It's hard to imagine what the four Muslim members of Group Doueh thought about their first gig outside Western Sahara, playing inside an Anglican church that served cold lager within the gay neighborhood of one of the most flamboyantly gay cities in Europe, Brighton, England. A couple of hours beforehand, Terminal Boredom got a few moments to sit down with the band in the church basement after sound check as the musicians ate takeout chicken and tabouli. Sublime Frequencies Co-founder Hisham Mayet translated from English to Arabic and back: vocalist Bashiri Touballi provided answers on the band's behalf while guitarist Salmou "Doueh" Baamar stood squarely in front of and pointed a video camera directly at their English-language-only interviewer. Outside, a peculiar mix of middle-aged, upper-middle-class world music fans and scruffy weirdos on drugs lined up -- an audience peculiar for most bands, sure, but not a Sublime Frequencies one.

Halima Jakani, Doueh, Bashiri Touballi

Terminal Boredom: What opportunities to witness live music are available to the Sarahawi (people of Western Sahara)?
Bashiri Touballi: Weddings, festivals and private parties: at these events, the music is played all day and all night.

TB: Your music strikes me as cathartic and hypnotic: is there a religious influence?
BT: We feel our music is coming from an Islamic foundation, one that builds on the poetry of our [Arabic] language and modal scales of the traditional music from our area.

TB: How do you feel about playing for Western secular audiences, particularly when alcohol is being served?
BT: We are introducing our way of life and our music. This is a bridge from our culture to theirs. This represents our way of life and we hope our music projects that.

TB: It has been mentioned that you have been approached by several record labels -- why did you decide to have your albums released by Sublime Frequencies?
BT: We felt a sincerety and appreciation that the others did not have. When Hisham Mayet came to our house with that cassette tape, we were bewildered with the tenacity and passion for the music.

TB: You cite a few Western musical influences: when and how did you hear Jimi Hendrix?
BT: The influence of Western music started at a young age and Doueh has always been searching music, taking in everything he could find on the radio and on cassette tapes -- anything that had guitar. Jimi Hendrix influenced him in apporach, more than anything, and showed him how to explore power and musical freedom.

TB: What place would you like to visit, as a touring musician, that you have never visited?
BT: We are very excited about being in Europe and it's one of the places we've wanted to visit. We would also like to visit the Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudia Arabia and the [United Arab] Emirates, because it is the root of our culture here in the Western Sahara. But, ultimately, we would like to visit the United States because we've been hearing and watching and reading about it: we want to speak with them and find out who they are in the flesh, without it being filtered through a recording device from the media.

TB: Do you like the Western food you've sampled so far? What do you miss most from home?
BT: (band laughs) The food is very different, we're still getting adjusted. We're not used to eating cold meals. In Western Sahara, we eat lots of meat and fish, prepared and heated, and that's what we miss most.

Terminal Boredom: How does a Seattle label "discover" bands in Western Sahara and Syria?
Hisham Mayet: The situation is different every time. With Group Doueh, a month long search down the Atlantic coast of West Africa led me to [Doueh's] house. Omar Souleyman was "discovered" by Mark Gergis by Mark's several visits to Syria and consequently hearing and collecting the many tapes that were found. Other groups that have been discovered, like Group Inerane and Group Bombino, were found via a tenacious obsession to find local music in the most remote of areas.

TB: Why do you not re-press the sold-out vinyl LPs?
HM: Because we have far more important things to do. We have so many projects that are in the queue at any point of time, that need to be dealt with first.

TB: Does Sublime Frequencies have a "Mission Statement" or do you more just "follow your ear" toward musical delights?
Alan Bishop: We definitely have our own aesthetic preferences, however, it is impossible to contextualize it. We feel that the music and our releases speak for themselves.

TB: What is your personal favorite Sublime Frequencies album or song?
AB: They are all great. I don't play favorites.

TB: What Sublime Frequencies album do you feel would mostly have been relegated to obscurity, at least among a world audience, had it not been released?
AB: All of them. Who else is going to do it?

TB: Is this the first Sublime Frequencies-organized tour? Was it as complex or more complex than you had anticipated?
AB: Yes, this was our first. It was extremely complex and we knew it would be from the start. We are writing a book about it and doing a documentary film to someday explain how so.

TB: Have there been particular difficulties associated with helping Muslims travel through Western countries?
AB: Yes, of course, but the story will not be revealed until later.

TB: Do you feel regulated world travel - passport control, border control, etc. - is as easy or difficult as it should be?
AB: Of course it is much more ridiculously difficult than it should be. I would hope most people would know why it is so difficult but they do not.

TB: What particular country to which you have travelled elicited the most "culture shock?"
AB: My first trip to Morocco in 1983, because it was my first trip. Nothing really shocks me anymore.

TB: Any future projects we should know about?
AB: I've told you of the book and documentary: that project might not be finished until many years from now. Other than that, we'll disclose them when they are finished and ready to manufacture, which is the wisest way to operate.

(Doueh), Bashiri Touballi, Jamal Baamar

Visit Sublime Frequencies online.

Text and photos by Deke Dirt