Amar Sundy

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Amar Sundy has spent close on 25 years now weaving his subtle mix of Saharan rhythms and American blues. The singer-guitarist, who was born near Tamanrasset, in the Algerian desert, but whose family emigrated to France while he was still young, is descended from a long line of Tuareg. And on his latest album, Sadaka, he pays tribute to his origins with some stunning desert blues.
You can count the number of studio albums Sundy has made since launching his career in the 1980s on one hand. But this is no crime. The desert bluesman from southern Algeria is simply a musician who likes to take his time. Sadaka, Sundy's fourth studio album (released on DixieFrog Records a full five years after his last offering, Najma) is an album on which the Tuareg maestro has honed his lyrics and his carefully-crafted arrangements to perfection.  
 
The fourteen tracks on Sadaka are short but sweet, but they all pack a powerful punch, revolving around blues-ified melodies, strong backing vocals and Sundy's haunting guitar riffs. The latter are supported by some impressive keyboard-playing from Johan Dalgaard and original instrumental accompaniment (such as Marcel Loeffler's accordion on Lilati.)  
LíHalem, the opening track on Sundy's new album, expresses concern about where the modern world is heading, but on The Whole the desert bluesman's evocative repertoire is a heartfelt ode to the core values of Tuareg culture: beauty, humanity and respect for nature.  
The energetic riffs on Sadaka remind us that Sundy, about to turn 50, is an immensely talented guitarist who learned his trade in the U.S. from legendary American bluesmen such as B.B King, Jimmy Johnson and Albert King. Over the years, the Algerian-born guitar man has developed his own unique approach to the blues, combining American tradition with the culture of the "Blue Men" (as the Tuareg desert people are known because they veil their faces with indigo-dyed cloth.)  
Despite his star credentials, Sundy knows when to be humble, stepping aside to let his backing vocalists shine on El Hamama, for instance. Guest musicians such as Eric Bibb and drummer Mokthar Samba (who composed one track on the album, Iwa) are also allowed to come to the fore. Sundy, at his personal best covering great blues classics such as Joe Louis Walker's Prisoner of Misery, has produced a very fine album indeed.