Every band on the Coachella field has some sort of story -- but none has a story like Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis, the Israeli group that opened the festival both weekends this year and has been primary support on Radiohead's spring tour of the U.S.
That's because no band in the world has a story like Tassa and his group. Tassa is the grandson of a Kuwaiti musician Daoud Al-Kuwaiti, whose music collaborations with his brother became famous in the Arabic world in the '30s-'50s -- and was subsequently banned in Iraq by Saddam Hussein when he found out that the singer was not, in fact, Arabic at all, but was Jewish. Tassa has spent the last decade gaining a reputation in Israel for his own original work, but came across a box of his grandfather's old records and decided to re-record some of his songs with a modern edge and rock instrumentation -- a decision, he told Billboard backstage in the band's trailer at Coachella following their set on Friday -- that wasn't exactly an easy sell.
"It was a little bit of a risk [to sing in Arabic] after so many Hebrew hits," Tassa said, veering between English and Hebrew translated by his bassist and creative partner, Nir Maimon, and the band's manager, Or Davidson. The band certainly never expected the response they got at home, with generations of fans now coming to see their shows in Israel -- grandmothers reliving the music of their youths, 20-somethings who knew Tassa from his Hebrew hits finding roots in traditional music played by an atraditional band, and young children being exposed to a new culture for the first time.