Master Musicians of Joujouka

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Master Musicians of Joujouka
OriginJajouka, Morocco
GenresFolk music, World,
Sufi music of Morocco
Years active1950–present
LabelsSub Rosa, Rolling Stones RecordsErgot Records
Associated actsBrion Gysin,
Mohamed Hamri,
Brian Jones,
Timothy Leary,
Marianne Faithfull,
Anita Pallenberg,
Smashing Pumpkins,
Ysanne Spevack,
Jane's Addiction,
Jarvis Cocker
WebsiteMaster Musicians of Joujouka official site
MembersSee: Members

Master Musicians of Joujouka are Jbala Sufi trance musicians[1] most famous for their connections with the Beat Generation and the Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones[2] These musicians hail from the village of Jajouka[3] or Zahjouka near Ksar-el-Kebir in the Ahl Srif mountain range of the southern Rif Mountains in northern Morocco.


The Master Musicians of Joujouka have a long history being recorded by Western artists.[4] 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.[5] During the 1970s, the French label Disque Arion released a single album of the same music, produced by Stahl and titled Le Rif: La tribu Ahl Serif.[6][7] Both albums are credited to Master Musicians of Jajouka (or Maîtres musiciens de Jajouka).[5][6][7] The name Master Musicians of Joujouka was first used by Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs in the 1950s, Timothy Leary and Rosemary Woodruff Leary in the 1960s and 1970s, and on the Brian Jones L.P. released in 1971.[8] In the 1980s the musicians were sometimes called by the names Master Musicians of Jahjouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka and Master Musicians of Joujouka in both articles and on official documents.


A schism exists between two similarly-named ensembles from the same village.[9][10] 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.[10]

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.[11]

In the UK the Independent newspaper first noted the schism in 1995.[12] The same year Neil Strauss in his Pop Life column for the New York Times also referred to the fact that there were two groups from the village, noting that protests had been held in the UK outside concerts by Bachir Attar.[13]

In 2005 the German magazine Quantra published an article referencing the continued schism entitled "the Faded Myth of the Goat God" noting that the schism was not good for the village or the musicians.[14]

In 2009, Jace Clayton wrote for the Dubai-based The National of the two groups and the village stating it was : ""Master Musicians of Joujouka" versus the "Master Musicians of Jajouka (featuring Bachir Attar)"".[15]

In 2012 The Quietus published an article about the schism "Jajouka Or Joujouka? The Conflicted Legacy Of The Master Musicians " urging fans to support both groups and noting that both groups had differing musical styles with The Master Musicians of Joujouka having "a desire to conserve the purity of the ancient music in its traditional form." [16]

Sufism and Pan[edit]

The Master Musicians of Joujouka adhere to the traditional Sufi trance music of their patron saint passed down for 1200 years. Timothy Leary having visited the village in September 1969 wrote an essay on his time with Mohamed Hamri and the master musicians in his 1971 book Jail Notes called "The four thousand year old rock'n'roll band".[17] Leary based his dating on Burroughs's belief that the ritual Boujeloud, performed in Joujouka, owes its origin to the Ancient Greek deity Pan.

Before the Alaouite dynasty, the masters used to play in medieval times for sultans in their courts, travelling with them and announcing their arrival to villages and cities.[citation needed]

Music and instruments[edit]

The Joujouka brotherhood play a form of reed, pipe, and percussion music that relies on drones, improvisation, and complex rhythms, much of which is unique to Joujouka.

Their flute is called the lira and is considered the oldest instrument in Joujouka. 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 the Rif Mountains. 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 Joujouka 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 folklore. According to Attar tradition, 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.

Beat Generation[edit]

Their first exposure to Western audiences came through their introduction to the Beats. Painter/folklorist Mohamed Hamri, whose mother was an Attar from the village, led artist Brion Gysin to Joujouka to meet the group. Gysin became fascinated with the group's music and led William S. Burroughs to the village. Burroughs described it as the world's oldest music and was the first person to call the musicians a "4000-year-old rock and roll band". In Tangier, Gysin and Hamri founded the 1001 Nights restaurant, in which the musicians played throughout the 1950s to a largely Western audience in what was then an international zone, the "Interzone"[18] of Burroughs' fiction.

Brian Jones and Ornette Coleman[edit]

When Rolling Stones Brian Jones visited Morocco in 1968, Gysin and Hamri took him to the village to record the Master Musicians of Joujouka for the release Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, whose original release featured cover artwork by Hamri before a controversial 1990s redesign. Ornette Coleman recorded with the musicians in January 1973, some results of which featured on his LP Dancing in Your Head.

