ad 4 Dhy & Karen

Doug completed this painting
before meeting De Ann

The Gilded Serpent presents...
Interview with

Doug Adams
of Light Rain
Part 1
by Lynette Harris

I initially met Doug Adams at the Bear Valley Ski Resort. His wife, De Ann (who was The Dream Dancer) had injured her thumb skiing and was taken to the First Aid room where I put a splint on her wound so that she could play keyboard in their band that night.

De Ann came to watch me dance in The Avalanche nightclub. She was very supportive and encouraging. Later, I went to The Altitude where Doug and De Ann were playing with their county band. I was excited to dance to his wonderfully inspired violin.

Lynette: Doug, how did you get started playing Belly Dance music?

In 1973, I had just graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a degree in music. Full of confidence, like so many before me, I got into my VW van and headed west seeking my fame and fortune! I'd done well in my hometown; one of my songs had even made it to the top ten in El Paso when I was only 16 years old. I thought it was going to be easy! Ah, well, we keep learning these humbling lessons as we go. So in 1973 I showed up in San Francisco. While sitting at the Embarcadero, I heard finger cymbals and a drum playing in the distance. In retrospect, I'm sure it was De Ann and her partner, Talizma, dancing, though I didn't go down to watch them that day. Nonetheless I felt something beckoning me in the sound of those zils. I must have been feeling destiny in their ringing.

At that time I was going around playing and auditioning in coffee houses as a songwriter and singer. One night I went to The Holy City Zoo, a San Francisco folk music club where De Ann had a weekly show. I happened to go in on the night she was dancing.

I was really moved by her performance so, bravely (I thought) I waited until her throngs of male admirers had thinned out and introduced myself after the show. De Ann and Talizma were dancing only to the beat of their finger cymbals and a doumbec so I told her, "I could make music for you."

She was really nice to me, and the next week I was in her troupe! I didn't know anything about Arabic music. I didn't even think of what we were doing as being Arabic. I would just listen to the drum and the finger cymbals, and play what came to me from watching her dance.

This is a driftwood sculpture was done together by Doug and De Ann on a beach in Marin County

We began performing together on the street down at Fisherman's Wharf. Sometimes we made what we thought was a lot of money, sometimes we wouldn't. It was always hard work. The crowds that De Ann attracted were so big that the other street artists would get mad at us for blocking the foot traffic. So we worked it down to a science. We positioned ourselves at the cable car turnaround. As soon as we heard the bell of the cable car, we would start playing. When it came around the corner, every face on that car would be looking in our direction! The car would stop and the whole load of people would disgorge and make a circle around us! We had to keep the show really short. De Ann would put the sword on her head, and I would sneak up behind her with the basket. She'd spin with the sword on her head, and then I would appear with the basket and pass it around for tips. Then we would stop! The whole show would take about 45 seconds. Then the other vendors loved us.

One day we were taking a break, sitting on the lawn, and a limousine drove up and stopped. The window rolled down and a withered little hand beckoned De Ann to come over there. It was a little old lady who had been watching us from the restaurant across the street. She gave De Ann a one hundred dollar bill and told her to keep it for herself. But De Ann, enlightened soul, shared it with Michael O'Connor and me, her musicians.

The 1st Light Rain album

We did street-work for at least a year. Then we moved to Marin. I started working on a recording of my songs for an album called "Douglas Adams--Light Rain" This was not an album for Middle Eastern dancers, but a collection of songs that I wrote and sang. (There are one hundred copies of that vinyl in existence.) Watching me work in the studio gave De Ann the idea to record the music that I had written for her. Soon after finishing "Douglas Adams-Light Rain" we started working on "Dream Dancer", the first album of the music I had composed for her dance.

Those were days of struggling for economic survival as artists. We moved 7 times in 7 years. Creating the first three "Light Rain" albums took place in the midst of all that chaos.

"Dream Dancer" was written, recorded and released before anyone had ever heard of "New Age Music" and long before anyone used the term "World Beat Music". While "Dream Dancer" was being recorded, few who knew about it expected it to succeed, but De Ann and I had a very good feeling about the project. After it had been out for a couple months we started getting orders from all over the US; more and more copies, a dozen here and there, then our first order for 100 copies. We were elated.

