The band The Sultans of String are bringing their eclectic, global-sound to communities across Saskatchewan, with everything from African beats to strains of Arabic music gracing its Christmas Caravan album.
"People will really be surprised when they see us, because they do know us as predominantly an instrumental band that will sing a song or two an evening," said band member Chris McKhool. "But in this Christmas Caravan show, everyone sings all the time. It's pretty fun."
When people started asking if the Toronto-based group would do songs featuring vocalists, McKhool decided to ask his fellow members to put together a list of dream collaborators.
"Make a list and I'll start calling them up and seeing if they want to work with us on something," he told the group.
One by one, those dream collaborators began responding, saying they were happy to come aboard.
From New York to Prague
During the making of the album, McKhool travelled to different cities from New York to Prague, for the recording of a track in a Soviet-era studio with the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
'We are diving into these different world music cultures and it's important for us to try to keep the music and experiences as authentic as possible.' - Chris McKhool, Sultans of String
"It seems like after decades of walls coming down around the world, we're in an era where there's walls going back up. And it just seems like the wrong way to go," he said, adding the band feels like the collaboration with other international artists makes the music stronger.
"We are diving into these different world music cultures and it's important for us to try to keep the music and experiences as authentic as possible."
Christmas with a twist
Audiences will find even familiar Christmas songs made new by this international fusion, with the Sultans bringing everything from French Canadian fiddling, a Turkish string ensemble, Gypsy jazz, ska and more into the mix.
The band makes stops in Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert this week in its tour.