We have been thoroughly spoilt this week with some great music, helped by the fact that many of the artists are among my personal favourites. Piers Faccini is another who has been on my radar for a number of years now and whose music always brings new angles of light to his musical journey. On his latest album I Dreamed An Island, due for release on November 4th, he turns that prism both inwards and out towards the rest of the world as he embarks on a “voyage towards an imagined haven through the storms of fear and intolerance brewing around the world.” We have the pleasure in premiering a new song called ‘Bring Down the Wall’, a title which maybe calls to mind the tearing down of the wall that once divided Berlin…the wall he talks of is much harder to break down…listen, then read his own words below.
More and more walls are springing up around the world. If they haven’t already been built, they’re being talked about, and proudly championed, like the forthcoming great wall of Calais or Donald Trump’s even greater wall of Mexico.
It’s strange how the word ‘great’ is often applied to the walls human beings have built throughout History. Unlike Hadrian’s wall in Britain, or the Great Wall of China’s, today’s walls don’t even have the benefit of some architectural merit. There’s nothing remotely great about them. They seem, instead, to be depressing proof of our inability to coexist. They are sad edifices to exclusion and enmity, nationalism and warmongering.
And there are other kinds of walls too. These are not necessarily made of stone, brick or barbed wire, but they are no less imposing. They are the mental walls we erect between us and others, the walls some construct inside their minds, to shut out their fears, to let their inhibitions and opinons go unchallenged, to keep their bigotry and intolerance safe. How many of such walls do millions of people all over the world come up against on a daily basis?
So whatever the adjective is that’s the opposite of great, I’ll keep it in mind to tag the growing number of walls, be they physical or metaphorical. Nationalism and xenophobia are once again omnipresent, fear and demonisation of the other are the new political and social reality.
On my dreamed up island, a million utopian leagues away from Trump’s vindictive sneer and Brexit’s backward step, they sing, ‘bring down the wall, break it, stone by stone, bring down the wall shake it, to the bone.
I Dreamed An Island is a modern reimagining of that unique moment of creative cohabitation between peoples and faiths. Inspired by traditions centuries old – but firmly 21st Century in its blending of languages, narratives and instrumental arrangements – electric guitars converse across time with a Baroque viola d’amore, while an oud answers a medieval psaltery and a Moroccan guembri pulses trance-like to the drums.
Imagining how a Provencal madrigal might sound closer to the mode of an Arabic makan, or how words in English could be put to melodies sung with micro tones more usually heard in a Turkish taqsim, Faccini crosses folk and world music genres, transforming John Martyn into Ali Farka Toure, Pentangle into a Tunisian wedding band and a Sicilian ciaccona into a Touareg desert riff.
Growing up in a trilingual family environment in the 70s and 80s in France, Italy and the UK, the album reflects Faccini’s own background. The songs resonate with the voices of his migrant ancestors – and his island is a Mediterranean multilingual utopia, where orange groves, horseshoe arches, gold leaf, lapis lazuli and stories abound. Judith peels oranges for Berber soldiers at the gates of Cordoba in the Spain of Al-Anda- lus, Drone sets the violence of religious conflict in European history to a contemporary context. Oiseau, written the day after the 2015 Paris attacks when Faccini was on tour in Tunisia, describes a sleeping man caught in a nightmare of terrorist violence. From the depths of his dream he cries out to a bird on his windows- ill, asking it to wake him with the sound of its song. The Many Were More is a rallying call for tolerance and coexistence and includes a poem written in Arabic by the 12th Century Sicilian poet Ibn Hamdis and sung by the Algerian Malik Ziad.
Alongside Faccini, who plays a number of string instruments including a customized guitar with additional mini-frets to play quarter tones, the album features a cast of multinational musicians including: Italian drummer and percussionist Simone Prattico; Tunisian violinist Jasser Haj Youssef; American double bassist Chris Wood (MMW); Franco-Iranian percussionist and saz player Bijan Chemirani; Cameroonian bas- sist Hilaire Penda; Italian Baroque guitarist Luca Tarantino; American psaltery player Bill Cooley; French world music pioneer and guembri player Loy Ehrlich (Toure Kunda, Alain Peters); and the English bassist Pat Donaldson (Fotheringay, Sandy Denny).
After ten songs, a sense of nostalgia lingers for Faccini’s dreamed up utopia, an island that today seems more remote and more necessary than ever before.
Photo Credit Oliver Metzger