It’s been a great year for Sultan of String’s co-founder Chris McKhool.
Named the 2014 SIRIUSXM Independent Music Awards Winner- World Group of the Year, the Sultans of String are also on the Grammy nomination (pre-nominee) ballot for Best Roots Performance for Emerald Swing on its latest album, Symphony.
Come Saturday, music lovers are sure to have a great night at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, when Sultans of String’s McKhool and founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté take them on a “musical journey around the world.
Known for dizzying music jams, poly-rhythms and revved up riffs, the Sultans of String sound can’t quite be pinned down. Stylistically a combination of Flamenco, Gypsy Jazz, East Coast Celtic, with Cuban and Arabic rhythms – World Music is the easiest way to describe the Sultans of String, according to McKhool.
Fiery violin dances with kinetic guitar while a funky bass lays down unstoppable grooves. Throughout, acoustic strings meet electronic wizardry to create layers and depth of sound, telling stories with or without words.
“Our music is a great platform for the things we care about,” McKhool said. “It’s good to remember that we’re all one people.”
The award-winning Canadian singer/songwriter, six-string violinist/bandleader – not to mention children’s music star – grew up learning to appreciate diversity – musical and otherwise. His paternal Makhoul grandparents immigrated to Canada from Lebanon in the early 1900’s. His Egyptian-born mother is a piano and theory teacher. Growing up he was fed a steady diet of delicious musicality along with Middle Eastern cuisine and violin lessons, according to his website.
It’s no wonder then the Sultans of String have been called Canada’s ambassadors of musical diversity.
Influenced by the people and places he visits, McKhool drew inspiration for the song Josie, on the Symphony CD, while on an ArtsCan songwriting workshop in the Bush Plains of Ontario, which connects artists with indigenous at-risk youth. There he met a woman named Josie. An elder, Josie takes students from the community school out to the bush each spring to teach them how to fish, hunt, trap and lodge.
“She was pretty amazing. I heard she was completely blind and I thought, ‘how strong is this woman, how brave is this woman,” McKhool said.
McKhool was inspired by another woman seven years ago to write, Will You Marry Me, also recorded on Symphony.
He was walking along the water with his girlfriend and had her sit on a rock and wait for him. He ran back to the car, put on a tuxedo, grabbed some champagne and his guitar, ran back, then knelt down and sang it to her.
Note in the video below, there’s a little girl as well – their daughter.
Though Symphony was released about a year ago, the Mauch Chunk Opera House performance is billed as a CD release party because this is the first time the music is being performed in the area, McKhool explained.
Tickets: $20; Showtime: 8 p.m.