Group Doueh, Arrington de Dionyso, and Angelo Spencer at The NectarPosted by Daniel Ahrendt
Hiding out in the standard tangle of Seattle music sits a label no average listener of the Seattle scene would look for. However, if Sublime Frequencies continues to release the records that they do, the amount of attention they’ll begin to receive will be staggering. You see, Sublime Frequencies curates and releases music rather divorced from first world America (or Canada, England, Australia, etc.) They specialize in international folk and pop music as well as film, video, and field recordings, aimed at the “aesthetic of extra-geography and soulful experience inspired by music and culture, world travel, research, and the pioneering recording labels of the past.” Their catalog includes compilations and albums from Sumatra, Bali, Morocco, Burma, Libya, Cambodia, and the West Sahara. A prime example of an act signed to the label is Group Doueh, a family act from the West Sahara headed by guitarist Salmou Baamar, aka Doueh. They are currently touring the U.S. and last Wednesday night they stopped at Seattle’s Nectar Lounge.
Formed in Dakhla, West Sahara in 2007, the band is composed of Salmou Baamar on guitar, vocalists Halima Jakani (Baamar’s wife) and Bashiri Touballi, and keyboard player Jamaal Baamar, Salmou’s son. On the recent record, Zayna Jumma, Baamar recruited his next eldest sons El Waar (synth) and Hamdan (drumkit) as well as three backup vocalists to support Jakani. However, on Wednesday night they performed without these additions with the exception of a third singer. The group performs with all three vocalists sitting on cushions in prime position to play their various percussion instruments. Rhythm is largely kept by the regular use of hand-claps, Jakani’s tbal (hand drum), and preprogrammed drum beats from Jamaal’s keyboard. Over the top of this, Salmou alternates between his electric guitar and his tinidit, a three stringed lute.
Like the rest of Sublime Frequencies’ artists, Group Doueh are obsessed with American pop and rock music performed in the context of their own geography. Coming through the rhythmic variations of the Bamaar’s continuous plucking and rolling, his son’s continuous plucking and rolling, and the rhythmic drive of the percussion are the pop inflected voices of the singers. While the melodies and harmonies are definitely not conventional in any American sense, they are guided by that American convention and their ignorance of the cheesy cliche that is the preprogrammed synth workstation drum beat. Group Doueh’s solid use of literal musical devices that the American music world deems tired is a breath of sweet air. Who would have thought that tinny Yamaha drum loops and never ending guitar wah would sound good? No American act would try to utilize these tools today. Well, maybe they will now that they know all it takes to make wah sound good is a new perspective on its use.
The set began rather skeptically, as if the band was scoping out the audience for dissenters, or at least that was the prevailing atmosphere. Two songs in and it turns out that the entirety of Group Doueh is just amazingly relaxed. Soon after the set began, the singers got off their cushions and danced about the stage, greeting many audience members with individual smiles. The crowded gradually acclimated to the band’s method of continuous performance as everyone suddenly realized they didn’t have to stop dancing. Salmou eventually cracked a smile or two himself, shedding any assumption of eternal severity with a few facial twitches. After the cultural pretense was breached, it was and always had been a party.
Accompanying Group Doueh on their Washington date were two Olympia mainstays, Arrington de Dionyso’s Malakait dan Singa and Angelo Spencer et Les Hauts Sommets, two musical acts with heavy emphasis on “world music” themes. While the Malakait dan Singa centers on throat singer extraordinaire Arrington de Dionyso and his tai chi stage antics, Angelo Spencer composes largely instrumental pieces with four other members mixing in punk instrumentation and African melodies. Both brim with positive stage energy and the bombast frequently found in K Records artists. Individually, each act was intuitively unique and fun. Together, they put on a show with positive power for the hips and minds of all.
To read a recent interview with Angelo Spencer conducted by SSG Music’s Nick Hilden, go here.