Copy editor, proofreader, Twitter marketer, accomplished writer, passionate music lover, movie connoisseur, voracious reader, and keen photographer – I am all about the Arts. I was self-employed as a social media manager and marketer for musicians, authors, artists, and entrepreneurs through my business - Scully Love Promo - for almost 13 years. Bodacious Copy is my newest endeavour.
Just when I thought that Sultans of Stringcouldn’t devise a more ambitious and exciting project than their 2020 album, Refuge, they proved me wrong with the second installment of this project entitled Sanctuary. It is an equally ambitious, diverse, inclusive, and passionate album with a VIP roster of global ‘ambassadors’, some of whom are recent immigrants and refugees to Canada, as well as important Indigenous voices. All are masters of world music that tell the story of how to communicate with others through the global language of sound.
The album was released on Friday, November 5, 2021, on Fontana North! You can listen and purchase digital and hard copies now and also see Sultans of String’s new video for “Ariengue Arianga” at this link: https://smarturl.it/SultansSanctuary.
I was fortunate to be among the first to enjoy a sneak preview of Sanctuary which features this phenomenal guest artist list:
Ahmed Moneka – IRAQ / CAN Amchok Gompo – TIBET / CAN Donné Roberts – MADAGASCAR / CAN Duke Redbird – FIRST NATION INDIGENOUS Fethi Nadjem – Algeria / CAN Gundem Yayli Grubu – TURKEY Juan Carlos Medrano – COLOMBIA / CAN Leen Hamo – SYRIA / CAN Marito Marques – PORTUGAL / CAN Mehmet Akatay – TURKEY Padideh Ahrarnejad – IRAN / CAN Ravi Naimpally – INDIA / CAN Sammy Figueroa – PUERTO RICO / USA Saskia Tomkins – ENGLAND / CAN Selcuk Suna – TURKEY / CAN Suat Suna – TURKEY Tamar Ilana – CAN Tara Moneka – IRAQ / CAN Twin Flames – INDIGENOUS CAN Yukiko Tsutsui – JAPAN / CAN
Chris McKhool’s grandfather came to North America as a stowaway on a ship in the early 1900s from LEBANON and his pianist mother from EGYPT. And Sultans of String’s percussionist Rosendo ‘Chendy’ Leon came to North America as a refugee from CUBA.
The regular band includes the hardest working man I know—he never sleeps—the winner of the Canadian Independent Music Association’s 2021 Pivot Award—Chris McKhool, as well as flamenco guitarist and songwriter extraordinaire, Kevin Laliberté, and master bassist Drew Birston!
Working for Chris McKhool and Sultans of String for ten years has opened my ears to more world music than I have ever heard before, so I must credit them for adding sophistication to my musical taste. Not only am I a member of their amazing team, but a huge fan. You may feel similarly about this 3x Juno-nominated group who have accumulated more award honours than any of us can count!
There is so much richness, texture, and complexity to the songs on Sanctuary, that it is an album that becomes more cherished with repeated listening. All the sensational artists who contribute their gifts to the album are to be commended on their stellar performances as they transport us to another place through their musical alchemy.
My favourite tracks include the pure and joyful Madagascar sounds of “Ariengue Arianga”, with music and lyrics by Donné Roberts, arrangement by Sultans of String, and vocals by Donné and Yukiko Tsutsui. “Moroccan Dreams,” my favourite instrumental track, with music by Kevin Laliberté is luscious, wild, and evokes the desire for a Casablanca-like adventure, featuring Padideh Ahrarnejad on tar, and Ravi Naimpally on tabla. Turkish pop star, Suat Suna, lends terrific vocals to a gorgeous version of “Hurricane” (originally released on Refuge), featuring Turkish strings by Gundem Yayli Grubu, among other innovative musical guests. The stunning, passionate up-tempo ballad “Tell the Night” with lyrics and Syrian vocals by the exquisite Leen Hamo could transport you to the Ethereal Plane, while the quietly stunning “Khatenche” featuring breathtaking Tibetan flute by Amchock Gompa, who also wrote the music with McKhool and Laliberté, is perfect for inner reflection.
“Mi Santuario” featuring Colombian musician Juan Carlos Medrano, was the first single released on Friday, September 10, 2021, and the second single “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (originally recorded by Sonny & Cher) featuring Tara Saleh Moneka and Ahmed Moneka was released on Friday, October 8, 2021.
