The Master Musicians of Jajouka
May 25

The Master Musicians of Jajouka directed by Bachir Attar

Seated concert in the Auditorium.

In resonance with the exhibition “Forever Sixties: the Spirit of the 1960s in the Pinault Collection” opening at the Couvent des Jacobins in Rennes in June 2023, the Bourse de Commerce presents an exceptional concert by The Master Musicians of Jajouka, directed by Bachir Attar, designated by American beat writer William S. Burroughs as “the only 4,000-year-old rock’n’roll band”.

Jajouka is the name of a small Moroccan village in the foothills of the Rif Mountains, a hundred kilometers from Tangier, the country’s main port city. It is home to the sanctuary of the Sufi master Sidi Hamid Cheikh, who, legend has it, gave the Attar clan, the founders of the village, the power to heal mental and physical illnesses through music. For millennia, music in Jajouka has been transmitted from generation to generation to create a veritable tapestry of folk music of complex, transcendent rhythms played on traditional instruments such as the nira (a bamboo flute), the ghaita (the Maghrebian oboe), and the bendir (a percussion instrument).

In the 1950s, writers and poets of the Beat Generation landed in Morocco, far from the conservative shores of the US, in search of a country that might offer them full freedom. Nights in Tangier revolved around the restaurant Les Mille et Une Nuits, opened by British artist Brion Gysin and Moroccan painter Mohamed Hamri, where The Master Musicians of Jajouka performed their music for Westerners, swept away in a state of trance. One day, Mohamed Hamri, who was born in Jajouka, took Brion Gysin there, who was fascinated by the group’s Sufi sounds, leading him along the path to this village nestled amidst the steep mountains. In 1968, Gysin played recordings he made in Jajouka to his friend Brian Jones, guitarist and founding member of the Rolling Stones, as he heard an echo of psychedelic rock in their rhythmic loops. They then both travelled to Jajouka, where Brian Jones recorded seven hours of tape in the field, which he edited upon returning to London and which was posthumously released in 1971 as Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka. The album turned Jajouka into a mythical destination for music fans and musicians alike, such as free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who sampled what he heard and recorded there for his album Dancing in Your Head (1977).

Their last album, Dancing Under the Moon (2022), recorded in 2019 in the Rif Mountains, is an ode to the mysticism of Jajouka.