Piers Faccini

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I Dreamed An Island is the personal quest of a British songwriter living in southern France, a voyage towards an imagined haven through the storms of fear and intolerance brewing around the world. Sung mostly in English but in French, Italian dialects and Arabic, too, the album is an impassioned celebration of cultural diversity and pluralism. Searching for a bygone golden era when coexistence and religious tolerance once prevailed, Faccini found a model for his utopian haven in 12th Century Sicily. At the crossroads of Western, Arabic and Byzantine influence, the island briefly flourished as the most enlightened and advanced society in medieval Europe. 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-Andalus, 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 windowsill, 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 bassist 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.