Sultans of String
2017 JUNO nominees and SiriusXM winners Sultans of String create “Energetic and exciting music from a band with talent to burn!” (Maverick Magazine UK). Thrilling their audiences with their genre-hopping passport of Celtic reels, flamenco, Gypsy-jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms, Sultans of String celebrate musical fusion and human creativity with warmth and virtuosity. Fiery violin dances with rumba-flamenco guitar, while bass and percussion lay down unstoppable grooves. Acoustic strings meet with electronic wizardry to create layers and depth of sound, while world rhythms excite audiences to their feet with the irresistible need to dance.
Since forming 10 years ago, Sultans of String’s CDs have hit #1 across Canada on Top Ten national radio charts, and have received multiple awards and accolades, including 3 JUNO (Canada’s Grammy) nominations, 1st place in the ISC (out of 15,000 entries), 3 Canadian Folk Music Awards, plus special guest recordings and sharing the stage with artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains, Richard Bona, Benoit Bourque (Bottine Souriante), Nikki Yanofsky, Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, Crystal Shawanda, and Ken Whiteley.
With their 5th album, Subcontinental Drift, they served up a blend of ragas, reels and rumbas with special guest, sitar master Anwar Khurshid (featured in the Oscar winning Life of Pi, Kama Sutra, and Love Guru). Sultans of String are particularly excited about this east-meets-west project with Khurshid. “There is something magical about joining the world music rhythms we play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East”, says bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool. Indeed, while the album treks across all kinds of musical terrain, the fertile soil beneath each track is fed by hope unhindered and freedom found. “One of the songs we wrote together, “Journey to Freedom”, beautifully traces Anwar’s journey from Pakistan to Canada, finding his new home here.
With their 6th album, Christmas Caravan, Sultans of String have expanded the traditional notion of Christmas music, injecting it with new-found energy and non-traditional sounds. Recorded and co-produced with JUNO Award winning engineer John ‘ Beetle’ Bailey, this isn’t your typical holiday album. You may recognize a few titles, but you’ve never experienced seasonal music quite like this before. “We wanted to make a real contribution to the Christmas repertoire, and hopefully create some new standards” says McKhool. “This is a seasonal album, but approached from the perspective of a world-music band. We explored diverse genres, from Quebecois fiddle tunes to collaborating with a traditional Turkish string ensemble, and jump around from the classic sounds of the Andrews Sisters, to a Himalayan sleigh ride, African roots music, Gypsy-jazz, rumba flamenco, ska, and the grandeur of the symphony.” Christmas Caravan hit #6 on BILLBOARD World Music charts in the first week of its release.
McKhool (who has performed with Jesse Cook and Pavlo), was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music. He grew up in a Lebanese-Egyptian (Makhoul) house bursting with music and diversity. Growing up, he was fed a steady diet of delicious musicality alongside Middle Eastern cuisine and violin lessons.
When McKhool first heard founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s (Jesse Cook) rumba rhythm, their musical synergy created Sultans of String’s signature sound – the intimate and playful relationship between violin and guitar. From this rich foundation, the dynamic duo grew, featuring such amazing musical friends as bass master Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk), jaw-dropping Cuban percussionist Rosendo Chendy Leon (Alex Cuba, Parachute Club), guitarist Eddie Paton (Robert Michaels), as well as special guests such as The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, Anwar Khurshid, oud player Bassam Bishara, and more!
The band’s US manager and acclaimed promoter David Wilkes (Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez) states, “Over the decades, I’ve worked with numerous top ten and #1 Billboard artists. In all that time, I have not worked with composers more talented than Chris McKhool and Kevin Laliberté from Sultans of String. Not only are they a superb writing team, they are also amazing arrangers & musicians. Adding the virtuosic talent of Anwar Khurshid adds to their truly global and mesmerizing sound!”