Sultans of String’s exciting new interview and music series, BACKSTAGE, a free online Livestream from their Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/sultansofstring has been featuring different artists from the album since Friday, September 10th with more yet to come. On Friday, November 12, 2021, at NOON EST, Sultans of String will feature powerful and versatile Canadian singer and flamenco dancer, Tamar Ilana.
If you missed these episodes of BACKSTAGE when they were live, you can always visit the group’s Facebook page to watch them in playback and share them with your friends. Some episodes are also on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/sultansofstring.
Sultans of String Release Second Single from Upcoming Album, Sanctuary: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) featuring Tara Salah Moneka & Ahmed Moneka
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Artist: Sultans of String Single: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)feat. Tara Salah Moneka & Ahmed Moneka Release date: October 8, 2021 from upcoming album, Sanctuary (releasing Nov 10)
BRAND NEW SINGLE FROM 3X JUNO AWARD NOMINEES/ 3X CFMA WINNERS SULTANS OF STRING
“Energetic and exciting music fest from a band with talent to burn… the very epitome of world music: no boundaries, no rules!” – Maverick Music Magazine
[Toronto, ON] NY Times and BILLBOARD charting world music supergroup Sultans of String released their brand-new single “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” on Oct 8, 2021. This song features the four core Sultans as well as incredibly talented and inspiring special guests Tara Salah Moneka & Ahmed Moneka.
Originally written by Sonny Bono, and sung by Cher and Nancy Sinatra, this is a new take on the song that speaks to people from the perspective of marginalized voices and is a benchmark of how the world has changed with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the thirst for equality around the world.
Sultans of String worked with Ahmed on their previous album, Refuge. An artist and a musician from Baghdad, Iraq, Ahmed came as an artist to Canada and then stayed as a refugee in order to save his life towards the end of 2015. “I love what I’m doing here now and Toronto gave me a lot of opportunity to continue my journey as an artist. I used to be an actor and I did a lot of projects and my work focus about human rights and supporting the story that no one telling it before. So I came to TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, as a main actor in film called The Society. And this movie, it was the first film talking about the history of homosexuality in Iraq, the first film like of its kind in Iraq.”
“We filmed the film, but we were scared to screen it until 2015. Then the first premier was in Cannes Festival and it was a nice, amazing exposure to the film. And then TIFF, they got it to screen, and then that’s why I ended up in Toronto on the red carpet.
At the same time, there was a revolution in Baghdad in the summer 2015, with a lot of ISIS in the North of Iraq, and people fighting. There was crazy chaos.
Several people, like the open-minded people, they were taking over, Ahmed continues. “So I was part of the revolution as well. And then in September in the fall I came to TIFF, to Toronto, and they were screening the film. TIFF, they made a big exposure of this film. It’s the first film in history, of the people. They went to my father because my father is very well known as an actor in Iraq as well, and told him, ‘Hey listen if Ahmed comes back, we’ll cut his body into little pieces so you’re not allowed to come back, let him stay in Toronto’. So I got exiled, literally, from my country and that was really crazy. I started my journey without knowing any English. And then I started learning English, in an ESL school as a refugee, like political refugee in the new country, and that’s why I ended up in Toronto.”
It was just this past year that his super talented younger sister Tara and the rest of his family would join him here, with an emotional greeting at the airport in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that risked derailing the entire settlement process. She was also forced to flee the country with her parents after receiving multiple threats from militiamen against her singing. To them, Tara’s music is considered forbidden (haram), shutting down events where Tara would appear and directly threatening her life.
The whole arts community is so grateful for their presence here. Sultans of String bandleader Chris McKhool chimes in: “Ahmed and Tara are amazing individuals. They are so strong and full of hope for a better tomorrow. And I think in a way they teach us to be better Canadians by seeing our country through their eyes!”
Ahmed says, “Toronto made me a musician, to be honest. I have African heritage. So that made me know how to play drums. When I was still young, we sang as a ceremony, a ritual thing, with the family. Then without knowing how to speak and to communicate with people, I felt the music is the best way to share and express myself.
“Love is the main reason for a great future. And that I feel the privilege of art and this amazing collaboration happening, like what’s happening in this album, exactly is in home and nationalities. How many people, how many different backgrounds. Toronto makes you feel not stranger because a lot of immigrants, it’s based on immigrants.”
Since his arrival, Ahmed has certainly ingratiated himself to his adopted country and has collaborated with many artistic institutions, including the Canadian Opera Company, Tarragon Theatre, Aga Khan Museum, Tafelmusik, Driftwood Theatre Group, Toronto Jazz Festival, Koerner Hall and many others. He is one of the founders of the band Moskitto Bar and is the creator and leader of Moneka Arabic Jazz – a 2019 Stingray Rising Stars Winner at the Toronto Jazz Festival. His sister Tara seems to be following in his footsteps and is becoming a key player in the local arts scene.
