Sultans of String

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Sultans of String
Sultans of String 2015.jpg
Sultans of String in 2015
Background information
Origin Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres World, instrumental
Members Chris McKhool
Kevin Laliberté
Eddie Paton
Drew Birston
Chendy Leon
Notable instruments
Six-stringed violin
Flamenco guitar

Sultans of String are an instrumental music group based in Toronto, Ontario, combining elements of Spanish flamenco, Arabic folk, Cuban rhythms, and French Manouche Gypsy-jazz.[1] The group's leader Chris McKhool is a well known producer and Canadian musician who has received numerous awards for his work.[2]


2015 JUNO nominees and SiriusXM winners Sultans of String create “Energetic and exciting music from a band with talent to burn!” (Maverick Magazine UK). Thrilling their audiences with their genre-hopping passport of Celtic reels, flamenco, Gypsy-jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms, Sultans of String celebrate musical fusion and human creativity with warmth and virtuosity. Fiery violin dances with rumba-flamenco guitar, while bass and percussion lay down unstoppable grooves. Acoustic strings meet with electronic wizardry to create layers and depth of sound, while world rhythms excite audiences to their feet with the irresistible need to dance.

Since forming 8 years ago, Sultans of String’s CDs have hit #1 across Canada on Top Ten national radio charts, and have received multiple awards and accolades, including 2 JUNO (Canada’s Grammy) nominations, 1st place in the ISC (out of 15,000 entries), 2 Canadian Folk Music Awards, plus electrifying performances on stage and in recording with special guest artists including Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains, David Bromberg, Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, and Ken Whiteley.

With their new release, Subcontinental Drift, they serve up a blend of ragas, reels and rumbas with special guest, sitar master Anwar Khurshid (featured in the Oscar-winning Life of Pi, Kama Sutra, and Love Guru). Sultans of String are particularly excited about this new, east-meets-west offering with Khurshid. “There is something magical about joining the world music rhythms we play, but with pop sensibilities and forms and lengths, and blending that with the music of the East”, says bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool. Indeed, while the album treks across all kinds of musical terrain, the fertile soil beneath each track is fed by hope unhindered and freedom found. “One of the songs we wrote together, “Journey to Freedom”, beautifully traces Anwar’s journey from Pakistan to Canada, finding his new home here.

McKhool (who has performed with Jesse Cook and Pavlo), was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music. He grew up in a Lebanese-Egyptian (Makhoul) house bursting with music and diversity. Growing up, he was fed a steady diet of delicious musicality alongside Middle Eastern cuisine and violin lessons.

When McKhool first heard founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s (Jesse Cook) rumba rhythm, their musical synergy created Sultans of String’s signature sound – the intimate and playful relationship between violin and guitar. From this rich foundation, the dynamic duo grew, featuring such amazing musical friends as bass master Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk), jaw-dropping Cuban percussionist Rosendo Chendy Leon (Alex Cuba, Parachute Club), guitarist Eddie Paton (Robert Michaels), as well as special guests such as The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, Anwar Khurshid, oud player Bassam Bishara, and more!

The band’s US manager and acclaimed promoter David Wilkes (Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez) states, “Over the decades, I’ve worked with numerous top ten and #1 Billboard artists. In all that time, I have not worked with composers more talented than Chris McKhool and Kevin Laliberté from Sultans of String. Not only are they a superb writing team, they are also amazing arrangers & musicians. Adding the virtuosic talent of Anwar Khurshid adds to their truly global and mesmerizing sound!”

Sultans of String have been criss-crossing North America for the last several years. Equally at home in a concert series, folk or jazz club, or festival setting, they have been featured at many taste-making forums such as JUNOFest, legendary jazz club Birdland in NYC, the renowned Celtic Connections Festival in the UK, and California’s hip music scene, including the San Jose Jazz Festival. They recently sold out Koerner Hall (Toronto’s Carnegie Hall), and performed with Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Stratford, Ontario and Niagara Symphony Orchestras, as well with Kingsfield POPS in Maine. Sultans of String also perform for Youth, and perform Pops, Christmas and Family/Education shows with symphonies. Sultans of String were recently filmed by MPBN’s Maine Arts! in a feature concert, and performed live on BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and the internationally syndicated shows WoodSongs, World Cafe, and on SiriusXM in Washington.


Founding members Chris McKhool and Kevin Laliberté began performing together in 2004, seeing potential in the combination of McKhool's six-stringed violin and Laliberté's flamenco guitar.[3] The shared joy in their complex rhythms and melodies translated well to the stage, and they soon began recording and touring with a full band.


