“Nîmihito (Dance)” is a collaboration between 3x JUNO nominated, 4x CFMA winning Sultans of String and Northern Cree, a nine-time Grammy nominated pow wow and round dance group from Treaty 6 territory in Canada, who have released more than 50 albums over their 40-year history.
It is the first single off the upcoming Sultans of String album entitled Walking Through the Fire (Sept 22, 2023 release), the most ambitious and important project of their career, a CD and concert of collaborations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit artists across Turtle Island.
“We are creating this recording in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and Final Report that asks for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together as an opportunity to show a path forward” says Sultans of String bandleader and violinist Chris McKhool, who was recently awarded the Dr. Duke Redbird Lifetime Achievement Award from the JAYU Festival For Human Rights x Arts.
Steve Wood from Northern Cree continues: “When you’re collaborating with mainstream music, it shows that we can work together to bring out the very best in who we are as human beings. And that’s what music does. It shows that we can work together and we can bring out something very beautiful. And it’s giving our music an opportunity for a different type of audience out there. There’s a lot of people that are just catching on to our type of music, which has been here since time immemorial. I think it’s great.”
The Cree lyrics, written by Leroy Woodstone, talk to the dancer about dancing and dancing hard and feeling the beat of the drum, encouraging the dancer to get down.
But there’s also an educational role in the song, says Steve: “A big, strong component of it is to teach our people and other First Nations people about the Cree language. It’s the very tip of who we are and of our ceremonies, pow wow is. It brings other people into our circle.”
Studio sessions were spread across two provinces, with Northern Cree parts recorded at StudioBell at The National Music Centre in Calgary, produced by The Halluci Nation (Bear Witness, 2oolman) with recording Engineer Graham Lessard. Sultans of String tracks were recorded at Jukasa Studios, an Indigenous-owned world-class recording facility on the Six Nations reserve south of Hamilton Ontario, with Sultans band members Chris McKhool and Kevin Laliberté co-producing along with Grammy and JUNO winning John ‘Beetle’ Bailey.
The two groups met at Kettle and Stony Point’s Annual Pow Wow in the summer of ’22, where Steve shared that “The drum is also a very spiritual tool because when you look at the drum, somebody’s grandparent, mother, father, child gave its life for that head of the drum, because that was an animal, and is very much alive. Now, the rim is made from the tree. And we really look deep, the tree can teach us a lot because they’re alive. They can teach us about the relationships we have with everything around us and everyone else. And that person, those people that came to put that drum together, they had spirits, too. And they put their own spirit in the drum. And that’s where all the energy comes from.
UPCOMING SULTANS OF STRING TOUR DATES:
19 JAN – SRSS Theatre, Steinbach, MB
20 JAN – Pinawa Community Centre, Pinawa, MB
21 JAN – William Glesby Centre, Portage la Prairie, MB
13 FEB – Hillside Inside, Guelph, ON
17 MAR – Shelton Auditorium, Shelton, WA
18 MAR – Edmonds Center for the Arts, Edmonds, WA
20 MAR – Poncan Theatre, Ponca City, OK
23 MAR – Fine Arts Center – Western NM University, Silver City, NM
25 MAR – Payson Auditorium, Payson, AZ
27 MAR – Performing Arts Center, Lake Havasu City, AZ
28 MAR – Mohave High School Auditorium, Bullhead City, AZ
30 MAR – Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center, Borrego Springs, CA
15 APR – First Presbyterian Church, Lincoln, NE
12 MAY – Marble Arts Centre, Tweed ON
13 MAY – Bancroft Village Playhouse, Bancroft ON
14 MAY – Bryan Jones Theatre, Lakefield College, Lakefield, ON
26 MAY – Brockville Arts Centre, Brockville, ON
CHRIS TALKS MORE ABOUT UPCOMING ALBUM “WALKING THROUGH THE FIRE”:
Nîmihito (Dance) is the first single off our upcoming Sultans of String album entitled Walking Through the Fire, the most ambitious and important project of our career, a CD and concert of collaborations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit artists across Turtle Island.
We are creating this recording concert in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and Final Report that asks for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together as an opportunity to show a path forward. We know that as a society we can’t move ahead without acknowledging and reflecting on the past. Before reconciliation can occur, the full truth of the Indigenous experience in this country needs to be told, so we’ve been calling on Indigenous artists to share with us their stories, their experience, and their lives, so we settler Canadians can continue our learning about the history of residential schools, of genocide, and of inter-generational impacts of colonization.