They continue to teach us about how to be better people.
“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”was released in standard stereo as well as Dolby Atmos on Oct. 8.
Tara Salah Moneka & Ahmed Moneka also appeared on October 8 at noon EST on BACKSTAGE with Sultans of String, a free Livestream broadcast at www.facebook.com/sultansofstring that features in-depth connections with guest artists, fan interactive conversations, video premieres, and up close and personal interviews with the artists, discovering their stories behind the songs that include tales of struggles and success, and of course, live music.
DISTRIBUTORS: Canada – Fontana North USA/World – C.E.N. (Orchard/SONY) UK/EUROPE – Proper Music Distribution
MORE ABOUT THE UPCOMING ALBUM, SANCTUARY:
“Mi Santuario” is the first single off Sanctuary, the highly anticipated eighth album from Sultans of String. It is the second instalment in their Refuge Project. The first, simply entitled Refuge, was heralded as “a fantastic, moving, dreamlike, epic, timely album,” by Ken Micallef (Jazz Times, Stereophile, Downbeat), and won many awards, including Producer of the Year at the 2021 Canadian Folk Music Awards for bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool.
This ambitious, diverse, inclusive, and passionately political album puts the band face-to-face with a VIP roster of global ‘ambassadors,’ some of whom are recent immigrants and refugees to Canada, as well as important Indigenous voices. All are masters of world music that communicate with each other through the global language of music.
Addressing the struggles of life on Mother Earth has always inspired Toronto-based quintet, Sultans of String. On Sanctuary, Sultans of String bring their unique brand of musical synergy and collaboration to bear on eleven songs that speak to the challenges facing the world’s displaced peoples–their stories, their songs, their persistence and their humanity.
Joined by an international cast, some of whom are recent immigrants to North America, the celebrated quartet immerses themselves in the plight of the international refugee on Refuge and the humanitarian response that should greet everyone in search of a home.
Bandleader Chris McKhool explains “The larger Refuge Project is centred around the positive contributions of refugees and new immigrants to Canada. We are bringing in special guests that are newcomers to this land, as well as global talents that have been ambassadors for peace. We wish to celebrate the successes of those who make the journey here and bring their extraordinary talents with them, in this case, music. Each one of us has a remarkable story to tell, and we are excited to share the beauty of these collaborations with you.”
Sanctuary features seven new tracks with stellar performances by Tara and Ahmed Moneka from Iraq, Amchok Gompo from Tibet, Donné Roberts from Madagascar with partner Yukiko Tsutsui from Japan, Algeria’s Fethi Nadjem, Juan Carlos Medrano from Colombia, Syrian refugee Leen Hamo, Iran’s Padideh Ahrarnejad, and Nyckelharpa player Saskia Tomkins.
It also includes three stunning new versions of songs from Refuge. These include an astonishingly gorgeous orchestral version of “The Power of the Land” featuring Indigenous performers Duke Redbird and Twin Flames, Turkish mega-pop star Suat Suna singing “Hurricane,” and flamenco dancer and singer Tamar Ilana singing a version of “Asi Soy” that will rip your heart out.
Sept 10 – Single #1 – “Mi Santuario”
Oct 8 – Single #2 – “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”
Nov. 5 – Sanctuary – Full album release – Physical & Digital
Title: God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL Author: Shane Scott Imprint: Self-published Released: February 6, 2021 Pages: 499 ISBN-13: 978-1735518213 Stars: 3.5
Gods, Devils, Titans, Dragons, Angels, Demons, Bool (a.k.a. Werewolves), Vampires, and Mortals all inhabit the fantastical worlds created by gifted author Shane Scott in his debut novel, God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL.
At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is provided with knowledge about the facts of the worlds that Scott has created by Miranda, God of Knowledge (a Titan librarian and historian of the ALL). Don’t skip reading these as they contain essential information that you will undoubtedly go back to.
The story shifts back-and-forth through time, beginning in the year 2002 (January) on Planet Earth with Aja Ashe Jensen, a 17-year-old girl who lives in Maine with her father, Matthew Jensen. Vacationing at Matthew’s cabin in Naples, ME, with her dad’s friend, Dr. Theodore Kane, and his son—her best friend, Bobby—Aja is itching to take the new Ski-Doo she received for Christmas for a ride. As a blizzard is in progress, she must wait for the storm to pass.
