Master Musicians of Jajouka Bring the Sounds of Morocco’s Rif Mountains to Toronto

Master Musicians of Jajouka
Master Musicians of Jajouka
Toronto, Canada – Small World Music, in association with the Moroccan Association of Toronto, will present on July 15 the intense and untamed sound of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, featuring Bachir Attar.

The Attar clan of Jajouka is the founding family of the village and keepers of one of the oldest and most unique surviving musical traditions on Earth. The music and secrets, the hypnotic drumming, chanting vocals and soaring pipes of Jajouka have been passed down through generations from father to son, by some accounts for as long as 4000 years, in the Rif Mountains of
Morocco. The musicians are taught from early childhood a complex music unique to Jajouka, until they finally become malims, or Masters. They possess baraka, or the blessing of Allah, which gives them the power to heal, and the endurance required to play some of the most intense and complex music in existence.

The music of Jajouka uses a number of traditional instruments, including the ghaita (the Arabic version of the oboe), the lira (a bamboo flute), and the guimbri (a three-stringed lute), along with double-headed Moroccan drums.

The music is composed of several fairly simple parts, which are then intricately woven together in a way foreign to most Western ears, so that the resolution of individual phrases and sections can be difficult for outsiders to discern. The music can be extended indefinitely, and many performances last for days at a time, with musicians taking breaks and others stepping in to take their place. With its horns, hypnotic rhythms, pulsing strings and call-and-response vocals, the overall effect is a visceral, trance-inducing power, for which Moroccan music is renowned.

Two of the great influences on the Beat Generation – Brion Gysin, the painter and inventor, and Paul Bowles, the writer and composer – first heard the wild music of Jajouka at a festival in the summer of 1950. Gysin was entranced and determined to hear the music regularly, for the rest of his life. These were the days of the Inter-Zone, when Tangier was an international city, where anything could and did happen.

In this adventurous climate, Gysin opened the now-legendary restaurant, The 1001 Nights, in the casbah of Tangier, hiring the Jajouka musicians as the house band. However, it wasn’t until after 1968 when Gysin brought his close friend Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones to Jajouka, that the sacred music came to the attention of the Western world. The Master Musicians musically recreated festival music from their most important religious holiday, Eid el Kbir, and Jones eagerly recorded seven hours of the captivating sounds. It was this festival that led Gysin to believe that there were connections between the ancient rites of Pan, the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, and the local tradition of a young boy dressing as Bou Jeloud, the Goat God, Father of Skins, and dancing madly, whipping the villagers into a frenzy, and ensuring the health of the village for the coming year.

Jones drowned a month after returning from Morocco and the album he recorded, Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, was released two years later, in 1971. This album led to scores of musicians and other travelers visiting the village in the following years, including Ornette Coleman, who recorded a track for his album Dancing In Your Head in the village. In 1980 the Master Musicians of Jajouka began a series of European tours, but lost momentum with the death of their chief and bandleader Hadj Abdessalam Attar in 1982. One of his younger sons, Bachir Attar, has taken over as the leader of the Master Musicians and works hard to preserve Jajouka’s traditions and secrets.

Where: The Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne Street
When: Tuesday, July 15, Doors @ 8 pm, Concert @ 9 pm
Tickets: $30 advance @ & Soundscapes Records (572 College St.)

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