The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar

This article is about a musical group led by Bachir Attar. For the Morroccan band with a similar name, see Master Musicians of Joujouka.
Master Musicians of Jajouka
Origin Jajouka, Morocco
Genres World,
Sufi music of Morocco
Years active 1950–present
Labels Rolling Stones Records, Adelphi, Axiom, Womad, PolyGram, Jajouka Records Inc.
Associated acts Brian Jones,
Talvin Singh
The Rolling Stones
Members See: Members

Master Musicians of Jajouka is a group led by Bachir Attar, from the village of Jajouka near Ksar-el-Kebir in the Ahl Srif mountains in the southern Rif Mountains of northern Morocco.

The first recordings by the Master Musicians of Jajouka who were led by Bachir Attar's father, Hadj Abdessalem Attar, included recordings with Brian Jones (Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, 1971 AFM/1995 Point Music), Joel Rubiner (The Master Musicians of Jajouka, Adelphi), and Ornette Coleman (Dancing in Your Head).

Led today by Bachir Attar, the younger generation of the group has recorded under the names "Master Musicians of Jajouka" and "Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar" with The Rolling Stones (Steel Wheels, 1989), Bill Laswell (Apocalypse Across the Sky, Axiom Records, 1992), Tchad Blake (Jajouka Between the Mountains, WOMAD/Real World Records, 1996), Talvin Singh (The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar, Point Music, 2000), Lee Ranaldo (Crossing Border Fest, The Hague, 2003), Bernardo Bertolucci (The Sheltering Sky film soundtrack), Nicolas Roeg (Bad Timing film soundtrack), and others.

Bachir Attar has recorded with artists such as Elliott Sharp, Maceo Parker, Ginger Baker and Deborah Harry. The Master Musicians of Jajouka and Bachir have also toured with the artists Ornette Coleman, Steve Lacy and Critters Buggin.


A schism exists between two similarly-named ensembles from the same village.[1][2] Lee Ranaldo, following a 1995 visit to Morocco, wrote

[T]here are currently two groups of musicians claiming to be the 'real' Master Musicians OF Jajouka/Joujouka (they're even arguing over the spelling). One group, the 'Jajouka' faction, is led by Bachir Attar, whose father was the leader of the group in the 60s when Brian Jones and Ornette Coleman made their visits.... The 'Joujouka' faction is in the care of Mohammed Hamri, who has been involved with the village since the 50s and 60s, and who had a hand in bringing Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles there.[2]

Inconsistent English rendering of the village's name compounds the issue. For example, RE/Search uses both spellings in an interview with Brion Gysin: "Jajouka" for the village name, and "Joujouka" for the album Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka.[3]

Music and instruments

The Jajouka flute is called the "lira" and is considered the oldest instrument in Jajouka. The double-reed instrument is called the rhaita; it is similar to an oboe, but possessing a louder sound and more penetrating tone. The drum is called the "tebel" and is made of goat-skin and played with two wooden sticks. There is also another goat-skin drum called the "tarija" which allows for more fast-paced virtuosity.

The music itself is considered to be part of the Sufi tradition of Islam. Prior to the colonization of Morocco by France and Spain, master musicians of the village were said to be the royal musicians of the sultans. In past centuries master musicians of the Jajouka village traditionally were excused by the country's rulers from manual labor, goat-herding, and farming to concentrate on their music because the music's powerful trance rhythms and droning woodwinds were traditionally considered to have the power to heal the sick.

The music of the region has a strong connection to Pan. According to the tale, thousands of years ago a goat-man called "Bou Jeloud" appeared to an Attar ancestor in a cave, and danced to his music. The musicians of the village re-enact this event annually.

Recording activity

Arnold Stahl produced an LP record, Tribe Ahl Serif: Master Musicians Of Jajouka , recorded on location as part of a documentary film written and produced by Stahl. This double album was released in the early 1970s by the Musical Heritage Society.[4] During the 1970s, the French label Disque Arion released a single album of the same music, produced by Stahl and titled Le Rif.[5][6]

The group's performance was used on the Rolling Stones' song "Continental Drift" on their 1989 Steel Wheels album, whose recording was documented in author Paul Bowles' Tangier journal, Days and in journalist Stephen Davis's history of the Rolling Stones, Old Gods Almost Dead. An online African Music Encyclopedia quoted Mick Jagger as calling the group "one of the most musically inspiring groups still left on the planet". Also in 1989, they toured a couple of dates with Ornette Coleman. In 1992, Axiom released the album Apocalypse Across the Sky, recorded in 1991 and produced by Bill Laswell.[7] A track from the 1991 sessions also was featured on the 1994 Bill Laswell-produced Lost in the Translation: Axiom Ambient various artists compilation.

Excerpts from the song "El Medahey" from The Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar album Apocalypse Across the Sky were used on the 2000 score of The Cell by Howard Shore. "El Medahey", a standard the group often has played in live performance, was originally composed by Hadj Abdesalam Attar. The group is listed as "Master Musicians of Jajouka" on the liner notes for this and several other soundtracks since 1985, beginning with Ornette: Made in America.

Although the "Master Musicians of Jajouka" name has also been used on film soundtrack appearances and compilations as recently as 2004, the Bachir Attar-led generation of the group used the alternate recording name "Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar" beginning with Apocalypse Across the Sky and on two subsequent albums, Jajouka Between the Mountains and Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar. The latter album was produced by Talvin Singh on the Point Music label in 2000. The collaboration with Singh expanded the group's sound to a more contemporary audience by including a mixture of traditional acoustic field recordings and electronica-influenced ambient music.

In 2006 and 2007, film professor Augusta Palmer, daughter of the late music journalist Robert Palmer, had production under way on a film called The Hand of Fatima about The Master Musicians of Jajouka, her father, and Bachir Attar.[8] The Master Musicians of Jajouka who are led by Bachir Attar performed in Lisbon, Portugal, in January 2007, and the group performed at the 16th annual Meltdown festival curated by Ornette Coleman at London's Southbank Centre in June 2009, alongside such talents as Yoko Ono and Patti Smith.



Discography — The Master Musicians of Jajouka

Discography — group led by Bachir Attar since 1982

Film soundtracks and compilation albums


  1. Olewnick, Brian. Joujouka Black Eyes at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  2. 1 2 Ranaldo, Lee (August 1996). "Into The Mystic: Lee Ranaldo's Jajouka Journal". The Wire (150).
  3. Wilson, Terry (1977). "Here to Go: Planet R-101", Soft Need Brion Gysin Special. Appears in V. Vale and Andrea Juno, eds. (1982). RE/Search #4/5: William S. Burroughs/Brion Gysin/Throbbing Gristle. RE/Search. pp. 46–50. ISBN 0-9650469-1-5.
  4. Tribe Ahl Serif: Master Musicians Of Jajouka at Discogs
  5. "Colección de Discos de Vinilo" (in Spanish). Fundación Joaquín Díaz. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  6. "Le RIF [sound recording] : la tribu Ahl Serif : Maitre musiciens de Jajouka". National Library Board. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  7. Apocalypse Across the Sky at AllMusic. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  8. "The Hand of Fatima". The Hand of Fatima film site. Retrieved Jan. 31, 2007.

Further reading

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