habib aka bigHead was born in Baghdad, Iraq and moved to Toronto in 1992. Currently he is a spoken word artist, activist, writer, and journalist who has performed at many events such as the Mayworks Labour Festival in 2006. His work has also been featured in the Toronto Free Art Gallery, the 3rd international Hip Hop festival in Caracas, Venezuela, and has performed at many events advocating for social justice in Toronto. Join his poetry, to start a conversation that will get louder and louder, until it can no longer be ignored.

MUSIC event - Youth and Yalla Letís Party!
Brigantine Room (Oct. 18 - 10 p.m.)
A fun party with a DJ spinning pulsating tracks to make you dance. Show up and have a blast.

Studio Theatre (Oct. 18 - 4 to 5:30 p.m.)
- Local artists are invited to speak and share ideas, techniques and experiences with the audience to help local aspiring artists. Panelists TBC

FAMILY events
Miss Lou's Room (Oct.18 - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
- Events include storytelling and games (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and arts and crafts (2 to 5 p.m.) with a local artist

FILM event - Real Bad Arabs with Q&A
Studio Theatre (Oct. 18 - 1 to 3 p.m.)
Real Bad Arabs is a groundbreaking documentary dissecting a slanderous cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged from the earliest days of silent film to today's biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores degrading images of Arabs - from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists" - and offers devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab cultures. The film challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.

TICKETED MUSIC event - Orchestre Rashid (Montreal/Morocco) with special guests Simo Rai (Algeria)
Brigantine Room - Saturday October 18 (7 p.m.)
Tickets: $20 advance, $27 at the door - Available at the Harbourfront Centre Box Office
Rashid El Guendouz is a Moroccan born artist and musician who's group Orchestre Rashid, has become an unavoidable presence in the Arabic music scene in Montreal since forming in 1985. The group are known for their musical versatility, ranging from classical middle-eastern songs to the folkloric dances of North Africa. This concert will begin with an opening performance by Simo Rai (a Rai singer from Alegeria).

Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto.

For information and tickets the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

Media Contacts:
For Harbourfront Centre - Shane Gerard (416-973-4518 or
For the Canadian Arab Federation - Adonis El-Jamal (416-493-8635, x22 or
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