Immigration of Egyptians to Canada first became appreciable in the 1950s. During the 1960s they formed the majority of immigrants from Arabic countries. Most Egyptian immigrants have been of urban origin, 75 per cent of them white-collar professionals.
In the 1970s the small size of the community as well as its recent date of settlement limited the organization of public concerts. However the Reda Folklore Dance Troup from Egypt, led by Ali Ismail, performed in Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto in 1973, and the Egyptian Embassy, as part of an Egyptian Week Festival held in June 1978, sponsored appearances in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto of the 'Om Kolsoum,' an Arabic orchestra and 15-voice mixed choir. The musicians used both western and traditional instruments (Qanun, 'ud, Darabukkah, violin, and cello). The Samir Theatre, an impressive performing group of 27 folk musicians and dancers, performed in Toronto and Montreal in 1982. Informal gatherings in the 1960s and 1970s featured commercialized popular and folk music provided by amateur musicians, the audience usually participating. In addition, there was occasional singing of Coptic and Arabic chants on religious and even secular occasions by small groups in the home. (See Arabic music.) To the limited extent that this small community engaged in cultural activites, it managed to avoid absorption of Western influences. Egyptian-born musicians in Canada include the Montreal organist George Missiha and George Sawa, a member of the Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble (a quintet, and until 1978 called the Classical Arabic Music Quintet of Toronto). The El-Nil cultural club of Toronto often invites members of the Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble to perform and lecture about music. (Raffi Armenian and Gerard Kantarjian, though both born in Egypt, are of Armenian descent.)