Master Musicians of Jajouka
It was one of those magical discoveries: Rolling Stones guitarist travels to the foothills of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco to meet a group of musicians whose strange and wonderful trance music immediately enraptures him. Dazzled, he records them, adding in his own production touches, and creates an instant hippy classic.
That is certainly part of the Master Musicians of Jajouka's story, but by no means all of itand the full tale is even more fascinating. Jajouka's Attar clan are the village musicians, the keepers of generations of traditions for their tribe. (According to lore, this knowledge, their ability to heal and their baraka, or blessing from God, has been alive for some 4,000 years.) In creating their immensely powerful music, the Attar family uses several traditional instruments in their music, including the oboelike ghaita, a bamboo flute called the lira, the three-stringed Moroccan lute known as a guimbri and double-headed Moroccan drums.
Two Morocco-based expats who were hugely influential artists to the Beat Generation, painter and inventor Brion Gysin and the writer/composer Paul Bowles, first heard the Jajouka musicians at a festival in 1950. Gysin fell in love with their sound; in 1969, he brought his good friend Jones to hear them. Jones taped the masters playing festival music meant for their most important religious holiday, Aid el Kbir (Eid al-Kabir); Gysin believed that their holiday ritual of dressing a young boy as Bou Jeloud, the Goat God, to ensure the village's health for the next year bore connections to the ancient Roman rites of Pan, and the fertility festival of Lupercalia. Gysin's theory gave the Jones-produced album its name: Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, released in 1971 (now available on a Point CD).
After the success of that first album, the Master Musicians of Jajouka undertook a series of European tours beginning in 1980, but the group lost momentum when their chief and band leader, Hadj Abdessalam Attar, passed away in 1982. Since then, one of the elder Attar's sons, Bachir Attar, has taken over those responsibilities; now based in Paris, Bachir has reached out to other musicians around the world, resulting in collaborations with such notables as jazz saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman, guitarist Elliott Sharp and producer Bill Laswell, among others. One of the group's most recent recordings is The Master Musicians of Jajouka With Talvin Singh (Philips), a project that brings them together with a well-known British tabla player and producer of Indian heritage. Anastasia Tsioulcas