The Guardian has described Fentazis’ compositions as having “breadth and atmosphere, and his oud soloing, which recalls the drive and dynamism of world oud star Anouar Brahem, is often stunning,”.
Having played music almost all his adult life, Fentazi recalls how as a young boy he didn’t have the means to buy any musical instruments’, he resorted instead to “buy music and listen, which was good because I started to develop my musical ear. Then slowly, slowly I bought my first guitar in 1980.”
Entrepreneurial from the start Fentazi tried to find a teacher to teach him, unsuccessful because he was ‘too old’ at 16 to learn the guitar, Fentazi taught himself. Now when he composes, Fentazi starts with the bass line, playing it on his guitar and later adding the melody. These days Fentazi prefers to play the oud, an ancient Arabic lute, “it is something different and people respond to the sound.” Other instruments Fentazi plays are flutes, percussion and the zorna. All these instruments, Fentazi has taught himself, “I don’t know how,” he says laughing. Renown for the compelling atmosphere Fentazi’s live performances evoke, he is acutely coy, “The best audiences? You can find them anywhere, but it depends how you perform. If you are happy and perform well then you create a good vibe and audience.”
Performances with other prominent musicians most notably include Robert Plant, Ali Slimani, Cheb Mami, Orchestra National de Barbes, and Natacha Atlas. Fentazi is laid back about the number of requests made for collaborations; always he insists “they contact me.” On working with Natacha Atlas, Fentazi is unfazed, “I have been propositioned by Natacha Atlas, who is a very, very nice person and extremely helpful, she said if I want to work together anytime, but I told her it is too late for this album, maybe next time.”
Mul Sheshe (The Turbaned One), Fantazias’ much anticipated second album is to be released this month by Harmonium Monday Records. The title song is “quite funny,” explains Fentazi, “it is about a guy who is confused. He comes from a traditional small village; from there he goes to a big very modern city. And he gets confused.
“Does he go left? Does he go right? Which way to go?”
Mul Sheshe is available from Harmonium Monday Records from July.
See Fantazia at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 9th July 2005