Sultans of String and Suat Suna join forces to unleash a sonic Hurricane with their new collaborative single and video — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
The Juno nominees and Canadian Folk Music Award winners team up with the Turkish pop superstar — recording English vocals for the first time — for the latest release from their eighth and most recent album Sanctuary: The Refugee Project. For his part, Suna has released 12 albums that have sold millions of copies in his homeland, and has toured endlessly across the country.
The recording process for Hurricane was momentous in its own right. It began at Jukasa, a world-class facility on the Six Nations Indigenous reserve between Toronto and Buffalo. Then violinist, bandleader and co-producer Chris McKhool traveled with Juno-winning engineer John ‘Beetle’ Bailey to Istanbul, where Suat cut his vocals in Canavar Studio before world-famous Turkish percussionist Mehmet Akatay came in to record darbuka on the song. Next up: Recording the strings of Gündem Yayli Grubu, a collection of Roma players that perform and record for many of the Turkish pop stars. Those strings give a strong flavour of the Old World to Hurricane, which is an ode to the first Lebanese immigrants to North America.
“My family name would have been pronounced Makhoul back in Lebanon, but when my grandfather was processed upon arrival in 1903 he probably had a Scottish border guard that thought it would be nice to give the spelling a Scottish flair, hence the oddball spelling for a Lebanese name,” explains McKhool. “These first Lebanese to Canada and the U.S. came with no money in their pockets, but with a tremendous drive to succeed. My grandparents saved up and opened a restaurant in Ottawa called the Laurier Tea Room, which did booming business after the war. This song is an ode to the many who came to the New World planning to work hard and save up enough to bring their loved ones over.”
The icing on the cake was traveling to New York, where Sammy Figueroa recorded congas on the track. Besides playing with some of the world’s greatest pop stars, including David Bowie, Chaka Khan and Mariah Carey, Sammy has also played with a multitude of distinguished jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, George Benson and more.
This ambitious, diverse, inclusive and passionately political Sanctuary album puts the band face-to-face with a VIP roster of global ambassadors, some of whom are recent immigrants and refugees to Canada, as well as important Indigenous voices. All are masters of world music that communicate with each other through the global language of sound. Addressing the struggles of life on Mother Earth has always inspired Toronto’s Sultans of String. On Sanctuary, they bring their unique brand of musical synergy and collaboration to bear on 11 songs that speak to the challenges facing the world’s displaced peoples — their stories, their songs, their persistence and their humanity.
“The larger Refuge Project is centered around the positive contributions of refugees and new immigrants to Canada,” McKhool explains. “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, in this case music. Each one of us has a remarkable story to tell, and we are excited to share the beauty of these collaborations with you.”
Sanctuary features eight new tracks with stellar performances by Tara and Ahmed Moneka from Iraq, Amchok Gompo from Tibet, Donné Roberts from Madagascar (with partner Yukiko Tsutsui from Japan, Algeria’s Fethi Nadjem, Juan Carlos Medrano, Syrian refugee Leen Hamo, Iran’s Padideh Ahrarnejad, and Nyckelharpa player Saskia Tomkins. It also includes three stunning new versions of songs from Refuge: An astonishingly gorgeous orchestral version of The Power Of The Land featuring Indigenous performers Duke Redbird and Twin Flames; flamenco dancer and singer Tamar Ilana singing a version of Asi Soy that will rip your heart out; and then there’s Hurricane.