The beauty of browsing in record shops lies in the excitement we experience when we get hold of something totally rare and unexpected. Ok, let’s face it, 99% of the time, it simply doesn’t happen. But sometimes, forgotten at the back of a dusty shelf, an unknown one of a kind piece appears. This is what happened to me when I found Group Doueh’s Guitar Music from the Western Sahara, a typical case of “Sahrawi tradition meets Jimi Hendrix”.
Is Western Sahara a country? If you’re Sahrawi, the answer would probably be positive but for most Moroccans, it’s rather part of their land. Western Sahara has been a disputed territory since the Spanish left their colonial outpost in 1975. The conflict has forced many Sahrawis (indigenous Western Saharan) to flee into the interior of the Sahara Desert. And while the events in Palestine or Tibet receive of a lot of attention from the media, little is said about this part of the Sahara and the Polisario movement for independence.
It’s in this context that Doueh married Halima in 1984, bringing life to the modern version of the group. The line-up is quite simple. Doueh plays electric guitar and tinidit, a Mauritanian stringed instrument, while Halima sings and rolls the tbal drum. Bashiri is the main vocalist, and Jamal, Doueh’s son, brings a touch of modernity on keyboards.
Their music combines traditional Sahrawi melodies with a rock sound, which has become a profuse genre in the Sahara region. The songs are based on Sahrawi poetry in Hassania language, and they tell stories about love, honour or respect. The music echoes the difficult life conditions of the Sahwari people, from living in refugee camps to the longing for independence.
I can’t even say whether some of the songs are good or not, as I honestly can barely distinguish melodies from the heaping mass of noise in which they are drowned. But well, it surely doesn’t leave you emotionless.
In the end, it’s a poor recording and an awful production but I have to admit it’s very authentic.