Sultans of String go global with local ambassadors of world music [article | video]

This ambitious, diverse, inclusive and passionately political album puts the band face-to-face with a VIP roster of global ambassadors of music, some of whom are recent immigrants and refugees to Canada, as well as important Indigenous voices. All are masters of world music who communicate with each other through the global language of sound.

Sultans of String on left, Juan Carlos Medrano on right, all holding their instruments
Sultans of String and Juan Carlos Medrano

Mi Santuario (feat. Juan Carlos Medrano) is the first single off Sanctuary, the highly anticipated eighth album from Sultans of String, and the second installment 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 (CFMA) for bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool

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 11 songs that speak to the challenges facing the world’s displaced peoples – their stories, their songs, their persistence, and their humanity.

Mi Santuario performed by the Sultans of String, featuring Juan Carlos Medrano

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.

The larger Refuge Project is centred on the positive contributions of refugees and new immigrants to Canada, McKhool explains. “We are bringing in special guests that are newcomers to this land, as well as global talents that have been ambassadors for peace.” 

McKhool adds, “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.”

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, Nyckelharpa player Saskia Tomkins. It also includes three stunning new versions of songs off Refuge. These include an astonishingly gorgeous orchestral version of The Power of the Land featuring Indigenous performers Duke Redbird & 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. 

The Sultans of String are three-time Juno Award nominees and three-time CFMA winners. The single Mi Santuario (feat. Juan Carlos Medrano) was released on Sept. 10 and the album Sanctuary will be available in November.

by Eric Alper – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter: EricAlper | Instagram: @ThatEricAlper

Eric Alper is a music commentator who hosts his own show @ThatEricAlper on SiriusXM.

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