Nicely written description on the webpage of Reaktion:
‘Desert Blues’ was a term created by music journalists back in the 90s to describe the music of Ali Farka Toure, Tinariwen, and others. But American blues really does have it roots in West Africa, particularly the Sahel and Sahara regions. Amongst the originators of the blues are the Kel Tamasheq or Tuareg people.
On this album, Faris brings 12 rural Delta blues songs back home to Africa, revisiting them in the guitar style known as assouf and showing how close the souls of these two worlds are to each other.
‘Mississippi to Sahara’ was born as the intitiative of Sedryk, founder of the French label Reaktion, which had already collaborated with some of the most prominent Saharan artists (Tinariwen, Terakaft), and often contributed in making them known to a western audience (Bombino, Tamikrest, Aziza Brahim). His idea: to interpret the term “Desert Blues“ literally by asking a Tamasheq musician to replay and adapt the old rural blues of the Mississippi in a Tuareg style.
Faris was the natural choice of artist for such a project. In fact, his mixed race status (Italian via his father, Algerian Tuareg via his mother) and his dual culture, Western and Saharan, makes him unique on the Tuareg scene. It was the discovery of Jimi Hendrix in his adolescence that brought him to the guitar, before he rediscovered his maternal culture via the world success of Tinariwen. A moment in his life that he describes as a ‘revelation’: “When I played Jimi Hendrix, or the blues, it always seemed like I was imitating something. But when I began to play this music, asssouf music, it was something that came very easy.“
More about the Reaktion label from Lyon:
Our idea is to use music as a media for bringing to the attention of the Western public information about the conditions of life of the Saharan people.
Our albums are always accompanied by booklets rich in detail. We have used the expert knowledge of anthropologists, ethnologists etc to provide the in depth knowledge that we wish to share.