2017 JUNO nominees and SiriusXM winners Sultans of String create “Energetic and exciting music from a band with talent to burn!” (Maverick Magazine UK). Thrilling their audiences with their genre-hopping passport of Celtic reels, flamenco, Gypsy-jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms, Sultans of String celebrate musical fusion and human creativity with warmth and virtuosity. Fiery violin dances with rumba-flamenco guitar, while bass and percussion lay down unstoppable grooves. Acoustic strings meet with electronic wizardry to create layers and depth of sound, while world rhythms excite audiences to their feet with the irresistible need to dance.
Since forming 10 years ago, Sultans of String’s CDs have hit #1 across Canada on Top Ten national radio charts, and have received multiple awards and accolades, including 3 JUNO (Canada’s Grammy) nominations, 1st place in the ISC (out of 15,000 entries), 3 Canadian Folk Music Awards, plus special guest recordings and sharing the stage with artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains, Richard Bona, Benoit Bourque (Bottine Souriante), Nikki Yanofsky, Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, Crystal Shawanda, and Ken Whiteley.
With their 5th album, Subcontinental Drift, they served up a blend of ragas, reels and rumbas with special guest, sitar master Anwar Khurshid (featured in the Oscar-winning Life of Pi, Kama Sutra, and Love Guru). Sultans of String are particularly excited about this east-meets-west project with Khurshid. “There is something magical about joining the world music rhythms we play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East”, says bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool. 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”, beautifully traces Anwar’s journey from Pakistan to Canada, finding his new home here.
With their 6th album, Christmas Caravan, Sultans of String have expanded the traditional notion of Christmas music, injecting it with new-found energy and non-traditional sounds. Recorded and co-produced with JUNO Award-winning engineer John ‘ Beetle’ Bailey, this isn’t your typical holiday album. You may recognize a few titles, but you’ve never experienced seasonal music quite like this before. “We wanted to make a real contribution to the Christmas repertoire, and hopefully create some new standards,” says McKhool. “This is a seasonal album but approached from the perspective of a world-music band. We explored diverse genres, from Quebecois fiddle tunes to collaborating with a traditional Turkish string ensemble, and jump around from the classic sounds of the Andrews Sisters to a Himalayan sleigh ride, African roots music, Gypsy-jazz, rumba flamenco, ska, and the grandeur of the symphony.” Christmas Caravan hit #6 on BILLBOARD World Music charts in the first week of its release.
McKhool (who has performed with Jesse Cook and Pavlo), was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music. He grew up in a Lebanese-Egyptian (Makhoul) house bursting with music and diversity. Growing up, he was fed a steady diet of delicious musicality alongside Middle Eastern cuisine and violin lessons.
When McKhool first heard founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s (Jesse Cook) rumba rhythm, their musical synergy created Sultans of String’s signature sound – the intimate and playful relationship between violin and guitar. From this rich foundation, the dynamic duo grew, featuring such amazing musical friends as bass master Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk), jaw-dropping Cuban percussionist Rosendo Chendy Leon (Alex Cuba, Parachute Club), guitarist Eddie Paton (Robert Michaels), as well as special guests such as The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, Anwar Khurshid, oud player Bassam Bishara, and more!
The band’s US manager and acclaimed promoter David Wilkes (Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez) states, “Over the decades, I’ve worked with numerous top ten and #1 Billboard artists. In all that time, I have not worked with composers more talented than Chris McKhool and Kevin Laliberté from Sultans of String. Not only are they a superb writing team, they are also amazing arrangers & musicians. Adding the virtuosic talent of Anwar Khurshid adds to their truly global and mesmerizing sound!”
Sultans of String have been crisscrossing North America for the last several years. Equally at home in a concert series, folk or jazz club, or festival setting, they have been featured at many taste-making forums such as JUNOFest, legendary jazz club Birdland in NYC, the renowned Celtic Connections Festival in the UK, and California’s hip music scene, including the San Jose Jazz Festival. They recently sold out Koerner Hall (Toronto’s Carnegie Hall) and performed with Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Stratford, Ontario and Niagara Symphony Orchestras, as well with Kingsfield POPS in Maine. Sultans of String also perform for Youth, and perform Pops, Christmas and Family/Education shows with symphonies. Sultans of String was recently filmed by MPBN’s Maine Arts! in a feature concert and performed live on BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and the internationally syndicated shows WoodSongs, World Cafe, and on SiriusXM in Washington.