Mississippi to Sahara
Segueing American blues to distant West African origins may not be the bridge too far that we expect: John Coltrane and Miles Davis were ever sensitive to common ground between the two.
In as much as this compelling recording is the offspring of two cultures, so is its composer and principal architect, Faris Amine, son of a Touareg mother who died when he was still a boy, and an Italian father.
The lasting impact of his mother’s death is his severance from the umbilical cord of one side of his heritage, Algeria: his father, who travelled widely, introduced him to a broad spectrum of Western music.
Turned on the blues by Jimi Hendrix, it wasn’t until he heard Tinariwen’s second album Amassakoul that a light was switched on, specifically the catalyst of his mother’s culture and influence which lay dormant in his imagination like a seed waiting for the end of a drought.
He blossomed as both as an interpreter and composer: where once he was happy to mimic the blues, which he still loves, a pursuance of Touareg culture erupted into his own exploration of its quintessences. He can sing a mean assoul.
Mississippi to Sahara is exactly as it says on the tin, an album of blues sieved by a Touareg style, and from Death Letter to The Soul of A Man (Oulhawen win Tidit to Ma Ihan Iman Nagadem), Faris has produced a personal resolution that is not a compromise or a melting pot.
See it more as a crucible, fed by distinct but malleable currents,as original as the Mayfly which is born of water and made of air.
It was Sedryk who first contemplated the idea of a blues album in a Touareg style, but it was authenticity and simplicity he sought. Faris more than delivers.
If you need the bait of one song to bite, try Trouble So Hard (Assouf Id Nekman), a synthesis of the aforementioned, more a coalition of two colours than a hybrid, and tinged with the melancholy which gives the blues its cache.