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Christmas Caravan

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2018 / Fontana North (CA) / CEN Sony-RED (US) / Proper (EU)

Two songs on the 2019 Grammy ballot!

Collaboration featuring Grammy-winning, all-woman, African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock and Cameroon’s Richard Bona, one of world’s greatest bass players (toured with Paul Simon and Herbie Hancock).

Category: American Roots Performance
Song: Celebrate the Holydays
Artist: Sultans of String, Sweet Honey in the Rock

Category: American Roots Song
Song: Sing for Kwanzaa
Artist: Sultans of String, Richard Bona, Chris McKhool

This follows our great trajectory with this album that hit Billboard World Music Charts for three weeks, and was featured in the New York Times Christmas Hits List!

Christmas Caravan takes listeners on a world music tour. 3-time JUNO nominees and 3-time CFMA winning ambassadors of musical diversity Sultans of String have expanded the traditional notion of Christmas music with their new, genre-hopping disc, Christmas Caravan, injecting it with new-found energy and non-traditional sounds. Recorded and co-produced with JUNO Award winning engineer John ‘”Beetle” Bailey, this isn’t your typical holiday album. You may recognize a few titles, but you’ve never experienced seasonal music quite like this before.

“An amazing world beat Christmas where even the tried and true is taken to such new and amazing lengths. Very hot stuff clearly made to chase the cold winter away” Midwest Record, USA

Sultans of String’s acclaimed world music tapestry has been amplified on this release through its embrace of orchestration and pop, and spurred on by a stellar cast of guest musicians, bringing even more colour to their lively palette.

“We wanted to make a real contribution to the Christmas repertoire, and hopefully create some new standards” says bandleader/violinist and Queens Diamond Jubilee recipient Chris McKhool. “This is a Christmas album, but approached from the perspective of a world-music band. We explored diverse genres, from Quebecois fiddle tunes to collaborating with a traditional Turkish string ensemble, and jump around from the classic sounds of the Andrews Sisters, to a Himalayan sleigh ride, African roots music, gypsy-jazz, rumba flamenco, ska, and the grandeur of the symphony.”


First, the band made a dream list of their favourite vocal and instrumental artists to join in on this musical sleigh ride. Their holiday wish came true with these amazing guests appearing on the recording:

• 6-time Grammy winning Paddy Moloney (The Chieftains),
Ruben Blades & Luba Mason (Panamanian 7 Grammy and 5 Latin Grammy winner),
• platinum-selling jazz vocalist Nikki Yanofsky;
• 2-time JUNO/Grammy winner Alex Cuba;
Benoit Bourque of Quebec’s La Bottine Souriante (3 JUNOs, 4 gold, 3 platinum records);
Sweet Honey in the Rock (Grammy winning, all-woman, African-American a cappella group);
• Cameroon’s Richard Bona (Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock);
• Canada’s singer to the stars Rebecca Campbell (Jane Siberry, Lynn Miles, Ian Tamblyn);
• singer Mary Fahl from NYC’s October Project;
Gundem Yayli Grubu, a recording collective of Turkish Roma violinists in Istanbul;
• Sudanese-Canadian singer Waleed Abdulhamid;
• Nashville-based JUNO Award winning country singer Crystal Shawanda;
• sitar virtuoso Anwar Khurshid;
• and hang drum player David Charrier from France.

Why make a Christmas album for a band that has earned its street cred on performing music from diverse cultures? McKhool explains “My parents are from Lebanese and Egyptian backgrounds, and also celebrated Christmas in the home. So Christmas songs as well as music from around the globe were always part of my upbringing. With this record we created the spiritual Christmas album I have always wanted to hear that honoured this tradition, as well as bringing in diverse cultures. As a violin player, I also performed with string orchestras in my youth, so the icing on the cake was traveling to Prague to record with the City of Prague Symphony Orchestra! One of my favourite tracks, Jesous Ahatonhia (The Huron Carol), is fascinating to me. I went back into the archives and found a direct transliteration of the original Huron-Wendat lyrics, which were written in the 1600s by St Jean de Brebeuf. This is Canada’s first Christmas carol, and while there are some complex issues around this song, it is of great historical significance. Now people can hear the intent of the original lyrics for the very first time. Ojibwe artist Crystal Shawanda vocal is so compelling on this song!”

 Thanks to our supporters!

We could not have done it without those who supported our crowdfunding campaign: Joan Milkson/Paulette Kirkey / Brian Dilks/ Alan Weekes/ Jessica Rodela/ Leonie Hartley-Hoover/ Christine Bode/ Timothy Welch/ Lyn Miller/ Duane Beard/ Ali Asghar Sherwani/ Kathy Liddle/ Barbara Brown/ Donna Henrikson/ Lawrence McNaught/ Mike Kologinski/ David Chernushenko/ Claudia Arianna/Jim Laliberte/Victoria Lee/May Kwan/Jennifer Duncan/Jane Nakamura/Sue Gouweloos/Lenka Podzimek.

And fabulous Executive Producers Rick & Marianne Chester …

And Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and FACTOR.. MANY THANKS!