And now for something completely different, and i mean COMPLETELY different! … 'Algerian Tuareg dessert blues played on a weissenborn'! if you thought weissenborn music was a niche market then this my friends is uber niche. 10 tracks of i quote “rural delta blues songs” by the artist known simply as Faris. Now I’m not gonna lie to you this is a grower and only after repeat plays does it give up its profound musical glory because on first listen the sheer uniqueness of this project just baffles and beguiles you leaving you asking yourself… ”Did i like that or not?” The album notes with this release are extensive and very very detailed, part history, part biographical part philosophical.
To get your head round what is happening on this record you need to understand a few basic things. Blues music can historically trace its origins directly back to Africa through the invisible years of slavery and war and as hard as history tried to wipe their past cultures and dehumanise them it remained in them though the passage of songs which eventually formed the basis of modern day African-American blues music. The Tuareg people suffered similar upheaval during the colonial years in their native North Africa and ended up living a nomadic way of life on the road travelling across Africa. During these years the Tuareg formed their own style of music through parallel cohabiting with people from the upper Niger river the same people who had direct links with the new African-American music culture. As the years went by the two forms of music bled into each other more so for the Turareg people and western style guitar patterns seeped back from America to Africa and the circle was complete.
Here’s where an Italian based but of Algerian decent artist Faris Amine comes in to the equation. His mother was a Tuareg. The Tuareg style of music was in his blood and his mother before she died use to play him traditional Tuareg drum music. His father was a huge music fan of western music and collected and shared myriads of different styles of records with the young Faris. Blues however struck the deepest note with him and artists such as Skip James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson and Son House became massive musical heroes. Learning guitar through a love of Jimi Hendrix Faris soon became a travelling albeit confused musician. Confusion turned to enlightenment after hearing to the band Tinariwen, a musical yearning had awoken and a calling for his ancestral culture had taken hold. A period of immersion into Tuareg music followed and the artist we see today was reborn. Well it wasn't to long before the notion of an album full of all blues standards in the Tuareg style was suggested and ultimately realised. “Mississippi To Sahara” was born and a meeting of musical forms was created “Rural Delta Blues”. Keeping the balance between the two styles was no doubt a difficult endeavour but one that has been handled with care and the mix of styles is sympathetic to traditional western blues and African Tuareg sensibilities.
Trust when i say this is worth the effort and when you understand the the USP of this project it all falls into place and you end up emerging yourself into a foreign but all too familiar landscape. After you’ve got your head around the style then the lyrics really open up a new world to you especially after you’ve read Faris’s heartfelt track notes which are very autobiographical.
Favourites are hard to choose as the whole album is continual journey of discovery and cultured enjoyment but “Jesus Is On The Mainline” is comfortably familiar and ‘Since Ive Laid My Burden Down” is particularly haunting in its delivery and sentiment given the context of these songs origins. The bottom line is that this is a unique meeting of musical styles played out for your pleasure on a weissenborn which i can’t think of a better instrument suited to deliver these unique songs. 10/10 on the curio scale
Faris - "Mississippi To Sahara"
Review By Aron Radford
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