It used to be that when immigrants came to Ontario, Canada, they would move to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for some time to establish themselves before moving anywhere else. But that’s not the case anymore. Kitchener-Waterloo has become a “secondary gateway” region for new Canadians. That means our diversity is growing at a rapid rate…which is exciting for many reasons. It boosts our economy, diversifies our talent, and increases our cultural value for starters.

And this shift has happened quickly.

Do we as residents of this region realize what’s happening? Do we realize the phenomenon of this cultural shift in our community?

This song, We are Strong People (Shaabu al-kifah), is part of an intercultural project designed to explore and increase awareness of this phenomenon in a musical form. Through an online survey, I began by learning from members of the Syrian community about the beauty of their culture, tradition, and musical styles. The goal was to capture these thoughts in a song. I worked alongside Syrian musicians to create this music.

This community song is an original, compelling piece of music that strengthens community in the Region of Waterloo through social awareness and mutual understanding in celebrating our diversity.

This project’s significance lies in the opportunity to increase the cultural vibrancy of our Region and produce high quality, community-engaged music is made available broadly.


يا شام.. يا بلد الياسمين
روحك رح تضل دايما تعطينا
نحنا بهواك عشنا
حتى بعد ما بعدنا


يا بيت الحنان
يا أرض السلام.. و بصمة الأمان
ذكراك مو بالنسيان

شعب الكفاح.. من بعد جراح
أهل العزة والكرامة و نبع السماح

We are strong people,
Hold our heads up high,
Without a country,
We still live for joy and life.
Ancient history,
Of welcome can be seen,
Opening our homes and arms to neighbours in need.


My Syria, country of jasmine
Your spirit, generous and giving,
Your breath is life-giving,
Even upon our leaving.


Lyrics By: Mary Abdel-Malek Neil and Rola Kuidir
Music By: Mohamad Hassan, Tawfeek Albasha, and Mary Abdel-Malek Neil
Performers: Rola Kuidir (vocals), Mary Abdel-Malek Neil (vocals), Mohamad Hassan (tanbur), Tawfeek Albasha (oud)
Co-Produced By:  Jeff Cowell, Mary Abdel-Malek Neil

Photo Credit: “Palmyra (Arabic: تدمر Tadmur‎), Syria” by Alessandra Kocman is licensed under

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