Sultans of String & Friends launch INDIEGOGO for Walking Through The Fire

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Sultans of String & Friends announce INDIEGOGO for ninth album, Walking Through The Fire.

Canadian 3x JUNO Award-nominees and 4x Canadian Folk Music Award-winners Sultans of String & Friends are now embarking on the most ambitious and essential project of their career: Their ninth album entitled Walking through the Fire, which will be a beautiful collection of collaborations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit artists across Turtle Island/Canada. The band has launched an INDIEGOGO campaign to raise funds, and they would love your support. With your help, they can make this recording a reality!  Read the details here.

Accompanying the Sultans of String – Chris McKhool (violin), Kevin Laliberté (guitar), Drew Birston (bass), and Rosendo ‘Chendy’ Leon (drums and percussion) will be Ojibwe Potawatomi singer-songwriter Crystal Shawanda performing her song “The Rez;” a co-write with Anishinabe Algonquin / Onkwehón:we Mohawk singer-songwriter Raven Kanatakta (of Digging Roots); a co-write with Mi’kmaw guitarist Don Ross on a song called “Highway of Tears” which also includes Métis bassist MJ Dandeneau; Inuit throat singers Kendra Tagoona & Tracy Sarazin; a co-write with Dene singer-songwriter Leela Gilday; Ojibwe/Finnish singer-songwriter Marc Meriläinen brings his Nadjiwan sounds to the album; The North Sound featuring Blackfoot singer-songwriter Forrest Eaglespeaker and singer-songwriter Nevada Freistadt; Tsm’syen Elder singer-songwriter Shannon Thunderbird; Chippewa / Anishinaaba Elder & Poet Dr. Duke Redbird; Tsm’syen singer Kate Dickson; the Métis Fiddler Quartet; and Northern Cree Pow Wow group.

“We want to make a difference in the world, with the music we play. We’re making this album in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and Final Report that asks for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together as an opportunity to show a path forward,” the band says. “We know that as a society we can’t move ahead without acknowledging and reflecting on the past. Before reconciliation can occur, the full truth of the Indigenous experience in this country needs to be told, so we’ve been calling on Indigenous artists to share with us their stories, their experience, and their lives, so we settler Canadians can continue our learning about the history of residential schools, of cultural genocide, and of inter-generational impacts of colonization,” says Chris McKhool.

Chippewa/Anishinaaba Elder and poet collaborator Dr. Duke Redbird shares

“The place that we have to start is with truth. Reconciliation will come sometime way in the future, perhaps, but right now, truth is where we need to begin the journey with each other. As human beings, we have to acquire that truth.”

For this project, the band is working with an advisory circle of Indigenous artists to keep them going down the right path, and bandleader/producer McKhool also met with the Honourable Murray Sinclair, Ojibwe Elder and former chair of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, to speak about the project, who reflected;

“The very fact that you’re doing this tells me that you believe in the validity of our language, you believe in the validity of our art and our music and that you want to help to bring it out. And that’s really what’s important, is for people to have faith that we can do this… That’s really good”

Bed tracks are being recorded at Jukasa Studio, an Indigenous-owned studio on Indigenous land in the Six Nations reserve south of Hamilton, and collaborating artists are being recorded in studios, in nature along vital life-giving waterways, and at Pow Wows. One of the most innovative collaborations is with the Pow Wow group Northern Cree, who have earned 9 Grammy nominations. Despite their success, they are eager to co-create a piece with Sultans of String to continue sharing their language and culture via a radio audience.

“When you’re collaborating with mainstream music, it shows that we can work together to bring out the very best in who we are as human beings,” says Northern Cree drummer and singer Steve Wood. “It shows that we can work together, and we can bring out something very beautiful.”

3x 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 a 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.

Watch the video announcement for Walking Through The Fire below, and find out more about Sultans of String & Friends via our mini-interview.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Chris McKhool, I am a violinist with Sultans of String, and I feel like the luckiest bandleader in the world. Over the past two decades and eight albums, we have explored a fusion of folk, flamenco, Django-jazz, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms and the Arabic rhythms of my ancestors, celebrating the diversity and creativity of our country. We have been able to collaborate with artists like Béla Fleck, Yasmin Levy, Nikki Yanofsky, Crystal Shawanda, Paddy Moloney, the Chieftains, Alex Cuba, Richard Bona, Ruben Blades, and the TSO. We have performed at Birdland Jazz Club NYC, U.K.’s Celtic Connections, Mariposa Folk Festival, and live on BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and SiriusXM in Washington.

Our music has charted on BILLBOARD, made the New York Times Hit List, and hit #1 on !earshot International/World radio charts, earning three JUNO nominations and three Canadian Folk Music Awards out of eight nominations, including Producer of the Year in the CFMAs and 2020 Independent Music Awards.

And most importantly, we have been having a lot of fun creating community through music!

Are you writing songs with someone outside the band to collaborate?

