Today’s song is “Y’all Don’t Know What’s Goin’ on” by Farees. 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.
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. Farees says,
“To me, music is the strongest therapy, both on the inside, the psyche or spirit, and on the outside, the social and political world; it’s all the same, you can’t separate the two. 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. 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.”
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 in his activism.
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. 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 this story, and a concept record based on it.
“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.”
The album that came from these experiences is called BORDER PATROL and is available now. This track is off that release. It is an amazing amalgam of genres. Part poetry, part music his sound is hard to explain but it’s definitely a unique and exciting experience. He fuses heavy blues with alternative rock, folk, and African sounds all layered beneath the music of spoken word that has an important personal and political message that should be heard.