We know almost immediately that there is something very different about Aja as she has begun to notice an electric blue and gold aura emanating from her person, while a serpent has been twisting and turning through her insides.
The next day, Aja goes for her snowmobile ride and ends up having “an accident” that results in her and her machine going through the ice and her body instantly freezes. We soon discover that Silver, God of Death, and a Titan, is responsible for the death of Aja, the Dragon. We also discover that Aja‘s father is Memnoth, God of Love, who has been hiding as a Mortal. However, not only is he God of Love, but also the God of Hate, Satan. And Lucifer is the God of Evil. I’m not clear on whether Lucifer is also Memnoth.
This is just the beginning of an extremely ambitious, complex story, that weaves in and out of time, space, and different planets that make up the ALL. The author has provided the reader with a timeline that explains the main characters, significant dates for their introduction to the tale, and how they are related but it is a bit hard to understand until we read more. There is so much going on in this story that one must pay close attention so as not to miss any key plot points.
We learn about different Immortals’ romantic relationships, how they are related to others, and what part they will play in the future of the ALL. We also learn that “before the beginning, God existed without form or substance. In the realm of Nothing, She existed as something.” The author’s creation of the history of the universe that exists in this novel is interesting. Nothing is what we would expect based on anything in this genre we have read before. God creates time yet finds it difficult to hold Her thoughts, existing in a battle for Self. The only weapons in God’s arsenal are Her Will and Her Word but She nevertheless made nothing into something and with it created Her own body. Time confuses many cultures in the ALL and Immortals can walk through doorways into various places and times.
This book turns the myth of Creation that we understand, upside down. God created Memnoth to be different from Her and so that She wouldn’t be alone. Memnoth was her Next (soul mate). Memnoth named God, Ashe, and he loved Her, but She didn’t love him. She was not capable of emotion. So, Memnoth created Spirit, resembling DNA, compiled of threads that go beyond infinity, as well as threads of emotions, to fix her, or to give her the choice to love him or not. From this gift exploded a massive Dragon of Spirit that amalgamated itself with Ashe.
Ashe and Memnoth created Silver, God of Death, and first of the Titans. However, Silver wanted what she couldn’t have, Memnoth. Silver kills Ashe, destroying Memnoth’s love, and Memnoth, God of Love became Satan, God of Hate. Satan curses Silver to bring pain, suffering, and misery into God’s creation. And with her dying breath, the Voice of God whispered in Memnoth’s ear, “let there be life.“ “An endless explosion of God’s perfect, pure love turned nothing into Everything. God’s ALL, 12 dimensions of infinite, came into existence.”
The use of the capitalization of the pronouns is a bit tedious for this reader. However, the story itself is compelling and engaging and the author is a mad scientist genius with a wicked sense of humour.
In Part Two, we visit Planet Gella, Home of the Immortals (a place with few rules or laws) where no Immortal ever harms another as it is forbidden. The Immortal races control energy without technology. They touch sources of power and shape it to their will which is majik. What a person does with majik or tek defines if it’s good or evil. Mortals capable of doing limited majik are known as Seer, Witch, and Sorcerer.
Sel, a Dragon, falls in love with Lilith who is a Demon and a prisoner in the dungeons of The Castle Sovereign. He rescues her from the dungeons and after Lilith gets sick because she has trouble acclimating to Planet Gella, Satan (Sel’s grandfather) and Sel take Lilith to The Downstairs (where Demons are chained) and set her in Hellfire. She absorbs its energy and stores it in her heart, which restores her health. Lilith slowly finds her way to trusting and then loving Sel.
Sel is the son of Aja and Wyatt/Yennifer/Gia, and his partner is Lilith. Jaxx is the son of Sel and Lilith and his partner is Olivia. Jaxx and Olivia’s story takes place in the year 2236 on Planet Gella. Jaxx is the only Dragon with a Demon heart. He is in love with an eighteen-year-old Vampire named Olivia. Miranda helps Jaxx and Olivia understand their place in the ALL and the difference between Nothing and Everything which is very helpful to the reader.
These characters mostly behave like humans, eating, sleeping, having sex, working, and participating in a fantastical soap opera directed by Satan.
