Exploring the world, sharing cultures and creating new and exciting art is something you can experience all without ever leaving your seat. Through music, a different and exhilarating mix of western and eastern cultures can be enjoyed without the journey.
The Limelight & Accents Performing Arts Series hosted a musical performance on Saturday Nov. 11 by the Canadian band the Sultans of String, with special guest Anwar Khurshid, who has been a composer on movies like Life of Pi. The Sultans of String play a genre-bending blend of music from cultures all across the world. Celtic, flamenco, gyspy-jazz, Arabic and South Asian styles all make an appearance in their music.
The two flamenco guitarists—Kevin Laliberté and Eddie Paton—can play almost any genre, their drummer—Chendy Leon—has a variety of tools that make all the different percussion sounds native to the musical genres and band leader Chris McKhool’s fiddle can sonically translate any style of music. Their combined musical stylings with sitar master Khurshid display the musical blend of western and eastern influences in their Subcontinental Drift tour.
The exchange between Khurshid and the band clearly showed their ability to act as one group.
McKhool recounted one story where he tried to find the origins of a traditional fiddle song, only to have Khurshid insist that it was actually a traditional song on the sitar from his village in Pakistan.
“I called up a friend of mine, Anne Lederman in Toronto, who plays every fiddle tune ever written,” McKhool said. “And she said yes. In fact this is an ancient Irish fiddle song called the ‘Rakes of Mallow,’ and we realized when the English were ruling India, they brought their music with them.”
The music itself carries this theme of cultural identity, illustrating the men’s origins as Canadians and their unique backgrounds. For example, one beautiful song mimicked the sounds of the killer whale Luna, who appeared in the Nootka Sound in Vancouver Island shortly after the death of a chief from the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation.
Additionally, the song “Road to Kfarmishki” emphasizes this theme as it details McKhool’s trip to the house where his grandfather had grown up in Lebanon. Another song, “Snake Charmer,” was inspired by Khurshid’s experiences with snake charmers in Pakistan.
The performers were lively and prompted the audience to clap along and sing if they knew the words. Several times during the show, the audience burst into applause before the end of the song because of their appreciation for a specific solo, especially after one extended drum solo that moved listeners.
Wadsworth Auditorium was filled with faces of all ages from the Geneseo community, and the reception was nothing but positive. After the final song, the band performed an encore performance of an energetic Arabic song.
Mathematics and adolescent education double major sophomore Jane Baranello, one of the two Limelight & Accent coordinators, highlighted the importance of this cultural exchange in the Geneseo community, especially via the medium of artistic expression.
“I think that the arts has taken a bit of a backseat on our campus,” Barnello said. “But there’s a lot that the arts encompasses. We try, as programmers, to take a little bit of everything.”
This desire to delve into “a little bit of everything” is the best way to summarize the performance of the Sultans of String. Their rich exploration of culture in their music combined many different ingredients to create an entirely new and exciting experience.