Arab Shaman: Remembering Hani Naser

21 March, 2021
John Densmore on the dumbek with Hani Naser on oud (photo: Ildiko von Somogyi).

Hani Nas­er was born in the moun­tains of Jor­dan and was brought to the States as an infant. He drummed on Ara­bic per­cus­sion instru­ments from ear­ly child­hood, and received an oud as a gift when he was sev­en years old. Nas­er was a fix­ture of the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia music scene for more than fifty years. He died in Ojai on Nov. 16, 2020.

John Densmore

Hani Nas­er had one of the strongest spir­its I’ve ever encoun­tered.  To be in his pres­ence was intox­i­cat­ing.  It was as if he slipped some­thing into your drink. With his big hands, he had the gen­tlest touch while play­ing the dumb­ek drums. 

The first time I saw him was accom­pa­ny­ing David Lind­ley at MaCabes Gui­tar Shop. He bobbed his head up and down, while caress­ing sev­er­al drums. Besides doing the drum­mer’s first job, keep­ing the beat, he was incred­i­bly musi­cal. He weaved in and out of David’s array of exot­ic stringed instru­ments, like a snake com­fort­able in its den. 

Ode to the ‘Ud and Its Lovers by Sher­i­fa Zuhur

We start­ed jam­ming togeth­er, and even­tu­al­ly got sev­er­al gigs as a duo. I played dumb­ek behind his oud, or he would gath­er sev­er­al drums in his lap, like a moth­er with her cubs, and back me up while I read poet­ry. We were tight. It does­n’t mat­ter if a musi­cal ensem­ble is a 40-piece orches­tra or a duet, if you’re tight – it works. 

When he went into the “taq” (taqsim, his solo intro on oud), he would leave his body behind. He was gone.  His free spir­it allowed him to attract musi­cians from out­side his genre — Jack­son Browne, Bon­nie Raitt, Ry Cood­er, Don Hen­ley, Los Lobos, Car­los San­tana, Lou Reed, War­ren Zevon, and Ruben Blades all want­ed Hani for musi­cal accompaniment. 

His spir­it will remain down here for a long time because of his incred­i­ble tal­ent. It sad­dens me great­ly to think that only when I, too, break on through to the oth­er side, will I get to jam again with Hani Nas­er. Well… that’s some­thing to look for­ward to! 

John Dens­more is one of the four found­ing mem­bers of the leg­endary rock band, the Doors. Known sub­se­quent­ly for his for­ays into the­atre and world music with his band Trib­al Jazz, he is the author of Rid­ers on the Storm: My Life With Jim Mor­ri­son and The Doors; The Doors Unhinged: Jim Mor­rison’s Lega­cy Goes On Tri­al; and most recent­ly, The Seek­ers: Meet­ings With Remark­able Musi­cians (Hachette 2020).