Farees has a rich heritage of many cultures and a fertile and robust background in music. With Farees mom being of Tuareg (Black and Berber) ancestry, and his dad being of Italian and German heritage – all of this gives meaning to his embracing of the planet and call to make a difference through his music.
Just as his family roots are embedded and rich, his musical growth and development have also been rich. Starting in Africa, playing in bands like Tinariwen and Terakaft, becoming part of that Saharan scene, sharing stages and adventures in the desert and getting to being recognized as an influential artist in Africa at first – Mali, Algeria, Niger, Morocco, etc. – then in the western world. Unlike most mixed-race artists, Farees started from the motherland, from the root, growing branches and flowers and producing new seeds from that very root. Those seeds gave birth to something totally unprecedented.
From the roots, into space.
His first record MISSISSIPPI TO SAHARA did incredibly well – a low-budget project, recorded in 2 days or so – unveiling the most blues sounding African music. This record took him on the biggest stages worldwide and allowed him to meet the greats, who all embraced him as a new bluesologist (people like Taj Mahal, Ben Harper and Calexico, to name just a few).
Since his first performances and recordings, he has used music as a means to discuss the issues and injustices we face as humans, no matter which continent we are living in, no matter what our beliefs or ethnicity are.
“To me, music is the strongest therapy, both on the inside, the psyche or spirit, and on the outside, the social and organizational world; it’s all the same, you can’t separate the two,” Farees says.
“It’s way more powerful than psychologists, it brings way more solace, more quickly, and almost for free. It cured me multiple times, both with it coming from other artists or within the process of writing songs or performing. I’m convinced it can cure any problem, as long as you’re willing to listen with an open mind.”
Farees is outspoken and fierce as much as he is kind and gentle.
He embodies both empathy and courage, introversion and revolution, sensitivity and relentlessness. He also has a clear head about what path to take with his music.
“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.”
Both being multiracial and having grown up in numerous countries and continents gave Farees a different perspective on society, a different view on human relations. He is multilingual, and you can tell he’s someone who can embody different cultures and worldviews without having to pick sides.
Because they often defy racial fiction and boundaries, multiracial people tend to face unique challenges and often find themselves in a frustrating middle position. “Different people will assign us different identities based on our physical appearance at the moment, but our own internal identity may not align with the assigned identity. We may pass for this or that, but our truth is way more complex than just skin tone or features”.
Farees knew what being profiled meant, but he was about to experience it in the flesh.
During his first north-American tour, in Chicago, he was racially profiled, arrested, and detained without any apparent reason. An alleged irregularity was also used against him to deny him entry into the US. While detained, he was interrogated about his religious beliefs, his racial identity, and treated like a potential terrorist.
Back in Italy, the Italian police also detained him, handcuffing him and taking him away in a patrol car upon arrival. This detention experience (3 days total, including all travels) lead to new lyrics, new songs, and an increase of his activism.
“I don’t hate cops or anyone for what happened. I’m not a hater. But being interrogated like I was a terrorist, put in a cell, with handcuffs and all that, that’s not something you forget.”
Sometime after that, while touring Canada, he received death threats filled with racial slur and insults on his Facebook account.
Things these days are taking an odd turn for people of color, Muslims, and minorities in general. “They say things are getting better. Yeah, things are changing, but not for the better, our societies are more fascist and racist than ever, and all this progress thing is just a bunch of BS. It seems like we need way more awareness than that if we want to get to a decent place as humans.”
A couple of months after the detention, as he was suffering insomnia, anxiety, and recurrent nightmares, he thought for the first time about spoken-word songs that would tell the story, and a concept record based on it. A protest against the status quo who still makes this kind of thing happen.
“The spoken word, the slam poetry thing came out of necessity for me. You can’t sing all that stuff. I had too many things to say. Also, it’s about time to speak up, so I did.” And so he did make a concept album, a double LP entitled BORDER PATROL, on which he talks, sings, raps and plays tremendous guitar – as well as many other instruments. His poetry takes us back to the best protest music traditions, be it spoken-word African-American heroes in the late sixties or Marley and Hendrix – in his music lyrics, sounds and rhythms are all at the same level, and it’s the highest. The album also features the Tucson-based band Calexico, who shares a common interest around borders with Farees. The American band is named after a frontier town after all, so this comes as no surprise.
Farees music is hard to categorize, as with things that are genuinely new, fresh. It’s a unique style, some kind of next-generation organic African-spoken-electric-blues-rock – see? I shouldn’t even try to describe it. It’s not something you’ve ever heard before, for sure. Singer-songwriter? Yes. Extraordinaire and innovative guitar player? Yes.
Producer? Yes. Poet? Yes. What else? I could go on with this. Enough for a Bio.
Do yourself a favor, buy the records or download some music and enjoy the Farees experience.