Who are we?

Arts Canteen is a new London-based venture with big ambition. Our aim is to explore artistic relationships between the Middle East and Mediterranean regions and diverse audiences across Europe. We will provide platforms for emerging and mid-career artists who create exciting contemporary visual art and music.

Arts Canteen is not a fixed space but a home for stirring the arts. We want to share ideas and open new conversations through events, exhibitions and this web site.

  • Karama

    Karama is an exciting London-based band, led by Moroccan Oud player Soufian Saihi. His compositions are based around oud, clarinet, double bass and percussion. Finding inspiration from the beautiful ecstatic Gnawa, North African and Arabic classical music as well as the diverse sounds of London streets during his busking experience, the music wonders brilliantly through diverse sonic landscapes that range from Tinariwen to Alice Coltrane, superbly funky and beautifully melodic.

    With members from Venezuela, Spain, Japan, Morocco and the UK, Karama is an utterly unique experience.

    Tickets on sale now.

  • Hafla on the Square


    Join the party!

    Arts Canteen & Hammersmith London are proudly producing Shubbak's opening weekend: a free celebration of music, stories, film and activities. Hafla means 'party'. 

    There will be a music stage with international and UK-based bands playing popular Arab an fusion music, an outdoor screen with short films and activities. 

    Bring your friends and family. Sit down and relax while listening to music, dance to our DJ's set showcasing the latest Arab sounds, learn to play the table (Arabic drum), catch a film and sip a coffee. Just two minutes from Hammersmith station, Hafla takes over one of London's popular squares for a fresh look at the culture of the Arab world. 

    Saturday: 12:00-18:00
    Sunday: 12:00-17:00
  • Hijaz

    Friday 5th July 2013 @ Rich Mix London

    Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture. 22 June – 6 July 2013. A festival held every two years in London that presents outstanding artists and cultural events from across the Arab world. Shubbak (meaning ‘window’ in Arabic) offers people everywhere the opportunity to engage with and develop a greater understanding of Arab culture in all its forms. - London

    Hijaz - a Belgium-based six-piece jazz fusion with a warm melodic and distinctly cosmopolitan sound.  Built around the ‘oud and the piano, their work is a heady mix of musical influences drawn from the Arab World and Europe. This is ensemble work at its best, with each musician and artist cleverly balanced against each other in a cultural paste of musical spices. Jazz might have grown out of the West African/European melting pot, but here it feels very much at home in this Mediterranean setting.


    11 April – 18 May 2013

    Private View : Thursday 9th May 2013 @ 18.00pm

    Studio 3 Gallery
    Jarman Building School of Arts
    University of Kent
    Canterbury CT2 7UG

    The exhibition will be located in the debate about the encounter between western art and that from the Arab world. It will explore the questions asked in the encounter about the resilience of the artist and the broader society to the legacy and contemporary reality of colonial occupation. How does the artist overcome, respond to and work within the weave of these realities? Does the insistence of this question continue to marginalise the work of artists from the Arab world, “othering” them; does it allow them to address universal themes casting light on them, or has globalisation stripped away the very traditions that allow this work to maintain a distinctive identity?


    7- 28 December 2012 @ Rich Mix 35 - 47 Bethnel Green Road, London E1 6LA.

    Despite’ presents a selection of the vibrant and engaged work of a group of artists from Palestine, a troubled place that has been subject to a seismic history with more than a fair share of injustice and violence in all its forms. The consequences of this history continue into the present with inadequate proposals for unrealisable solutions, while an ongoing military and political occupation manifests itself through oppression and control and assumes it is above any international codes of practice or law.

    Cultural life and artistic practice could have been destroyed by this, but they have proven remarkably resilient. Despite – maybe even because of – the situation, visual artists in and from Palestine have never stopped producing thought provoking works and there is a compelling desire and need for creative expression to counter the violence and to celebrate and affirm life, vitality and hope.

