Maghreb Voices – The Road to Jajouka

Album: The Road to Jajouka: A Benefit Album (planned release: September 2013)

Artists: The Master Musicians of Jajouka, led by Bachir Attar and featuring various musicians including Medeski Martin & Wood, John Zorn, Flea, Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Billy Martin, Marc Ribot, Ornette Coleman, Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead), DJ Logic, Falu, Howard Shore, and the London Philharmonic.

?The circle of this world is like a ring: There is no doubt that we are nothing but Naqsh, the design of its bezel.?

Omar Khayam

Much Money Has Been Made From These Musicians?Let’s Give Back

Legend has it that the musicians of Jajouka, Morocco, once belonged to the courts of the sultans and were excused from manual labour to concentrate on honing their unique music, a genre unto itself. they’re now poor inhabitants of a remote village, but the core of their sound has not changed; they still play the lira, the double-reed rhaita, and two goatskin drums?the tebel and the tarija?and they still create some of the most mesmerizing, trance-inducing music the world has ever known.

Just ask any of the Rolling Stones (and Anita Pallenberg) about the powerful influence of the Master Musicians of Jajouka on Western rock and jazz as well as on their personal lives. The Stones and their entourage have been visiting the Masters in Morocco since the early 1970s, observing and participating in ceremonies enacted to a music rooted in primitive magical incantation as well as in the more recent influence of Sufi Islam.

This album presents the current incarnation of the Masters Musicians of Jajouka, which is actually more of a traditional office than a transient band, the positions?and often the instruments themselves?being handed down from father to son. The band is now led by Bachir Attar, the son of Hadj Abdessalem Attar, who led the group when the Rolling Stones, Robert Palmer, and Ornette Coleman were making their pilgrimages to the village. Bachir still plays the same lira, the bamboo flute handed down to him from his dad. The Road to Jajouka contains some new performances and also remixes of old recordings on which Western musicians have layered their own improvisations.

William S. Burroughs called the Master Musicians of Jajouka ?the 4,000-year-old rock ?n? roll band? because of their long historical tradition and the legends that preceded their history. Burroughs, Brian Jones, and Ornette Coleman were in part drawn to Jajouka because of the creative stimulation they had been seeking through experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs. The music of the Jajouka Masters comprises a context for religious ecstasy, a context easily transferred to the modern search for an expansion of the imagination.

We can trace records of the group’s existence back 1,300 years to pagan cultures that later merged with Sufism. The Sunni Islam that now dominates Morocco has a tendency to frown on music in general and on trance-inducing music in particular, but there’s no evidence that these musicians have been oppressed, possibly because they’re such a significant fixture in Moroccan culture. But despite their importance to the culture, the village in which the Masters live suffers from poverty that threatens the continuance of their musical traditions. This album is an attempt to raise funds to help it out; sales profits go to the non-profit The Jajouka Foundation, created this year as a means of preserving this music and drawing attention to it.

don’t expect this to be an adequate musicological introduction to the Jajouka genre; rather, it showcases how Jajouka has influenced Western musicians and music, as we’re really hearing it through them. Recording over the Jajouka musicians is a tradition that started with Bryan Jones, whose memories of the music were so different from the tapes he’d brought home that he decided to remake the recordings in his own aural image.

Road high points: ?Boujeloudia Magick,? in which the flute is overlaid with a fitting wash of electric guitar; and ?Into the Riff,? whose psychedelic crescendo brilliantly interprets the trance-inducing qualities of Jajouka for the Western ear. ?Jnuin? is a significant piece featuring jazz groundbreaker Ornette Coleman playing his sax over the Masters with riffs that actually echo the flavour of Jajouka while somehow still sounding like the kind of free jazz Coleman made famous.

At this point the common ground is laid out before us?jazz’s African origins and Africa’s open-hearted reception of the salmon that inevitably return to their spawning ground.

The album loses points for occasionally overlaying the traditional sounds with music incongruous to it, and for sometimes over-processing the traditional sound, but gains them back for adding such a rich source of musical inspiration and cultural significance to the already significant Jajouka recording canon.

Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.

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