  • Luna (May 2007)
  • Yalla Yalla (May 2009)
  • MOVE (September 2011)
  • "Symphony!" (September 2013)
  • "Subcontinental Drift" (September 2015)


guest contributors include:

Awards and nominations[edit]

Sultans of String have been nominated for numerous awards, including:

  • 2015 JUNO Award Nominees for “Instrumental Album of the Year” – Symphony! [4]
  • 2015 Toronto Independent Music Award Winner – World Music [5]
  • 2014 SIRIUSXM Independent Music Awards Winner- World Group of the Year [6]
  • 2014 IMA Independent Music Award Winner – Instrumental Song – “Josie”
  • 2014 IMA Independent Music Vox Pop Award – Music Producer – Symphony! -Chris McKhool (Producer), Rebecca Pellett (Associate Producer)
  • 2013 ISC International Songwriting Competition- Instrumental category – “Monti’s Revenge” [7]
  • 2013 Folk Music Ontario - Songs of the Heart Winner - Instrumental Category "Monti's Revenge" [8]
  • 2013 Festivals & Events - Performer of the Year
  • 2013 Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for bandleader Chris McKhool
  • 2013 SiriusXM Canadian Indie Awards Nominee - World Group of the Year
  • 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award Winners - World Music Group of the Year [9]
  • 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award Nominees - Instrumental Group of the Year & Pushing The Boundaries [10]
  • 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award Nominee - Producer of the Year for Chris McKhool [11]
  • 2012 OCFF Songs of the Heart Winner [12]
  • 2012 Festivals & Events - Entertainer of the Year
  • 2011 Ontario Contact - Artist of the Year [13]
  • 2011 International Acoustic Music Awards Finalist – Instrumental
  • 2011 Independent Music Award Finalist – Instrumental Album – Yalla Yalla!
  • 2011 Independent Music Award Finalist – World Beat Album – Yalla Yalla![14]
  • 2011 ISC International Songwriting Competition Finalist- ”Auyuittuq Sunrise” in the Instrumental category
  • 2011 ISC International Songwriting Competition Finalist- ”Gardens Of Lebanon” in the World Music category[15]
  • 2010 JUNO Award Nominees for Yalla Yalla! – Instrumental Album of the Year[16]
  • 2010 Canadian Independent Music Awards nominees- Favourite World Artist/Group
  • 2009 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) winners – Instrumental
  • 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award triple nominee with Sultans winning Instrumental Group of the Year

(also nominated for Ensemble of the Year and Pushing the Boundaries)[17]

  • 2009 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Award Winner- Best Toronto World CD
  • 2009 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Award Winner- Artist of the Year[18]
  • Luna CD hit #1 across Canada on Top Ten national radio charts – “International” & ” World/Folk” categories[19]
  • 2008 International Songwriting Competition Winner (ISC) – Instrumental[2]
  • 2008 Festivals & Events Ontario- Best Variety Act[2]
  • 2008 Canadian Independent Music Awards Finalists- Favourite World Music Band[2]
  • 2008 International Independent Music Awards Finalists- Best World Fusion Song[18]
  • 2007 Musique du Monde Award[2]
  • 2007 Canadian Folk Music Award nominees – Best Instrumentalist Group[17]
  • 2007 Ontario Independent Music Award winner- Best Song & Best Instrumental[19]
  • 2007 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Award Winner- Best Latin Jazz Group[2]
  • 2007 Toronto Independent Music Awards nominees – World Music Category[2]


  1. ^ "Independent Music Awards". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "McKhool, Christopher (George) – | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  3. ^ "Yates, Elizabeth. Brantford Expositor, 2008-11-13" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  4. ^ "Nominees 2015". The JUNO Awards. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  5. ^ "TIMA 2015 Nominees (Applicants from 2014-15)". Toronto Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  6. ^ "2014 Nominees/Winners". SiriusXM Indies. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  7. ^ "Previous Winners". International Songwriting Competition. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  8. ^ "Songs From The Heart Past Winners". Folk Music Ontario. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  9. ^ "Results 2012". Canadian Folk Music Awards. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  10. ^ "Results 2012". Canadian Folk Music Awards. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  11. ^ "Results 2012". Canadian Folk Music Awards. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  12. ^ "Songs From The Heart Past Winners". Folk Music Ontario. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  13. ^ "Award Recipients". Ontario Contact. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  14. ^ "Sultans of String". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  15. ^ "International Songwriting Competition". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  16. ^ "Sultans of String (2010 Juno Award Nominees)". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  17. ^ a b "Devlin, Mike. Calgary Herald, 2009-01-26" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  18. ^ a b "Mannix Vernette, Kim. Ottawa Metro, 2007-11-09" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  19. ^ a b "Caetano, Sandy. Metro Toronto, 2008-01" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-08-25. 

External links[edit]