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.
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.
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).