De Ann had actually had a premonition that music from "Dream Dancer" would someday be used for Ballet. It wasn't long after her saying that that we got a letter from the Joffery Ballet expressing interest in "Sword Dance". We met with Gerald Arpino. He wanted to see how De Ann interpreted the music. We went to a studio in San Francisco where De Ann danced for the five of us; Russ Gauthier and his wife, Jim Howell, and Gerald Arpino. You can clearly see the influence of De Ann's style in Arpino's awesome choreography. As an observer of De Ann's evolution as a choreographer, I also saw the influence of that meeting on her troupe work. Some tips that Arpino gave her on the use of diagonals and the full performing space soon showed up in the Dream Dancer's performances.

"LIGHT RAIN" is the name of the ballet that the Joffrey does with our music. They use "The Sword Dance", "Rabekin" (by Russ Gauthier), and we re-recorded "Magi" for them. "Magi" has become known as Arpino's signature work. This year the San Francisco Ballet and the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet have added the "Sword Dance" section to their repertoire. I think Arpino interpreted the music exquisitely. I think "LIGHT RAIN" is the most sensuous, most exotic ballet in history! It's not surprising to me that "The Sword Dance" would catch the imagination of dancers.

Of all the tunes I've written, that one, more than any of the others, was based on De Ann's live performance. Indeed, I made it up while watching her dance with the sword.

The long drone at the beginning would sustain as she came out holding the sword. At the precise instant that she placed the sword on her head the rhythm would start. There's a descending violin line that I would play as she slowly built up momentum in her spinning (with the sword still balanced on her head). Then the huge crescendo in the music would happen as she did a back bend until her shoulders touched the floor with the sword, still spinning, balanced on her head! The the rest of the music lets her get back up and finish. It was really driven by my passion for her. I wrote that tune when I first met her; I was 23 years old and all alone in the "big city" of San Francisco. This beautiful, exotic dancer took me into her world.

I was on fire for her! There in the Holy City Zoo, I'd be gazing down on her writhing, glistening, torso and this music would just come out of my fiddle and cover her. When we finally recorded the music, people could feel that passion!

Doug's artwork for
the cover of "Dark Fire"


Belly Dance Award for the
album "Dark Fire"

After "Dream Dancer", came "Dream Suite." We met the members of The Kronos Quartet during this time. (link) Kronos played on that album. Then they commissioned me to write some pieces for them.

The album "Valentine to Eden" was produced next. Mary Ellen Donald was the percussionist on those tunes. Then I took a long break. I stopped doing Belly Dance music at all from 1980 to 1992. We formed a band, "Bravo", that I would call "Americana" in style; old Rock and Roll, Blues and Country, many songs that I'd written. We spent years doing that. We traveled around the world with Bravo. De Ann was not dancing much, but she was playing keyboard in the band.

In the early 1990s, "World Beat" music started becoming a fashionable genre. Friends were saying, "Doug, you really should do another Light Rain album!" As I started thinking about creating a new Light Rain album, I knew I had to re-acquaint myself with that feeling. I'd always been a bit of a hermit as far as the "belly-dance" world was concerned. I'd only played for De Ann and the Dream Dancers and rarely went to any belly dancing events. De Ann, at 40, wasn't performing, only teaching, so I went for my first time to play at The Rakkasah Festival. It was in early '90s, and we had a booth there too. That was when I first found out how

much Light Rain music had touched so many lives. I never really had had much contact with the people who were buying our music. It was really gratifying to hear one woman say that her first performance had been to "City of Dreams" and then, years later, her daughter's first performance had been to the same piece. That really inspired me to start the album "Dark Fire"! When we did "Valentine" and "Dream Suite", I had tried to expand the parameters to reach a larger audience than the Belly Dance community,

but after Rakkasah that year, I decided to write "Dark Fire" purely for belly dancers! Every song and every note I wanted to picture a dancer performing.

You might say that "Dark Fire" was patterned after side one of "Dream Dancer", which had been created by watching De Ann dance. The other albums have some great songs (my humble opinion) but they don't have the total focus on dancing that "Dream Dancer" and "Dark Fire" have. "Dark Fire" received the "Best New Album of the Year" award in 1994 from Halame & Tilana, of "The Belly Dance Awards Competition".

Part 2 now available

Doug's albums can be obtained here

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De Ann photo