1990s to present LP, CD and DVD releases and concerts[edit]

The Master Musicians of Joujouka, now led by Ahmed Attar, released their third album Joujouka Black Eyes, on Sub Rosa in 1995. In 1996 Sufi: Moroccan Trance II was released, an album featuring the Sufi music of Joujouka's saint Sidi Ahmed Scheech and also Gnawa music from Marrakesh. The same year 10%: file under Burroughs featured the Master Musicians in collaboration with Marianne Faithfull on "My Only Friend," an homage to Brion Gysin, as well as a prayer giving blessings and a vocal track by the musicians. The same CD features artists such as Scanner sampling the musicians to create homages to Gysin and Burroughs. Other artists on album include Bill Laswell, Herbert Huncke, Burroughs, Bomb the Bass, Gysin, Chuck Prophet, and Stanley Booth.

Hamri continued to promote Joujouka music as President of their collectives organisation Association Srifiya Folkloric until his death in Joujouka in August 2000. Despite Hamri's death, the musicians continue to work in Joujouka and abroad. Those living in the village include Ahmed El Attar, Abdeslam Boukhzar, Mohamed El Attar, Abdeslam Errtoubi, Ahmed Bousini, Mustapha El Attar, Radi El Khalil, Abdullah Ziyat, and Mohamed Mokhchan, as well as other members of their Sufi community and their children.

The musicians travelled to perform at Casa Da Musica, Porto, Portugal in spring 2006. Their most recent CD Boujeloud recorded over a four-year period, documents the music of the Boujeloud or Pan ritual, was released in September 2006.

A DVD, Destroy all Rational Thought, featuring their 1992 performances at the Here To Go Show in Dublin, Ireland was released in 2007. The documentary also feature the music of Laswell, Material, and Shabba Ranks. It also features Gysin and Burroughs, whose works were the focus of the show.

In 2011 The Master Musicians of Joujouka headlined Glastonbury Festival playing the Pyramid Stage on 24 June along with Metronomy, Wu Tang Clan, B.B. King, and U2.[19]

Collaboration with Jane's Addiction[edit]

The same year they appeared on the track End to the Lies by Jane's Addiction on the album The Great Escape Artist.[20] According to Perry Farrell the collaboration came about because Jane's Addiction wanted to add "a sense of ancient ritual and some depth beyond normal instrumentation, getting off the typical path that rock bands use" and they "wanted the music to cast a spell on the 'lies.'"[21][22] The LP reached No. 12 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Charts on 5 November 2011.[23]

In 2013 the Master Musicians of Joujouka headlined the annual Villa Aparta Festival at Villa Medici in Rome as guests of the French Academy in Rome.[24]

In January 2015 the Irish language TV channel RTE TG4 broadcast an episode of Ceolchuairt Musical Pilgrimages featuring Fiachna Ó Braonáin of Hot House Flowers visiting and collaborating with Master Musicians of Joujouka.[25] Hot Press stated that Ó Braonáin explored "the ancient links with traditional Irish music culminating in a magical moonlit encounter with the famous Master Musicians of Joujouka".[26]

On Record Store Day 2015 the L.P., Into the Ahl Srif, was released in a limited edition of 1000. The vinyl-only release was recorded at the Master Musicians of Joujouka's annual festival by Adrian Rew and was released by Ergot Records. It was the group's first vinyl release since 1978.[27][28]

In 2016 The Master Musicians of Joujouka played the Grand Salle at Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, participating in the museum's Beat Generation: New York, San Francisco, Paris, exhibition.[29]

Jarvis Cocker, Joujouka, "Wireless Nights" BBC Radio 4[edit]

Jarvis Cocker from Pulp recorded a show in the village with Master Musicians of Joujouka for the fifth season of his Wireless Nights series for BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast on 13 March 2017 and is available on podcast. It was recorded binaurally and was championed by The Guardian as "the best radio of the week".[30][31]

Brian Jones Anniversary Festival[edit]

The Master Musicians of Joujouka hosted a festival, in 2008, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Brian Jones recording on 29 July 1968. The festival was attended by Anita Pallenberg.[32] The festival has continued each year and was described by Rolling Stone as "the Oldest and Most Exclusive Dance Party in the World".[33] Attendance is limited to 50 people annually.[34] In 2017 Richard Hamilton reported on the 9th edition for BBC Radio 4 From our own Correspondent noting that some guests came for healing and described being lost in trance dancing to the massed sound of the musicians.[35]


Contributing artist



The following musicians performed on Boujeloud, Joujouka Black Eyes, and Sufi as well as other recordings.

