Afro-Colombian musician finds refuge in Canada’s largest city

Toronto-based, New York Times and Billboard-charting global music supergroup Sultans of String have released their brand-new single, Mi Santuario, featuring the four core Sultans as well as an incredibly talented and inspiring special guest, Juan Carlos Medrano.

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

Medrano co-wrote the music with the band, sings his original lyrics and performs on gaita, the traditional flute, on Mi Santuario

Originally from Cartagena, on the northern coast of Colombia, Medrano moved to Canada in 2006 as a refugee. “It was tough back home, lack of opportunity for people like me, people that look like me, Afro-Colombian,” he says.

“We were not comfortable with the system, the rules, and how they treat their people,” adds Medrano.

He knew since he was 15 that he would leave Colombia, even though it’s the place he loved most on Earth. “I love the culture; I love the music; everything,” he shares.

He carried the idea in his head that he had to leave home because he wanted internal peace, and happiness doing what he loved — “that was to go to school, to go to university. To just make it to university was a big deal.”

Medrano likens existence in his home country to living in a concrete jungle, “where you have to survive, where you don’t think about — . You don’t plan.”

“People like me, people that look like me, we don’t plan,” he continues. “We just live day by day, and are looking for a future.”  

In Mi Santuario, Medrano expresses in his lyrics how everyone doesn’t have the luxury of using the legal immigration process like he did. “I’m screaming ‘run, run’ because the immigration is coming, and they are coming sometimes to kill you, because no one sees anything on the border.”

Now Medrano is an educator after having attended York University to become a teacher, and says “it’s time for me now to give back to this beautiful country. 

“Back home, people don’t talk about native people, aboriginal people, or how they struggle inside this beautiful country. So the way for me to pay back [is to] inspire these little kids. And my main goal is to bring music, to bring art together, and give these kids hope.”

The single is from the upcoming Sultans of String album Sanctuary.

Backstage with Sultans of String series kick-off

Mi Santuario (feat. Juan Carlos Medrano) is released in standard stereo as well as Dolby Atmos. Its release kicks off a new Friday lunchtime livestream series led by producer Chris McKhool and band members, called Backstage with Sultans of String with Medrano as the first guest.

Backstage with Sultans of String is a free series that features in-depth connections, behind the scenes footage, interactive conversations with fans, up close and personal stories behind the songs, honest chatter with the band about their struggles and successes, and live music.

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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