For this project, we are working with an advisory circle of Indigenous artists including Chippewa/Anishinaaba Elder and poet collaborator Dr. Duke Redbird, who says
“The place that we have to start is with truth. Reconciliation will come sometime way in the future, perhaps, but right now, truth is where we need to begin the journey with each other. As human beings, we have to acquire that truth.”
Several other Indigenous musicians, designers and filmmakers are guiding us on this project, including designer Mark Rutledge working with ally Kurt Firla, and Indigenous filmmakers and videographers Eliza Knockwood and Marc Merilainen along with ally Micah Sky.
We also met with the Honourable Murray Sinclair, Ojibwe Elder and former chair of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission to speak about the project, who reflected;
“The very fact that you’re doing this tells me that you believe in the validity of our language, you believe in the validity of our art and our music and that you want to help to bring it out. And that’s really what’s important, is for people to have faith that we can do this… That’s really good”
WHO IS ON THE FULL ALBUM “WALKING THROUGH THE FIRE”?
Crystal Shawanda – Ojibwe Potawatomi Singer-Songwriter
Don Ross – Mi’kmaw Guitarist
Dr. Duke Redbird – Chippewa/Anishinaaba Elder and Poet
The North Sound – with Forrest Eaglespeaker – Blackfoot Singer-Songwriter & Nevada Freistadt
Kendra Tagoona & Tracy Sarazin – Inuit Throat Singers
Leanne Taneton – Dene Spoken Word
Leela Gilday – Dene Singer-Songwriter
Marc Meriläinen (Nadjiwan) – Ojibwe/Finnish Singer-Songwriter
Métis Fiddler Quartet
MJ Dandeneau – Métis Bassist
Northern Cree – Pow Wow group
Digging Roots – with Raven Kanatakta – Anishinabe Algonquin / Onkwehón:we Mohawk – Songwriter, Singer, Guitar
Shannon Thunderbird – Tsm’syen Elder Singer-Songwriter & Kate Dickson – Tsm’syen Singer
And Sultans of String band regulars Chris McKhool (violin), Kevin Laliberté (guitar), Drew Birston (bass), Rosendo ‘Chendy’ Leon (drums and percussion) and Rebecca Campbell (vocals).
NORTHERN CREE, Treaty 6 Territory:
Northern Cree, also known as the Northern Cree Singers, is a powwow and Round Dance drum and singing group, based in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada. Formed in 1982 by the Wood brothers; Steve, Randy, Charlie and Earl Wood of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, All members originate from the Treaty 6 and are members of the Cree Nation, unless otherwise noted. (Saddle Lake Band, Samson Band, Louis Bull Band, Frog Lake Band, Onion Lake Band, Sweetgrass Band, Poundmaker Band, Sunchild Band, Menominee Nation)About SULTANS OF STRING:
Bandleader Chris McKhool (Makhoul in Lebanon) has an Egyptian-born mother who happened to play piano, teach classical theory, and feed her young son as much Middle Eastern cuisine as she did music lessons. From there, the powerful violinist developed a taste for multi-genre string sounds and found a like-minded crew of all-world enthusiasts. When McKhool first heard founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s 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 in-the-pocket bass master Drew Birston, and the jaw-dropping beats of percussionist Chendy Leon.
Their live resume is similarly stellar. Equally at home in a concert hall, folk and jazz club or festival setting, the Sultans have gigged at JUNOfest, the legendary club Birdland in New York, Celtic Connections Festival (Glasgow) and London’s Trafalgar Square. They have sold out Koerner Hall three times (Toronto’s Carnegie Hall), and performed with the Annapolis, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton Symphony Orchestras. They have played live on CBC’s Canada Live, BBC Radio, BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and the syndicated World Café, Woodsongs, and SiriusXM in Washington. Sultans of String’s musicianship and versatility are also showcased in collaborations with such diverse luminaries as Paddy Moloney & The Chieftains, Sweet Honey in The Rock, Richard Bona (Paul Simon), Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, Yasmin Levy, Benoit Bourque, Béla Fleck, Crystal Shawanda & Ken Whiteley.
We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, and Canada Council for the Arts.