Juno Award nominees and triple Canadian Folk Music Awards winners, Sultans of String, are making their way to Fernie on April 4, celebrating 10 years together as a band.
The string-quintet incorporate many worldly genres into their music such as Spanish Flamenco, Arabic folk, Gypsy-jazz, Cuban rhythms, South Asian and East Coast Celtic.
Folk Radio UK has described their music as, “An enthralling, adventurous celebration of the power music has to transcend geographical and cultural boundaries, and Sultans of String wield that power with grace, eloquence and spirit.”
After performing at the International Celtic Connections Festival in the UK, Sultans of String were described as, “One of Canada’s hottest new musical exports, dynamically embodying their homeland’s values of tolerance and respect for diverse culture.”
Every member of Sultans of String now live in Toronto, but come from all over Canada. Special guest and sitar player, Anwar Khurshid of Pakistan has been recording with the group for their 10-year anniversary.
Sultans of String is excited to release their 10-year vinyl special album, which will be available for the first time on this upcoming tour. They are also currently working on a world Christmas album, which fuses holiday themes from cultures around the world, onto one CD. For example, songs such as “Carol of the Bells”, a Ukrainian holiday song will be included in the mix of traditional, original, orchestral and vocal tracks.
What started as a group jam session in McKhool’s garage, grew to incorporate an all-encompassing worldly sound which has opened the eyes of many to the results of string music which has been reimagined, and remastered.
Some songs such as ‘Luna’, contain controversial elements. ‘Luna’ is a song which tells the story of a killer whale on the west coast of Vancouver Island, released from the clutches of entrapment.
“It’s like kids in a sandbox,” said McKhool, “You get to combine styles, fuse music, music from all over the globe; really have fun with it and get creative.”
Growing up, McKhool was exposed to many varieties of classical music, which inspired him to explore this genre in an expansive way. He has held onto this frame of mind, and incorporated it into Sultans of String.
“Having a container of being a band that plays predominantly strings, makes you dig a little deeper and find some really interesting musical voices, and bring this to audiences that may have not heard those styles before, or seen those instruments before, or maybe they’ve seen them before but not heard them played in that way,” said McKhool.
Since their launch in 2007, the group has achieved 37 awards, their most recent being a Juno Award Nomination for “World Music Album of the Year”, for their album, Subcontinental Drift.
Sultans of String are celebrating their 10th anniversary by criss-crossing North America and the UK. Before coming to Fernie, the group will have performed at venues such as JUNOFest, the legendary jazz club Birdland in New York City, and the San Jose Jazz Festival in California. One of their recent performances sold out Koerner Hall (Toronto’s Carnegie Hall), playing with Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Maryland’s Annapolis Symphony Orchestras.
Sultans of String can perform at a scale of a duo, all the way up to a six-piece ensemble accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra, depending on what is available and appropriate for the venue size.
In Fernie, Chris McKhool (violin), Kevin Laliberte (guitar), Drew Birston (bass), Anwar Khurshid (sitar) and Jeff Faragher (cello) will be performing at The Arts Station.
All members have toured extensively, but Laliberte has toured around the world with bands such as Jesse Cook and the Chieftains.
Sultans of String step into the spotlight at The Arts Station on April 4, at 8 p.m.
Tickets cost $20 or $15 for members.