    Curated by Aser El Saqqa and Nicola Gray.
Washing Lines
BabelMed Music 2012
  • Hijaz - Chemsi

    “Chemsi” is the new album by Belgian band ‘Hijaz’ (after the success of their debut album "Dunes").

    "you can almost smell the aroma of Eastern spices floating out of the studio."

    This is essentially a jazz album, but one with a difference since the Arabic music scales, the instrumentation (mainly North African and Middle Eastern) and the influence of Greek Rembetika are so infused into the album that you can almost smell the aroma of Eastern spices floating out of the studio. Although the more familiar instruments of piano (Niko Deman), bass (Vincent Noiret) and drumkit (Chryster Aerts) are skilfully in evidence throughout, it’s the interplay between these and the traditional non-Western instruments that make this CD so interesting. The band describe it as “a marriage of the piano, great instrument from the Western musical tradition, with the stringed instrument that has become synonymous with the Middle East, the oud.”

    "shimmering atmospheric performances"

    The Tunisian Moufadhel Adhoum produces shimmering atmospheric performances on the oud (the arabic precursor to the lute and almost all Western guitar variations since) proving it every bit as versatile as any jazz guitar (check out his solos, for instance, in “Ila Sadiqui”, or “Leaving Adana”). Similarly, Greek-Belgian Niko Deman uses his piano to almost paint with music (on “Mr J.P.S” for instance). Noiret and Aerts set the base up for all this to happen with precision and concision, the bass being featured to great effect in the spacious arrangement of the ‘tone poem’ that is “Meltemia”.

    Morrocan Azzedine Jazouli is outstanding on a veritable battery of percussion (darbuka and deholla - the goblet drums, the paired tbila, the bejingled riq tambourine, the North African frame drums - the def and the bendir) often driving the rhythm in unusual directions.

    "Stories, storms and sunsets are conjured up out of thin air"

    But for me it is the flutework on the album that really sets the tone throughout and raises goosebumps on the skin. From Armenian Vardan Hovanissian’s double reed duduk and sh’vi to Tunisian Houssem Bel Kadhi’s haunting otherworldly ney (ancient end-blown flute), the whole album is permeated by their shifting, melancholy notes.  Stories, storms and sunsets are conjured up out of thin air (the name “Chemsi” means ‘Sun’, incidentally).

    If all this weren’t enough, Hijaz have invited some very special guests to perform on some of the tracks. On violin the phenomenal Belglian multi-instrumentalist Tcha Limberger, raises the musical bar once more and holds it somewhere in the midpoint between East and West; and on tabla the French-Indian Prabhu Edouard brings some South Asian fire to the ensemble.

    For all the individual talents in this band, the truth is that it is really an ensemble piece of work, with each musician and artist cleverly balanced against each other in a cultural paste of musical spices. Jazz might have grown out of the West African/European melting pot, but here it feels very much at home in this Mediterranean setting.

    On a final note, the strange thing is that upon hearing the album for the first time it vividly reminded me of an equally unlikely pairing: that of jazz with Bolivian music, from the aptly named South American outfit “Bolivian Jazz”. Never take anything for granted. The world of music is full of wondrous surprises.

    Chemsi” is released on 21st Feb 2011 by Zephyrus Records, Belgium



    Glyn Phillips

  • India Art Summit 2011

    NEW DELHI— Arts Canteen Director, Aser El Saqqa, visited the Preview of the 2011 India Art Summit in January. The Summit provided clear signs of a burgeoning Indian art market. Strong sales were reported and first-time buyers were abundant, although the fair's organizers were challenged by security issues, both expected and unexpected — including threats by Hindu nationalists against the work of controversial artist M.F. Husain — and a surprise visit by Sonia Gandhi.

