New Album by SULTANS OF STRING, Sanctuary (The Refuge Project), Transports Listeners to Ethereal Plane with Musical Alchemy

ALBUM REVIEW
by Christine Bode

Just when I thought that Sultans of String couldn’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.

Tamara Ilana – photo by Carlos Gárate


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.

From Ragas to Riches…Canada’s SULTANS OF STRING release Subcontinental Drift w/ Sitar Master ANWAR KHURSHID

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 18, 2015 

Sultans of String with Anwar Khurshid

From Ragas to Riches… Canada’s SULTANS OF STRING
release Subcontinental Drift w/ Sitar Master ANWAR KHURSHID

2015 JUNO Award Nominees
2014 SiriusXM Independent Music Awards Winner
2013 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for bandleader McKhool
2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards Winner

Canada Release: Sept 25 Fontana North
Sept 4 iTunes Pre-release
USA Release: January CEN (Sony/RED)

[Toronto, Canada]  2015 JUNO Award Nominees and 2014 SiriusXM Award Winners Sultans of String, are serving up a smorgasbord of ragas, reels ‘n’ rumbas on their new release, Subcontinental Drift, with sitar master Anwar Khurshid (Oscar winning Life of Pi, Love Guru), at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, Oct 30 (8pm).

Known for spotlighting treasured special guests from around the world, including The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney and David Bromberg, Sultans of String are particularly excited about this east-meets-west offering. “There is something magical about joining world music rhythms that we often play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East”, says bandleader/ fiddler Chris McKhool.

Yet, Subcontinental Drift is more than a global sound-tapestry. It is a musical promise that embraces differences while finding common ground across culture, land, and time.
Indeed, while the album treks across all kinds of musical terrain, the fertile soil beneath each track is fed by hope unhindered and freedom found. “One of the songs we wrote together, “Journey to Freedom”, actually traces Anwar’s journey from Pakistan to Canada and finding his new home here.

“He’s become a great musical and personal friend.says McKhool, whose name would have been spelled Makhoul in Kfarmishki, Lebanon, where his ancestors emigrated from. “Together we started writing songs about the freedom and equality we experience living here in Canada, about finding ourselves, and our hope of creating a better world. And I feel in some way that these songs reflect our own personal journeys towards finding a world peace.”

Perhaps one song above all on the album highlights the universality of music. “Anwar and I discovered that we knew a tune in common with different names. There’s an ancient Irish fiddle tune called “Rakes of Mallow“. It also made its way to England and when the English were ruling India, I guess the English and the local Indian musicians were playing and learning from each other musically. I knew it on the fiddle and Anwar knew it slightly differently on the sitar. In India they have been calling it “Band Sargham” and our two interpretations of the tune totally matched and locked in together”.

Adds Khurshid, “there is this musical connection between us, but what I noticed the first time I came here and played with you guys, was this wonderful humanity and generosity… such a nice welcome you had for me. It was really soul-enhancing.”

Sultans of String are touring non-stop in 2015 and 2016 in support of Subcontinental Drift.

“The blending expands the potential reach of the group…while offering a wonderful experience for this travelling band of merry music-making men to cross their music with yet another genre.” ~ Toronto Star

“You get the feeling this is Strunz & Farah or Willie & Lobo or Gypsy Kings taken to the next level of the game, sometimes all at once… a sure bet to notch a JUNO and any other award winning hardware to come its way.“ ~ Midwest Record, Chicago

“Energetic and exciting music from a band with talent to burn!” ~ Maverick Magazine UK 

WHEN: Friday, Oct 30, 8pm

WHERE: 
Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor W, Toronto

TIX: $20 / $5 high school, http://sultans-of-string2015.eventbrite.com

CTV Canada AM VIDEO

http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=706400


EPK  VIDEO:
 The Subcontinental Drift Story

Sept 11 — Showcasing at Arts Midwest conference, Kansas City, Missouri
Sept 12 — Opera House at Boothbay Harbour, Maine
Sept 13 — The Grand, Ellsworth, Maine
Sept 19 – Brantford Jazz Festival, Brantford ON
Sept 19 — The Registry Theatre, Kitchener ON, featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Sept 26 — Branches and Roots Festival, Ormstown QC
Oct 1 — Nineteen on the Park, Lebovic Centre, Stouffville ON, featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Oct 2 — Capitol Theatre, Port Hope ON, featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Oct 15 — Agora des Arts, Rouyn-Noranda QC
Oct 17 –  North Bay Symphony, North Bay, ON
Oct 23-24-25 — Showcasing at Alberta Contact, Shell Theatre, Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Oct 27/28 — Education shows w Anwar Khurshid for students, Flato Markham Theatre, Markham ON
Oct 30 — Trinity St Paul’s Centre, Toronto, ON, CD release w/sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Nov 7 — Aeolian Hall, London, ON, CD release featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Nov 13 — Meadowvale Theatre, Mississauga ON, CD release w/ sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Nov 14 — Official Showcase -NERFA North American Folk Alliance, NY w/ sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Nov 19 — Ironwood, Calgary, AB
Nov 20 — Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Centre, Camrose, AB
Nov 21 — Shell Theatre, Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Nov 22 — Shell Theatre young audience show, Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Nov 22 — Maclab Centre, Leduc AB
Dec 12 — Christmas Fiesta! Symphony show w/ Cathedral Bluffs Symphony, PC HO Theatre, Toronto

2016

Jan 24 — Performing Arts Lakefield, Lakefield, ON
Feb 5 —  Nelson Odeon, CD Release,, Nelson NY, featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Feb 6 — Oswego Music Hall, CD Release, Oswego NY, featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Feb 28 — Claude Parlour Music, CD Release, Caledon ON featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
April 1 — Pawling Concert Series, Pawling NY
April 3 — Tin Pan, Richmond VA
April 8 — Student show, Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Burlington ON
April 8 — Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Burlington ON
April 23 — with Sault Ste. Marie Symphony, Sault Ste. Marie, ON
April 24 — with Sault Ste. Marie Symphony, Elliot Lake, ON
April 29 — Largo Cultural Center, Florida
April 30 — South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, Cutler Bay, Florida
May 1 — Cafe Moka, Tavernier, Florida
May 13 — NAC National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage, CD Release featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid
Aug 6 — Barrie Rhythmfest
Aug 7 — Music at Fieldcote, Ancaster ON, featuring sitar master Anwar Khurshid 

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