Sultans of String welcome Somali artist Ifrah Mansour with open arms in their new single and video I Am A Refugee — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The gorgeous and heart-gripping collaboration with the esteemed poet, multimedia artist, and refugee is part of the Juno-nominated world music collective’s ambitious seventh album Refuge. Set for release in spring 2020, the historic album spotlights talents that have come to Canada and the U.S. as immigrants and refugees.
“Each one of us in the world has a remarkable story to tell,” says Sultans of String co-founder and violinist Chris McKhool. “We are excited to share the beauty of these collaborations that feature special guests from First Nations, Turkey, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Greece, Syria, Mexico, Portugal, Cuba, and Sudan.
“This is a project that is centred around the positive contributions of refugees and new immigrants,” offers McKhool, whose own grandfather who stowed away on a Lebanese ship bound for North America a century ago. “We are bringing in special guests that are newcomers to this land, as well as global talents that have been ambassadors for peace. We wish to celebrate the successes of those who make the journey here, and bring their extraordinary talents with them. We hope the kinds of conversations we can have as musicians can provide a model for peace that our politicians and citizens find inspiration from.”
For her part, Mansour’s tireless work and advocacy complement the mission. “I wrote the poem for me, for my community, and for those yearning for change or to deepen their empathy,” she says. “I wrote it because I was so frustrated with so many people sending me emails, and asking what I thought about (the United States) travel ban. A lot of times, those that are surviving are busy surviving… It is very hard for them to voice their pain. Those that have an ounce of empathy, and that have experienced something similar, have that responsibility to share. Writing the poem was a way to unleash some pain that I could name finally.”
McKhool’s bold, fiery fiddle — melded seamlessly with founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s rumba rhythm — lead the group’s distinctly signature sound. Added to this rich foundation are bass master Drew Birston, guitar wizard Eddie Paton, and Cuban percussion Rosendo Chendy Leon. Together, their musical synergy has earned them three Juno Awards, four Canadian Folk Music Awards and many more accolades.
The five-piece recently marked their 12th anniversary as a band, which includes a dizzying series of award-winning releases, international touring at notable venues (including JUNOFest, Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, NYC’s Birdland, and selling out Koerner Hall several times over).