In Part Three we go to The Upstairs, a part of Hell, and a place of decadent pleasure. Cassamodia (Cassy) manages The Upstairs which is a hedonistic nightclub for every species in the galaxy. It’s where everyone comes to party in Hell. It’s also a place where they have a tough time keeping staff but when Cassy hires a human named Evangeline (Eva) she soon finds not only a capable, loyal employee, but after a long Ebezzian courtship, a life partner as well. Eva has an AI chip she calls Hal installed in her brain and it helps her to figure out how to win Cassy’s heart.
Wen, God of Chaos, is a Titan who stands between chaos and order. Her mother is Ashe, aka God. Her best pal is Beelzebub, the Chained God, who does anything he wants and makes the impossible possible. He hangs out in The Upstairs where he enjoys teasing the hell out of Eva.
In Part Four – Dragon, we’re introduced to Hugh and Alexa Nash (nee Conroy) who met in 1587 at the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots and married soon after. Hugh Nash works for the Devil at H-Corp as a lawyer who lies for a living. And Alexa works there too. They are still working for H-Corp in 2002 and have been taking care of Aja’s body while she has been comatose. After two months in this state, Aja awakens to discover her inner Dragon who she soon discovers is her identical twin, intended as a weapon of mass destruction. Dragon keeps Aja’s body alive and teaches her that lightning is hers to command and that she can do anything she likes, even go to Mars.
Alexa (aka Lexxi) tells Aja about the true nature of her father, but Aja has trouble believing that he’s the Devil. And I mean really, who wouldn’t?
Aja meets John, a handsome young man who she discovers is a Bool joined with Yennifer, a female human, and Gia, a female two-thousand-pound polar bear. Aja is attracted to John and stalks him until she bumps into him. John can shift into Yennifer (born approx. 900 AD and raised and tortured by Silver before she turned Yennifer into Bool) and he can see the past and all possible futures. He can also shift into Gia and that is when things get remarkably interesting.
Establishing all the characters, their relationships and their place in the ALL takes up almost half the book so one must be a patient reader because the main plot point concerning Aja isn’t revisited until Chapter 16 in Part Four. I haven’t even mentioned all the characters here. There is little action in the first half of the book but this is Book #1 in The ALL series so the author intends for there to be lots more action to come.
This self-published fantasy novel has been very well edited, has striking, colourful cover art that may lead one to believe this book is for Young Adults (I would never let my children read something like this if I was a parent), and there is no denying the clever twisted mind or ambition of author, Scott. He has included a warning on Amazon to let readers know that this book is intended for people 18 years or older.
It turned my stomach to read this passage:
“Excitement coursed through Silver when she conducted her experiments. She touched herself when torturing others. The amount of animals, sentient animals, and human species the Titan tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered would have left Charles Manson vomiting and begging for it to end.”
I was afraid to read further because this isn’t the kind of content I like or am interested in, but I pushed on anyway. And that’s not all. Silver hates all cats and tortures kittens. Ugh. Silver and Lucifer help each other but as often as they do, they also screw each other over, figuratively, and literally because Lucifer only wants to make Demon Bool while Silver creates the Born Dead. They kill their assistant and lover, Dr. Susan Baker via sexual torture. The story contains considerable profanity including the F-word and C-word, so read it at your discretion.
As someone who believes in a Higher Power, reading a book like this feels like bad juju to me. It’s like watching a graphic horror movie that I must turn my head away from because I don’t want to go there anymore. The world we live in is horrific enough. However, then the author writes statements like “No abomination can stand in the Light of God.” I’m curious as to what comes next, so I proceed. By the end of this book, the tone shifts, and the reader is left to wonder about the answers to many unanswered questions asked by Olivia. We’ll just have to wait for those answers until Scott publishes God of Everything: Book #2 The ALL.
If you read all the above and still want to read God of Nothing: Book #1 The ALL, then this book is definitely for you. I didn’t read the Amazon warning before I read it, but I would have given God of Nothing four stars if the areas I found offensive had been toned down. All in all, Shane Scott is a writer to be reckoned with.
New weekly livestream kicks off Friday with new video/single!
Sultans of String are excited to announce… BACKSTAGE!
Their new online Interview & Music series features guests from their Refuge and Sanctuary albums. Join Sultans of String each Friday at Noon EST on Facebook as they dive into the lives and the music of these fascinating artists, all masters of world music, with connections from around the globe. Together they communicate with each other through the global language of music.
The first episode is this Friday with exceptional artist Juan Carlos Medrano. They will launch their new collaboration video and single “Mi Santuario,” recorded together for Sultans of String’s upcoming Sanctuary album, talk about some really cool Colombian instruments, learn about Juan Carlos’ journey to Canada, and play a couple of tunes together!