    The fair changed its timing from August to January this year and has grown in size, with the number of international galleries increasing from 17 to 34. Many galleries reported selling up to 80 percent of their works to first-time buyers, the Press Trust of India reports. Among Indian modern artists, F N Souza showed the strongest sales, while among European moderns, Pablo Picasso attracted the most buyers. Big sales were made to private collectors from the United States, China and  Europe.. The works of many Indian contemporary artists sold well, particularly to museum buyers, including Subodh Gupta (who, in an unusual departure, showed paintings instead of sculpture), Bharti Kher, and Sudarshan Shetty. Mumbai-born and London-based sculptor Anish Kapoor, fresh from his first show in India, also had work on view at the Art Summit.

    www.artinfo.com 25 January 2011

  • Art Revolution in the Middle East

    The Guardian Series Freetime paper (Waltham Forest) carried this article on Arts Canteen in May 2011. Arts Canteen Director, Aser El Saqqa, was interviewed by George Nott.

  • Defiance - Press Release



    Leytonstone's Stone Space gallery is delighted to host 'Defiance' a striking exhibition of work by 5 Palestinian artists from Gaza in conjunction with Arts Canteen. Opening in April 2012 the exhibition will present work which illustrates the determination of five artists to overcome the environment in which they work while simultaneously being inspired and challenged by it.

    The exhibition will be from Thursday 19 April until Sunday 6 May with a private view from 7pm on the 19th April

    All five artists are emerging talents in the Middle East.  Each artist tells their own story: the conscious choice to use vivid colours, the hopeful form of a pregnant woman or the playful and detailed depiction of symbols such as the cactus - symbolic of endurance – or using the shapes identified with traditional calligraphy but which are never resolved into meaningful text.

    The artists’ power is evident as they transform ugliness and despair into beauty and light as the mundane forms of concrete, satellite dishes, asbestos roofs and washing lines are presented to us.

    Arts Canteen is a London based cultural venture. Their aim is to explore artistic relationships between the Middle East and Mediterranean regions and diverse audiences across Europe. They provide platforms for emerging and mid-career artists who create exciting contemporary visual art and music.

    All artworks will be for sale.



    THURS & FRIDAYS    |14:00–18:00

    SAT & SUNDAYS        |12:00–16:00

    PRIVATE VIEW |19 APRIL|18:30–20:30| RSVP to  info@artscanteen.com


    For more information, sales and interviews contact: Aser El Saqqa |

    info@artscanteen.com | 07903 606026


    Contact: The Stone Space, 6 Church Lane, Leytonstone E11 1HG

    Exhibition: Defiance

    Dates: 19 April – 6 May 2012

    Admission: Free

    Private View: 19 April 2012

    Telephone: 07903 606026

    Email: info@artscanteen.com and mail@thestonespace.com

    Website: www.artscanteen.com and www.thestonespace.com

    Nearest Tube: Leytonstone (Central Line)



  • Internships @ Arts Canteen

    Arts Canteen is offering internships over the summer of 2012.


    What’s the internship about?


    Arts Canteen will be presenting a number of music and visual arts projects in 2012  – 2013. We would like you to work with us on these over the summer. Interns will be mainly helping to develop projects, writing funding proposals and articles for the website, building partnerships with other organisations and the media, and using social media to build Arts Canteen’s online presence.  As part of a small and dynamic organisation, you will play a key role in coming up with creative ideas.  

    Internships are unpaid with the expectation to work at least 14 hours per week for a period of 2-3 months (negotiable).  We can be flexible with days/times of working and will discuss this at interview stage.  


    What we offer you…..


    §         Work experience to develop your skills

    §         Opportunityto develop contacts with artists and musicians in the Arab world/Mediterranean region

    §         Involvement in exciting music and/or visual arts projects

    §         Respect for your creativity and ideas



    Who we are looking for…..


    You will be passionate about art and music and be an excellent organiser. You will have excellent verbal and written communications skills (jncluding IT literacy). You will be able to work independently and work from home.


    How to apply….


    Send your CV and a covering letter with the contact details of two referees to Aser at  info@artscanteen.com                                                                                                    

    Deadline for applications:


    30 April 2012