  • Ahmed El Attar – drum and vocal; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka (1971), Master Musicians of Jajouka (1974), and Boujeloud
  • Mohamed El Attar – lira, rhaita and vocals
  • Mustapha El Attar – drum
  • Ahmed Bouhsini – rhaita, lira; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Abdelslam Boukhzar – drum, vocal; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka, Steel Wheels by The Rolling Stones, and Apocalypse across the Sky
  • Abdelslam Errtoubi – rhaita, lira; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Mujehid Mujdoubi – lira; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Muinier Mujdoubi – drum
  • Muckthar Jagdhal – drum, vocal; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Apocalypse across the Sky
  • Mohamed Mokhchan – rhaita, lira; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Abdelslam Dahnoun – drum, rhaita, lira; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka
  • Abdellah Ziyat – rhaita, lira, vocal
  • El Hadj – clapping, vocal; appears on Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Si Ahmed – violin

See also[edit]

Original sleeve design by Dave Field


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Sleeve Note Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, Rolling Stones Records, 1971
  5. ^ a b Tribe Ahl Serif: Master Musicians Of Jajouka at Discogs
  6. ^ a b "Colección de Discos de Vinilo" (in Spanish). Fundación Joaquín Díaz. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Le RIF [sound recording] : la tribu Ahl Serif : Maitre musiciens de Jajouka". National Library Board. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  8. ^ Timothy Leary "The Four Thousand Year Old Rock'n'Roll Band, Jail Notes, London 1972, Rosemary Woodruff Leary, "The Master Musicians" in Ed. Paul Krassner. Psychedelic Trips for the Mind reprinted 2000,
  9. ^ Olewnick, Brian. Joujouka Black Eyes at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  10. ^ a b Ranaldo, Lee (August 1996). "Into The Mystic: Lee Ranaldo's Jajouka Journal". The Wire (150).
  11. ^ 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.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  12. ^
  13. ^ Neil Strauss, New York Times, October 12, 1995,
  14. ^ Arian Fariborz, The Faded Myth of the Goat God, Quantra, 2005,
  15. ^ Jace Clayton, "Past Masters", The National,6 March 2009
  16. ^ Richie Troughton , "Jajouka Or Joujouka? The Conflicted Legacy Of The Master Musicians", The Quietus, February 10, 2012,
  17. ^ Rosemary Woodruff Leary, "The Master Musicians" in Ed. Paul Krassner. Psychedelic Trips for the Mind, reprinted 2000; Leary, Timothy, Jail Notes, (New York, 1971)
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Glastonbury 2011 live: Friday 24 June", The Guardian,
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Jane's Addiction Collaborates With Master Musicians Of Joujouka"
  22. ^ "Jane's Addiction, "End To The Lies"", Billboard, 22 April 2011,
  23. ^ Billboard 200, 5 November 2011, Billboard,
  24. ^ Ondine Benetier, "On y était : le festival Villa Aperta 2013 à Rome", Les InRocks, 10 June 2013,
  25. ^ The Journal of Irish Music, 19 December 2014,
  26. ^ "WATCH: New TG4 music show straddles the world", Hot Press, 6 January 2015,
  27. ^
  28. ^ EntryMaster Musicians of Joujouka, Into the Ahl Srif, Record Store Day Official Site,
  29. ^ Eric Delhaye,"Récit Au Maroc, le village de Jajouka abrite le plus vieux groupe de rock du monde", Telerama, 12 September 2016,,147163.php
  30. ^ Jarvis Cocker, Joujouka, Series 5 Episode 1, Wireless Nights, BBC Radio 4, first broadcast 13 March 2017, podcast,
  31. ^
  32. ^ Mark Paytress, "Take Me Into Insanity", The Guardian, 29 May 2009,
  33. ^ Suzanne Gerber,"Inside the Oldest, Most Exclusive Dance Party in the World", Rolling Stone, 12 June 2015,
  34. ^ Kevin Barrington, "A Musical Mecca", The Irish Times, 14 July 2012,
  35. ^ Richard Hamilton, reports from Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival 2017, From Our Own Correspondent, BBC Radio 4, podcast from 24 mins

Further reading[edit]

  • Hamri, Mohamed (1975), Tales of Joujouka. Capra Press.
  • Gysin, Brion, The Process.
  • Schuyler, Philip (2000) "Joujouka/Jajouka/Zahjoukah – Moroccan Music and Euro-American Imagination", in Armbrust, Walter, editor. "Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond". Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
  • Strauss, Neil (12 October 1995). "The Pop Life: To Save Jajouka, How About a Mercedes in the Village?". The New York Times.
  • Davis, Stephen (1993). Jajouka Rolling Stone: A Fable of Gods and Heroes. Random House.
  • Palmer, Robert (14 October 1971). Jajouka: Up the Mountain. Rolling Stone..
  • Davis, Stephen (2001). Old Gods Almost Dead. Broadway Books, 135–37, 172, 195–201, 227; 233–34, 248–53, 270, 354, 504–505, 508.

External links[edit]