The Story of Guitarist Justin Adams

Justin Adams is considered one of U.K.’s most original guitarists. His music today is strongly influenced by his early childhood exposure to Arab music. His father was a British diplomat in Jordan and Egypt, and the sounds of the time have stayed with Justin. Over the years he has experimented with a variety of musical instruments and managed to blend the different sounds successfully. This has made him an expert in his field.

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When he started out with a commercially unsuccessful little pop band known as The Impossible Dream, little did he know where it would lead. He started by investing in small things like scales and was interested in experimenting by mixing different types of music, but at the time no one in England had any interest in such things.

It wasn’t until the late 1980’s, when Justin met Jah Wobble that his guitar playing abilities were noticed by the public at large. During the eight year partnership with Jah Wobble, Justin’s intuitive music style blended Arabic an African elements. The time was right and the public accepted him willingly. In addition to the Mercury Prize nomination album ‘Rising above Bedlam’, Justin co-wrote two other albums during this time and performed in a number of tours. This partnership was very rewarding both financially and in terms of education in the field of music. After the parting of ways with Wobble around 1996, Justin did work with various artists. He made an album with the Algerian singer Abdel Ali Slimani, and toured and recorded with Sinead O’Connor.

The work with Sinead helped pay the bills as he had recently incurred major personal and financial losses. At this point, Justin was working on a lot of small projects, and managed to become more aquainted with Irish music through Davy Spillane. There were also projects going on with John Reynolds, Natacha Atlas, and a bit of work for TV and film. During this time he was also introduced to Lo’Jo through the journalist Andy Morgan.

The encounter with the French band was a turning point in Adam's life. It presented the opportunity to produce an album and tour with the band on cultural exchange to Bamako, Mali. This collaboration proved to be the source of different kinds of music that Justin loved so dearly. The Tuareg musicians had a deep affect on Justin and with the encouragement from Lo’Jo a recording trip to Southern Sahara materialized. This lead to a debut album called "Radio tisdas Sessions" and gave Justin the chance to play at the first Festival of the Desert. He performed some of the songs from his solo album ‘Desert Road” which had just been released.

Things certainly took an unexpected turn after the release of ‘Desert Road’. Off the back of the album he put together the band ‘Wayward Sheikhs’ with Salah Dawson Miller and Andy Cox. Besides the conventional gigs, the band played concerts in collaboration with local musicians in Damascus, Syria, and Tunis. Justin’s reminiscent style of playing the guitar got him two commissions for two feature films. ‘Kin’ is set in the Namibian desert and ‘Deadline Beirut’ is set in Lebanon during the Civil War.

There has been no looking back for Justin Adams, and he has become an in-demand musician. He co-wrote The Robert Plant album ‘Mighty Rearranger’ which was released in 2005 and received rave reviews. Then he was asked to play with Plant’s band the Strange Sensation around the world, which lead to an outstanding live performance reputation. Tinariwen’s third album ‘Aman Iman’, produced by Justin, was released in 2007 and went on to became album of the year.

WOMAD 2010 saw a brilliant collaboration between Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara. Just coming off a string of gigs, Justin and Juldeh have a deep of sense of communication which electrified the audience. The Siam Tent, where the duo were playing, was jam packed and certainly hit a cord with the spectators. The end of the show saw the crowd running to buy the CDs.

Copyright Dave Bell 2010