Being a musician and an activist at the same time can be a double-edged sword. You have to be excellent both with your words and music, to make the message you’re trying to get across carry weight. Otherwise, if either of the elements falters, it just might turn into a musical mess with a lot of preaching, and that won’t take you anywhere.
Farees, musician, producer, poet, and activist who lives in Italy comes from a mixed background. His mother is of Tuareg, African-Berber ancestry and his father has Italian and German heritage. He started out recording his initial album Mississippi to Sahara in something like two days, covering the blues connection with African music. Two days or not two days, the album garnered fans among such luminaries like Taj Mahal, Ben Harper, and Calexico.
And it is Calexico who shows their appreciation for Farees and his music, as they appear on “Y’all Don’t Know What’s Goin’ On Here,” on his latest album Border Patrol. But neither Calexico nor other guests on the album overshadow Farees, his music, poetry, or the message he’s trying to get across.
Farees speaks about all the injustices around him and all of us, and his lyrics have that sharp edge needed when you speak about such a serious subject. At the same time, his musicianship is quite impressive, particularly his guitar playing, whether it is the slide blues of the opener “Sand Ni##er!” or the intricate Tuareg guitar style of “Black Hole Blues,” or “Empire Man.”
Farees says: “I am no Guru. I’m a free man, and I speak my mind, that’s all. It’s the music itself that is a messenger and a doctor and much more. I’m invested in societal change because I’m a musician, it’s as simple as that, it’s natural.”
On Border Patrol, both his music and message carry weight, and that double-edged sword works in his favor.