Ahmed Moneka arrived in Toronto from Baghdad five years ago and has since collaborated with many artistic institutions including the Canadian Opera Company, Tarragon Theatre, Aga Khan Museum, Tafelmusik, Driftwood Theatre Group, Toronto Jazz Festival, Koerner Hall, Modern Times Stage, Jabari Dance Theatre, Toronto Laboratory Theatre, Theatre Centre, and TRIA Theatre. He is one of the founders of the band Moskitto Bar and is the creator and leader of Moneka Arabic Jazz – one of a 2019 Stingray Rising Stars Winner at the Toronto Jazz Festival.
In Baghdad, Ahmed studied theatre at the Institute of Fine Art and then at the prestigious Academy of Fine Art. During his formative years, he also learned Afro-Sufi singing and drumming in the tradition of his family, who came to Iraq from Kenya in the 8th century. He was the first Black Iraqi to host a television program, the youngest member of the Iraqi National Theatre, and he played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad at the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. Other performances with The Forum Theatre, Iraqi Theatre Company, Street Art Company, and Baghdad Theatre Company took him to Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and many other festivals. He co-wrote and starred in the film The Society which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and resulted in his exile from Iraq because of its subject matter of homosexuality. . He is now working to become a Canadian citizen.
His current projects include:
- Jesse LaVercombe and I together began creating a new piece of theatre-music fusion called Gilgamesh + Enkidu which weaves together personal immigration stories with the oldest narrative in the world – The Epic of Gilgamesh (from Mesopotamia, like me). Jesse and I joined with Chicago-based director Seth Bockley and developed our show with the support of Tarragon in Toronto, Pivot Arts Festival in Chicago, Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and La Mama in New York City (where we were slated to perform before the pandemic hit)
- Performing vocals and drums with Moneka Arabic Jazz. This group reflects his journey into and through the Toronto music scene. It fuses Maqam – a style of Arabic music he learned in his native Iraq – and African groove and rhythm that he inherited from his African descendants. Ahmed chose this fusion of Maqam, Jazz and Blues because they are a distinct reflection of his Afro-Arabic roots and fit right in to Toronto’s diverse music scene.
- Vocalist and drummer for Moskitto Bar, a multicultural folk band featuring French accordionist Tangi Ropars and Ukranian cimbalon player Yura Rafalui.
- Ahmed also conducts a series of workshops – called the Moneka Monologues – in Toronto to help educate and engage people on traditional Iraqi music.