That is happening right now! Sultans of String are embarking on the most ambitious and essential project of our career: Our ninth album, Walking Through the Fire, a collection of collaborations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit artists across Turtle Island/Canada. The album will feature musical contributions from a slate of talented Indigenous performers and songwriters, including Ojibwe Potawatomi singer-songwriter Crystal Shawanda; a co-write with Anishinabe Algonquin / Onkwehón:we Mohawk singer-songwriter Raven Kanatakta (of Digging Roots); a co-write with Mi’kmaw guitarist Don Ross on a song called “Highway of Tears” which also includes Métis bassist MJ Dandeneau; Inuit throat singers Kendra Tagoona & Tracy Sarazin; a co-write with Dene singer-songwriter Leela Gilday; Ojibwe/Finnish singer-songwriter Marc Meriläinen (Nadjiwan); The North Sound featuring Blackfoot singer-songwriter Forrest Eaglespeaker and singer-songwriter Nevada Freistadt; Tsm’syen Elder singer-songwriter Shannon Thunderbird; Chippewa / Anishinaaba Elder & Poet Dr. Duke Redbird; Tsm’syen singer Kate Dickson; the Métis Fiddler Quartet; and Northern Cree Pow Wow group.

We want to make a difference in the world with the music we play. We’re making this album in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and Final Report that asks for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together as an opportunity to show a path forward. We know that, as a society, we can’t move ahead without acknowledging and reflecting on the past. Before reconciliation can occur, the full truth of the Indigenous experience in this country needs to be told, so we’ve been calling on Indigenous artists to share with us their stories, their experience, and their lives so we settler Canadians can continue our learning about the history of residential schools, of cultural genocide, and inter-generational impacts of colonization.

You can discover more about this project here.

What makes a good collaboration?

For us, it starts with an idea, something that we feel is important and needs to be said, and then organizing and reaching out to people that we want to share voices and opinions with. From there, we need a space and a platform where everyone can be heard equally and can contribute to the song. Also, we need to be open to new ideas that might be different from our own and to work together to come up with a statement or piece of art that captures elements of all sides of the ideas that people are contributing.

Enthusiasm about the project is an essential ingredient, and the give and take, the openness to explore new ideas that might be outside of our usual comfort zone. And, of course, there needs to be mutual respect for all participants and the ideas that are presented.

In our current project, we are collaborating with Northern Cree, who create Pow Wow music that is outside of our typical song form. This requires more listening and a deep dive to figure out how to bridge our two musical worlds without interfering or changing the core of what Northern Cree does. This has been the most challenging but also one of the most exciting collaborations. The pieces finally fell into place, and we found the key and unlocked the way for the musical worlds to connect in a respectful way. It has grown from there, adding harmonies and string orchestration, and now the piece keeps morphing and changing. It is like watching a tree grow from seed right in front of our eyes.

What’s the best thing about being in a band from Toronto?

As a global/roots band, without a doubt best feature of Toronto is its diversity, as it allows us to collaborate with so many cultures without needing to get on a plane. We can also grab international artists as they are coming through while on tour. We are so blessed to be surrounded by incredible musicians from around the globe. Our last albums, Refuge, and Sanctuary, were created to amplify the voices of new immigrants and refugees to Canada, and it is an honour to collaborate with these artists and amplify their stories, and learn from each other.

What’s the first album by a Canadian artist you bought?

Our bass player Drew Birston says:

Bruce Cockburn’s self-titled 1970 first album is the first one I bought. I still have two copies. I was playing guitar at the time and was drawn to his high level of musicianship and guitar playing; and also is such a great songwriter and lyricist, and I really resonated with his songs and lyrics. He was a big inspiration in my informative musical years, and have all his vinyl.

Our guitar player Kevin Laliberté says:

Listening to albums by Rush- like A Farewell to Kings, was the beginning of being a lifelong fan of Rush. It was a tremendous influence on me to hear how much great music three dudes who are serious about playing their instruments can make together.

What’s the last album by a Canadian you listened to that you love?

Drew: Joni Mitchell’s 1980 live double album Shadows and Light. I recently went on a little Joni binge – Joni stands alone with her songs and guitar and melodies and vocals. It is also an incredible collaboration because it includes Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Micheal Brecker, and other heavies. There is special chemistry where there is mutual respect for each other, and you can feel everyone is present and contributing live, and it is incredible to witness and hear that. As a bass player, it is also fascinating to listen to Jaco and how he accompanies a vocalist with interesting support from a bass point of view.

Kevin: Devin Townsend’s Transcendence – The energy, vocal performance, density of arrangements. It’s incredible how he combines heavy music with choirs and orchestras. It’s all over the place but hangs together beautifully.

Upcoming Shows:
Sep 20 Harwood MD • Southern High School
Sep 21 Seaford DE • Madden Auditorium
Sep 22 Severna Park MD • Severna Park High School
Sep 24 Boston MA • Roxbury Community College
Sep 25 Norwood MA • Extended Play Sessions
Oct 18 Markham ON • Flato Markham Theatre Awards
Nov 04 Toronto ON • Festival of Arabic Music & Arts
Nov 12 Deep Gap NC • Songs From the Wood Concerts
Nov 13 Black Mountain NC • White Horse Black Mountain
Nov 15 Sandersville GA • Live on Stage
Nov 17 Morgan City LA • Schreier Theatre
Nov 26 Owen Sound ON • Harmony Centre
Nov 27 Kitchener ON • Registry Theatre
Dec 04 Gravenhurst ON • Gravenhurst Opera House
Dec 10 St Catharines ON • FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
Dec 11 St Catharines ON • FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre
Dec 15 Willow Street PA • Willow Valley Cultural Center
Dec 17 Midland ON • Brookside Music
Dec 18 Kleinburg ON • The McMichael Gallery
Dec 19 Ottawa ON • Algonquin Theatre
Dec 20 Cobourg ON • Concert Hall at Victoria Hall
Dec 21 Toronto ON • Kingston Road Village Concert Series

Tickets are available here.

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