More than any of the other Saharan guitar ensembles associated with Sublime Frequencies, Group Doueh shows different sides of itself from record to record. Group Inerane’s two records sound pretty similar to each other. Even though Bombino came to the US to record his recent solo effort, which is not on Sublime Frequencies, and it sounds significantly buffed-up compared to boom box in a tiled room fidelity of his volume in the Guitars From Agadez series), he is still playing the same repertoire in pretty much the same way. Each of Group Doueh’s four records, on the other hand, offers a different angle and different material. Maybe that’s partly due to having a deep songbook; you probably don’t get to be the best wedding band in Dakhla, West Sahara without one. But either guitarist Salmou “Doueh” Bamaar or producer Hisham Mayet seems to have conceptualized the group’s albums as something more than rough documents on their repertoire.
Zayna Jumma shows the effects of touring outside of Western Sahara. It was recorded after the group started touring Europe, where they shared the stage with the legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen. It’s the first Group Doueh record to feature a drum kit; one wonders if their gigs with Allen figure in the choice, but regardless of the reason it was the right one. Hamdan Bamaar’s (Salmou’s son) drumming isn’t flashy, but he is a lot more intuitive sounding than the Korg rhythm box heard on the group’s first two LPs. At some points he plays straight-up rock beats; elsewhere his drumming brings the elastic give and take between rhythm and vocals that distinguished the mostly acoustic and traditional Beatte Harab to their electric music, enabling their most soulful dimensions to co-exist with their trippiest.
Zayna Jumma is the first non-cassette recording of the band playing in its electric glory, and their first CD release. This is an eminently practical move, since if they’re going to keep touring in Europe and the USA they’ll need something to sell to people. But these changes feel like expressions of growth and adaptability, not compromises.