Bolinas DJ fuses dub and downtempo in monthly nights at Smiley’s

01/26/2017

An incoming thunderstorm was no deterrent for DJ Samir Neffati and his monthly electronic music set, which fuses dub beats and a downtempo rhythm, at Smiley’s Schooner Saloon last Thursday. Throughout the roomy barroom, a dozen patrons mingled or tapped along to the infectious bounce coordinated and programmed by Mr. Neffati on his computer and dual turntables. Since early 2016, Mr. Neffati, a tall, slender man with a neat, dreadlocked bun, has maintained a monthly residency at Smiley’s. Mashing subdued downtempo dub with edgier notes, he creates a vibe that’s equally worth grooving to or zoning out on. Born in Cannes to Tunisian immigrants, Mr. Neffati (or Sam to locals) is quiet and self-contained. He worked as a chemical pharmacist before quitting—he was angry about the power of lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry—and then deciding to travel. Eventually he landed in Bolinas, at age 29, in the late 1990s. “I loved it and I love nature,” he said. “I need to be next to the water.” When he was a kid and money was tight, he played alone with just hand drums, but ever since he first heard electronic music at a party in southern France, Mr. Neffati said he’s been hooked. He purchased his first synthesizer, a Roland MC-303, in 1993 and he now blends his passions. He pairs his songs with dazzling time-lapse nature videos that he posts online, but he said his main purpose is to get people to dance. “It’s a curse,” he said. “I really enjoy music and am always analyzing every part. I can’t relax sometimes—it’s always in front.” Last Thursday night, with a greyhound cocktail in hand, Mr. Neffati stoically conducted his orchestra of sonic samples, at one point blending an Eastern melody over a throbbing dance beat. “He definitely keeps the night going,” Kaeli Newkirk, a bartender, said. “He gets you off your feet and knows how to play to the crowd.” DJ Samir performs at 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at Smiley’s, in Bolinas. No cover.