Sultans of String have been criss-crossing North America for the last several years. Equally at home in a concert series, folk or jazz club, or festival setting, they have been featured at many taste-making forums such as JUNOFest, legendary jazz club Birdland in NYC, the renowned Celtic Connections Festival in the UK, and California’s hip music scene, including the San Jose Jazz Festival. They recently sold out Koerner Hall (Toronto’s Carnegie Hall), and performed with Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Stratford, Ontario and Niagara Symphony Orchestras, as well with Kingsfield POPS in Maine. Sultans of String also perform for Youth, and perform Pops, Christmas and Family/Education shows with symphonies. Sultans of String were recently filmed by MPBN’s Maine Arts! in a feature concert, and performed live on BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and the internationally syndicated shows WoodSongs, World Cafe, and on SiriusXM in Washington.
“Virtuoso playing…. An exuberant and infectious sound… Powerful and moving…The Sultans are simply an awesome musical group!” – Mike Hill, Artistic Director, Mariposa Folk Festival
“They are players without borders… world music that transcends place and time with a heavy dose of playfulness added in.” – The Vancouver Province
“Chris McKhool and the boys were fantastic! They can play my Bar Mitzvah.” – Bob Ezrin, producer (Pink Floyd, Kiss)
“Simply brilliant!” – Jeff Mifsud, 3NRG 99.3FM, Australia
Nominations and awards
- 2017 USA Billboard World Music Charts – CHRISTMAS CARAVAN CD hits #6
- 2017 JUNO Award Nominees – World Music Album of the Year- SUBCONTINENTAL DRIFT
- 2017 USA Billboard World Music Charts – SUBCONTINENTAL DRIFT CD hits #15
- 2016 Canadian Folk Music Award – World Group of the Year- SUBCONTINENTAL DRIFT
- 2016 Global Music Awards– World Music / Beats
- 2015 JUNO Award Nominees for “Instrumental Album of the Year” – Symphony!
- 2015 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) – Subcontinental Drift
- 2015 Toronto Independent Music Award Winner – World Music
- 2014 SIRIUSXM Independent Music Awards Winner- World Group of the Year
- 2014 IMA Independent Music Award Winner – Instrumental Song – “Josie”
- 2014 IMA Independent Music Vox Pop Award – Music Producer – Symphony! -Chris McKhool (Producer), Rebecca Pellett (Associate Producer)
- 2013 ISC International Songwriting Competition- Instrumental category – “Monti’s Revenge”
- 2013 Folk Music Ontario- Songs of the Heart Winner – Instrumental category – “Monti’s Revenge”
- 2013 Festivals & Events- Performer of The Year
- 2013 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for bandleader Chris McKhool
- 2013 SiriusXM Canadian Indie Awards Nominee for World Group of the Year
- 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards winners– World Music Group of the Year
- 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards nominees – Instrumental Group of the Year & Pushing The Boundaries
- 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award nominee- Producer of the Year for Chris McKhool
- 2012 OCFF Songs of the Heart Winner
- 2012 Festivals & Events- Entertainer of The Year
- 2011 Ontario Contact – Artist of the Year
- 2011 International Acoustic Music Awards Finalist – Instrumental
- 2011 Independent Music Award 2x Finalist – Instrumental Album & World Beat Album – Yalla Yalla!
- 2011 ISC International Songwriting Competition 2x Finalist- Instrumental & World Music categories
- 2010 JUNO Award Nominees for “Instrumental Album of the Year” – Yalla Yalla!
- 2010 Canadian Independent Music Awards nominees- Favourite World Artist/Group
- 2009 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) First Place Winners – Instrumental
- 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award triple nominee winning Instrumental Group of the Year (also nominated for Ensemble of the Year and
- Pushing the Boundries)
- 2009 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Award 2x Winner- Best Toronto World CD & Artist of the Year
- 2008 International Songwriting Competition Winner (ISC) – Instrumental
- 2008 Festivals & Events Ontario- Best Variety Act
- 2008 Canadian Independent Music Awards Finalists- Favourite World Music Band
- 2008 International Independent Music Awards Finalists- Best World Fusion Song
- 2007 Canadian Folk Music Award nominees – Best Instrumentalist Group