Sultans Of String join forces with Ojibway elder Dr. Duke Redbird and Indigenous artists Twin Flames to unleash their new single and video The Power Of The Land — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
The orchestral version of the song is the latest to land from the award-winning, Juno-nominated group’s most recent album Sanctuary — an 11-track offering featuring a broad range of incredible talents from the U.S. and Canada, many of whom arrived as recent immigrants and refugees.
The potent and poetic single soars with help of folk duo Twin Flames — Chelsey June (Métis / Algonquin Cree heritage from Ottawa) and Jaaji (Inuk and Mohawk from Nunavik and Kahnawake) — and a poem by spoken-word artist Redbird of the Saugeen First Nation in Southwestern Ontario.
“I heard Duke recite that poem years ago,” Sultans Of String frontman Chris McKhool says. “I was so moved that I introduced myself to him after the performance and said, ‘Have you ever thought about putting this to music?’ ” Fast-forward three years to the day, when McKhool realized he had finally written the right backdrop for Redbird’s stirring words. “It was just one of those beautiful moments where I realized those lyrics might work perfectly.”
Redbird explains the genesis of the poem: “It’s essential that we understand that nature is our survival and survival is nature. Money and power have interrupted the power of the land and, until we understand that nature is the real economy and the economy is nature, and that’s the only way we’re going to survive, is if we take care of our mother, the Earth. And money and power, it doesn’t really have a place in the healing associated with what needs to be done as the climate changes and the earth retrieves her sacredness and plants it in our minds and our bodies.”
Like most of Sanctuary, The Power Of The Land came to life in the studio with Sultans of String and their guests composing and creating together. But no matter how the the songs began, they all ended the same: With all the artists recording together at Jukasa, a world-class recording facility on the Six Nations reserve between Toronto and Buffalo. “We knew we had to do it this way,” McKhool stresses. “We couldn’t make an album of deep collaborations and do it long-distance. Having everyone in the room at the same time made it extremely challenging, both from a logistical and technical standpoint, but the results certainly made it worthwhile.”
Sultans Of String recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. At the core of the band’s sound is McKhool’s bold and fiery fiddle, melded seamlessly with founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s rumba rhythm. Added to this rich foundation are bass master Drew Birston, and Cuban percussion master Rosendo Chendy Leon. The followup to their award-winning 2020 album Refuge, Sanctuary highlights the extraordinary contributions of those that have arrived here from around the globe, as well as global talents who’ve long been ambassadors for peace.
“The true inspiration behind this album is the incredible artists we get to collaborate with,” McKhool says. “We learn so much from these diverse voices, and each one of them is so personally inspiring. As Ahmed Moneka, an artist and refugee from Iraq says, ‘Love is the main reason for a great future,’ and we are so privileged to be able to collaborate with so many incredible voices on this project. Each one of us has a remarkable story to tell, and we are excited to share the beauty of these collaborations with you — featuring special guests from First Nations, Turkey, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Greece, Syria, Mexico, Portugal, Cuba, and Sudan.”
On Earth Day (Friday, April 22), Sultans Of String, Redbird and others will take part in a virtual concert in support of Environmental Defence’s work to protect Ontario’s environment. Tickets cost $45 per household and are available HERE. Meanwhile, watch The Power Of The Land above, sample Sanctuary below, and keep up with Sultans Of String at their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.