Sultans of String and friends surf through a wave of sounds and styles on their playful single and video El Bint El Shalabeya — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The latest preview of the Juno-nominated world music collective’s ambitious seventh album Refuge, El Bint El Shalabeya reinvents an ancient traditional Lebanese song. And in keeping with the title and theme of Refuge, it does so with the help of Syrian clarinetist Majd Sekkar, Algerian mandole player Fethi Nadjem, and Greek oud player Demetrios Petsalakis, who all now find their home in Canada.
This very fresh arrangement is also a musical tribute to the legendary Dick Dale, who passed away in March. Dale was known as “The King of the Surf Guitar,” which was also the title of his second studio album. Like Sultans of String violinist and bandleader Chris McKhool, Dale’s father was of Lebanese descent and drew on Middle Eastern music scales in his arrangements. Sultans of String fleshed out this arrangement with the incredible string playing of Gündem Yayli Grubu, a Turkish Roma string group in Istanbul.
El Bint El Shalabeya’s internationally co-operative approach is in keeping with Refuge‘s mission statement. Due out March 20, the album is “centred around the positive contributions of refugees and new immigrants to U.S.A./Canada,” says McKhool, whose Lebanese grandfather stowed away on a ship bound for North America a century ago. “We are bringing in guests that are newcomers to this land, as well as global 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.”
McKhool’s bold, fiery fiddle — melded seamlessly with founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s rumba rhythm — lead the group’s distinctive 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).