Once again, multi-award winning, Billboard- and New York Times-charting Canadian band Sultans of String will ZOOM into audiences’ homes to help bide time through continued COVID-19 restrictions — this time with a live virtual concert this Saturday, January 23rd! Tickets can get bought here.
The theme will be ‘Best of the Sultans’ and will feature band members Chris McKhool, Kevin Laliberté, and Drew Birston; Eddie Paton and Rebecca Campbell will join for songs, as well. It’ll also serve as a celebration of sorts; Sultans of String were recently nominated for two 2021 Canadian Folk Awards, both for Ensemble of the Year and Producers of the Year.
“The only thing we’re looking to super-spread is some good live-streaming vibes,” bandleader Chris McKhool quips. “We’re looking to help keep everyone connected which is why the ZOOM format is so great; it’s interactive, and everyone is able to see and hear each other.
“It’s like a real live show!
“We set the link live at 7:40pm — about 20 minutes before the concert actually starts — to allow everyone to get settled in and so we can chat,” he continues. “The show lasts about an hour, including a talk-back portion, so we encourage everyone to pour a ‘quarantini’ and bring their burning questions for the band!”
Tickets are limited with a minimum $10 donation. “We have kept the price low as we know many of our friends and fans are out of work right now. $1 from each ticket sold is being donated to our UN Refugee Agency fundraiser.”
The efforts are aligned with the band’s continued commitment and amplification of the cause; their historic and visionary seventh album Refuge (2020), funnelled the band’s unique brand of musical synergy and collaboration into the studio like never before. Their most ambitious, diverse, inclusive and passionately political album, Refuge puts the Toronto-based Sultans face-to-face with a VIP roster of artists from around the globe — including American banjo master Béla Fleck, Israeli vocalist Yasmin Levy and others, like Iraqi violinist Imah Al Taha and Iranian santur master Amir Amiri, who have fled the peril and persecution of their homelands for the safer shores of North America.
“We love to expose people to sounds they might not have heard before,” McKhool — Sultans of String’s violinist and bandleader — summarizing the mission statement of the groundbreaking and acclaimed world music ensemble. “And we love collaborating with other artists.”
Over the past dozen years and six albums, Chris McKhool and his bandmates — co-founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté, bassist Drew Birston, Cuban percussionist Rosendo ‘Chendy’ Leon and second guitarist Eddie Paton — have excelled at both. Thrilling listeners around North America with their genre-hopping fusion of Celtic reels, flamenco, Gypsy jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms, Sultans of String celebrate diversity and creativity with warmth and virtuosity. And they often do it with artists such as Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains, Richard Bona, Benoit Bourque (Bottine Souriante), Nikki Yanofsky, Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, Crystal Shawanda and Ken Whiteley.
Sultans of String have never taken the easy road. Since releasing their debut album Luna in 2007, they have continually strived to make each chart-topping album more original and meaningful than the last. That includes working with an orchestra (2013’s Symphony), teaming with Pakistani sitarist Anwar Khurshid (2015’s Subcontinental Drift) and even crafting a world-music holiday album (2017’s Christmas Caravan), which landed them on the Billboard charts and the New York Times. Their ambition and work ethic have garnered them multiple awards and accolades, including three JUNO Award nominations, first place in the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries), three Canadian Folk Music Awards, and countless other honours.
Their live resumé is similarly stellar. Equally at home in a concert hall, jazz club or festival setting, the Sultans have gigged at the legendary club Birdland in New York, the renowned Celtic Connections Festival in the U.K. and the San Jose Jazz Festival. They have performed with symphonies across Canada and the U.S., and played live on BBC TV, Irish National Radio, World Cafe and SiriusXM in Washington. No matter the venue, the goal is the same, McKhool says.
“I’ve always wanted our concerts to be a place where everyone feels welcome. I want to reach out to diverse communities to say, ‘Come out and enjoy music with us — you’re going to have a really good time.’ And it’s great to see people from, say, the South Asian community mixed in with the hipster crowd. Or to play some very small towns where they might not have heard a sitar played live before. It benefits society as a whole, to have people from around the world blending their ideas, mixing their cultures.”
And sharing the wealth.