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.)
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.