By Seila Rizvic
When Chris McKhool, violinist of the band Sultans of String, was planning his 50th birthday, he decided to use it as an opportunity to help refugees around the world.
Along with his bandmates, Kevin Laliberté, Eddie Paton, Drew Birston and Rosendo Chendy Leon, McKhool decided to fundraise for UNHCR, starting with a kick-off concert on his birthday and a $5,000 goal they hoped to reach by the end of their North American tour.
“I thought, instead of having a big birthday party, what I really wanted was to do something meaningful to help others,” says McKhool.
Each of the shows during the Juno-nominated band’s multi-city tour had a booth with UNHCR related materials, as well as a donation box. Supporters also had the option of donating online through the band’s UNHCR fundraising page.
The response they’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, says McKhool.
“People have really taken an interest in the issue and it’s resonated with them. At the break at our concerts they’re coming to meet us and sometimes asking questions and looking through the literature and taking literature away.”
As a world music band inspired by Celtic, Arabic, Cuban and South Asian influences, the group’s globally-minded musical style serves as a way to introduce listeners to new cultures. McKhool feels that music can play an important role in helping us understand refugee issues.
“Music is a very powerful tool…[It] connects our intelligence with our emotions. And it’s a really great way to get ideas across and tell stories that are important,” he says.
The band’s efforts have been a success, and in just a few short months, they’re only $300 away from their $5,000 target.
This is not the band’s first time working with refugees. In 2015, they raised money to help bring a Syrian family to Canada, and during past tours they’ve worked with refugee musicians like Imad Al Taha, an acclaimed violinist and refugee from Iraq.
The message they’re trying to send, says McKhool, is about compassion. “We’re all part of a greater humanity and it’s really important for us to look out for one another, to be part of a caring society, and to always be looking for deeper meaning in whatever we do,” he says, “…there’s always a way that we can use the skills that we have to try and help others around us.
You can help Sultans of String meet their fundraising goal by donating today!