“We thought it would be really fun to bring that energy and drive of all those rhythms to the Christmas songs that people love to sing, as well as the musical mashups that we create from scratch. So while it’s a Christmas album, we’ve really tried to tie in diverse voices from many parts of the world.” – Chris McKhool
By Fiona Campbell, Quinte Arts Council
When you think of Christmas music, Spanish flamenco, Arabic folk, Cuban rhythms and Gypsy-jazz might not be top of mind, but the Sultans of String are out to change that.
The Toronto-based quintet, featuring violinist and bandleader Chris McKhool, co-founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté, bassist Drew Birston, Cuban percussionist Rosendo Chendy Leon and second guitarist Eddie Paton, believe the way to bring people together and create dialogues is through the universal language of music.
“One of the things we love to do with Sultans of String is play rhythms and grooves that come to North America from around the world,” says McKhool. “We thought it would be really fun to bring that energy and drive of all those rhythms to the Christmas songs that people love to sing, as well as the musical mashups that we create from scratch. So while it’s a Christmas album, we’ve really tried to tie in diverse voices from many parts of the world.”
Their sixth album, Christmas Caravan (2017), features seasonal favourites, but with a twist: Turkish Greensleeves (recorded with Turkish Roma string instrumentalists), a Rumba Flamenca-fuelled Jingle Bells (sung in both French and English), a sweet sonic Silent Night (featuring the hang drum playing of David Charrier) and a toe-tapping Himalayan Sleigh Ride (with the sitar playing of Anwar Khurshid). Critics and music listeners alike love the genre-mashing sound of the Sultans: the album was included in the New York Times Holiday Hits section and Spotify’s Holiday Albums Hit List, and hit the Billboard World Music charts at #6.
If you think playing their album will put you in the Christmas spirit, wait until you see their live show. That’s right: the Sultans are bringing it to Belleville for one night only.
Knudsen Brady Clark Advisory Group – CIBC Wood Gundy – Quinte Branch presents three-time JUNO Award-nominees The Sultans of String Live at The Empire Theatre on December 12. Join them for an exuberant performance featuring band originals, world-music inspired classics, and seasonal favourites guaranteed to warm your heart on a cold winter’s night.
This is Christmas as you’ve never heard it, and if you’re looking for something different, something that will blow minds and hearts, a show that will get your friends, family and co-workers talking, this is it. With its global perspectives and focus on collaboration and inclusivity, this show will move you. Not only that, proceeds will support the Quinte Arts Council Arts Education Program, which brings local visual and performing artists into the classrooms and offers annual bursaries to graduates pursuing post-secondary education in the arts.
“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,’” says McKhool. “It benefits society as a whole, to have people from around the world blending their ideas, mixing their cultures.”