With artists stuck at home these days struggling to make sense of a radically new normal, many are turning to the one thing you can do when everything else is on hold: create. We’ve had a wonderful smorgasbord of new songs and videos coming out over the past three months – but so far, few artists have tried to create work about the pandemic, and some of the efforts I’ve seen to date have felt a bit forced. Let’s face it, it’s very hard to process something when you’re still wildly in the thick of it. But Sultans of String strike just the right chord with this video for their song “I’m Free” featuring Waleed Abdulhamid from their latest album Refuge. The concept is simple and the format well-broken-in: they asked friends and fans all over the world to hold up signs showing what they miss most during lockdown. On paper, it sounds almost cliche. In practice, I found it very affecting. There’s something about the sheer numbers of people, many of whom are familiar faces in the Canadian roots and world scenes, articulating similar sentiments about missing friends, family, hugs, music and community. The song is also relentlessly joyful, driven by rip-roaring Celtic-inspired fiddle riffs from Chris and soulful, weathered vocals from Waleed. To be clear, the song is not a COVID-19 song. But the message of psychological freedom, juxtaposed against images of a people deprived of connection, gets closer to the truth about this pandemic than many artistic efforts have. That might explain why more than 15,000 people have already checked this out on YouTube. Have a look. You won’t be disappointed.
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