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  • Writer's pictureAbbas Karimjee

Canadian Iraqi Singer Ahmed Moneka discusses release of his first song and role of arts during covid

Photo of Ahmed Moneka by Alex Usquiano

Our chat with local Iraqi singer & actor Ahmed Moneka about his first song release: The song has two parts, one part against the militia in Iraq and the second part is about how it’s hard to be far from your land and people as well as to integrate in a new culture and community.

Read through our chat with him below!

How did it all start?

It started with my family ritual, which is Sufi -Iraqi- African from south of Iraq in a city called Basra. I grew up in a very artistic family as my father was a very famous actor and comedian in Iraq. I was also surrounded by a lot of artists from a young age including my brothers. I even went to art school when I was 15 years old at a selective arts school called The Institute of Fine Arts.I got accepted in the theatre department and learned Maqam along with acting skills. I studied theatre for 9 years in Iraq and became a well-known artist”.

What were your struggles as a Middle Eastern artist when you first moved to Canada?

I came here as a visitor and then I was forced to stay. The most challenging thing I faced was the language because I didn’t speak English when I came here and that kept me from acting and mostly focusing on being a musician . This is because music is like a universe language but it takes time to be stable,be established and connected with the circuit here.

For me,it took 8 months. I was really focusing on learning English through ESL school and through my community as well. For example,I moved downtown and also hung out with only English speakers. And that helped to understand a lot of things the community,society, the system and the rhythm of everyday life- really the way to integrate”

Tell us about your newly released song Dingy Doo?

Moneka discusses the meaning behind Dingy Doo.

It’s a song about a part of my journey when I came here in 2015 and my brothers still lived in Vienna in Northern Austria- the whole family was separated from each other and reunited again in Turkey in 2018. My younger brother, Mahmood wrote the song and the story about the tragedy we experienced but in the end how we still survived despite being separated...We were connected through our hearts and dealing with the challenge. So he wrote against the militia in Iraq and the second part is about how it’s hard to be far from your land and people as well as to integrate in a new culture and community. At the same time because we are dreamers we believe in love, arts and know how to do arts… so that makes us super happy to integrate in the new community.It’s talking about the bridge between old city and new city and what happened through

our experience.

How are you adapting as an artist during the pandemic?

We have some support from the government and the music community works hard to make it happen but at the same time more than 95% of our work is cancelled. It’s a challenging time,but at the same time we have to figure it out. For example,we filmed Dingy Doo through a home recording, edited it and then we sent it to people. We have to keep going! We can’t wait to sit around and see who will help us or what is coming around in the corner as we have to be engaged and step in.

What responsibility do you think artists have to really connect with audiences during this unprecedented time?

As an artist, our responsibility becomes bigger and heavier during this time-we have to really engage with more people virtually or anyhow we can to give them hope, solutions, question things and ultimately activate each other.”

What support do Arab/Middle Eastern artists need from their own community?

I wanted to talk about the way of building community, how we can help each other and support each other. For example, in the Eastern European community,people engage and support their artists in terms of larger fundraising. Arabic artists need to support each other and create bigger events. There should be activities for kids to know themselves, be supported and be proud of their culture. Really building more for Arabic immigrants in terms of teaching them how to read, write and to be connected to their community.

What is your message to your fans?

Love is the main reason for a great future. I just wish them a lot of love, to be healthy and successful.

This interview has been edited and condensed for publishing.

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