Sultans of String’s ‘Refuge’ is raising awareness of the world’s 26M stateless
For their latest release, Canadian world music collective Sultans of String set out to raise awareness of the nearly 26 million refugees currently stateless and away from their homes in a project centred around the positive contributions of new immigrants.
The result was Refuge, and its title track, the award-winning “Refuge,” featuring Edmar Castaneda.
The song just won Folk Music Ontario’s Songs From the Heart Award in the instrumental category and is raising funds for the band’s campaign to aid the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Canada.
The single spotlights the work of the astonishing Colombian harpist known for reinventing the instrument the world over and celebrated for his improvisation and for the dynamic counterpoints created in the track.
“It’s a great vibe, the whole tune,” Edmar said. “It fits right with the harp, so I’m happy to be a part of this.
“I just added my soul into the track.”
“We love to expose people to sounds they might not have heard before,” explained Sultans violinist and bandleader Chris McKhool, summarizing the mission statement of the groundbreaking and acclaimed world music ensemble. “And we love collaborating with other artists.”
Over the past dozen years and six albums, Chris and his bandmates — co-founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté, bassist Drew Birston, Cuban percussionist Rosendo ‘Chendy’ Leon and second guitarist Eddie Paton — have excelled at both. Thrilling listeners around North America with their genre-hopping fusions of Celtic, flamenco, Gypsy jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms, Sultans of String celebrate diversity and creativity with warmth and virtuosity. And they often do it with artists such as Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains, Richard Bona, Benoit Bourque (La Bottine Souriante), Nikki Yanofsky, Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, Crystal Shawanda and Ken Whiteley.
With their historic and visionary seventh album, released March 20, Chris and company bring their unique brand of musical synergy and collaboration into the studio like never before. Their most ambitious, diverse, inclusive and passionately political album, Refuge puts the Toronto-based Sultans face-to-face with a VIP roster of artists from around the globe — including American banjo master Béla Fleck, Israeli vocalist Yasmin Levy and others, like Iraqi violinist Imah Al Taha and Iranian santur master Amir Amiri, who have fled the peril and persecution of their homelands for the safer shores of North America.
Sultans of String have continually strived to make each chart-topping album more original and meaningful than the last – working with an orchestra (2013’s Symphony), teaming with Pakistani sitarist Anwar Khurshid (2015’s Subcontinental Drift) and even crafting a world music holiday album (2017’s Christmas Caravan), which landed them on the Billboard charts and the New York Times. Their ambition and work ethic have garnered them multiple awards and accolades, including three Juno Award nominations, first place in the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries), three Canadian Folk Music Awards, and countless other honours.