Remember the excitement surrounding the Beatles first visit to the United States? I don’t either, but apparently it was a big deal. For fans of the fantastic Sublime Frequencies label, Group Doueh’s first tour of the US produced genuine anticipation. Hailing from the Western Sahara, Doueh has been playing for 27 years. While many of Sublime Frequencies’ releases are compilations of old cassettes and LPs from granny junk shops in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, Group Doueh’s arrival (along with Syrian Omar Souleyman) offers fans a rare chance to see a living, breathing, and shredding member of its sprawling catalog.
Doueh started the set for the sold out crowd at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop on his tinidit lute. Group Doueh is a family affair. Leading a trio of singers was his wife Halima Jakani. On the other side of the stage was his son Jamaal Baamar, who played beats and synthesizer. Doueh worked his lute with a percussive staccato, churning out notes in a psychedelic merry-go-round. Despite the odd time, at least to my Western ears, it was trance-inducing. The three women vocalists started working their call and response chants as the early part of the set began to build.
Thanks for the clip Brian Faulkner.
After about five songs, Doueh traded out the lute for his stratocaster. Naturally, the set started to become louder and more thumping. Doueh started whipping out Hendrix-y wah wah solos, all the while remaining stoic and stationary. Even when he played a wah-wah scramble behind his head (to the delight of 300 cell phone cameras) he remained expressionless. Son Jammal followed suit, occasionally glancing over at Pops to remind him that he too was keeping the game face. Halima served as the link between the group and the crowd with her giant smile, eye contact, and traditional Mauritanian dancing. In fact, she and the other two singers really pushed the energy of the show and built up the crowd with each song. While the earlier part of the show was more distinctive sounding and meditative, the latter part was more crowd-pleasing. Doueh came out to the sidewalk after the show and chatted with eager fans.
Group Doueh delivered the goods and I hope they come back. Instead of listening to hacks like me try to describe them, go pick up one of their albums.