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The Master Musicians of Joujouka

This music leads back through the blood and bone of millennia to the beginning of the whole rock n'roll circus

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by Henderson Downing, for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2006
The Work of Art in the Age of the Goatskin God

Master Musicians of Joujouka
Boujeloud (Sub Rosa)

Legendary Sufi trance masters from North Morocco, the Master Musicians of Joujouka conjure up what Brion Gysin understood to be the divine perfume of mystical experience. The ancient labyrinthine loops vividly recorded on Boujeloud are ripe with the rites of Pan. This music leads back through the blood and bone of millennia to the beginning of what could frivolously be described as that long and winding road which slowly unravelled into the whole rock n'roll circus. Listen and you'll hear authentic echoes of the first time a band of musicians ever blew the minds of their fanbase.

In Joujouka mythology Boujeloud's gift of a flute to a shepherd in return for the promise of a wife was the act that ultimately brought music into the village. Half-man half-goat, Boujeloud equates with Pan. The villagers of Joujouka still give annual expression to their origin myth through the ritual that surrounds Boujeloud. This festival is traditionally staged in Joujouka for a week leading up to the first full moon following the Islamic feast day of Aid El Kebir. William Burroughs, witnessing both the foolery and the frenzy of these fertility rites, described Boujeloud as Master of Skins, the Goat God, God of Panic, Master of Fear.

Boujeloud is both elegiac and febrile, loaded with haunting reveries and passionate repetitions that envelop the listener in a field of pulsing intensities. The Master Musicians ride the cascading aural surf of the album's overlapping and intersecting rhythms and melodies before suddenly shifting telepathically as one united force. To switch metaphors just as abruptly, the pipes and drums become subtle knives that scythe through the cluttered minds of our paranoid supermodernity and rip open the skin of the real to reveal an interpenetration of worlds where even the thought of dancing becomes time-travel. I confess, it's hard not to sound like a fucked-up neo-hippie with soft-focus new-age pretensions when extolling the numinous virtues of performers each truly deserving the epithet of maestro.

OK, another angle, you don't need some faded version of a wannabe Walter Benjamin to tell you that all the albums you listen to are fading fast. You feel it every time you press play, right? But you repress it, because that's how the buy-sell-exchange world-as-market we've inherited operates. If you're lucky you might find a copy of a copy of something you used to like before you realized it too was just a copy of a copy of a copy. All these ghosts and stars are the same thing. That's where Boujeloud, in spite of the material limitations of a live recording rather than a live encounter, emerges as a unique experience.

Forget, if you can, the impeccable counter-culture credentials. Forget the links to Western Lands established by Hamri the perfect host via Paul and Jane Bowles, Brion Gysin, William Burroughs, Brian Jones, Ornette Coleman, Marianne Faithfull, even Billy Corgan and our own Joe Ambrose and all. Forget that rope of cosmological dope which knots together these figures in a psychedelic chorus of 'Widdecombe Fair' transported to a remote village in Morocco. Forget those midnight mint-tea clouded discussions about the work of art in the age of the goatskin god. Listen to the music. Remember, these are the real Master Musicians of Joujouka, people who still live in the village. They need our support almost as much as we need theirs. Without wishing to indulge in the war-mongering fear tactics of Bush and Blair, I'd like to remind you that there is a saying that if the pipes of Pan stop playing the world will end. Please don't think you're exempt from such potential catastrophe. Boujeloud is more than another album. It is an anti-virus against a culture of total amnesia. Don't let it fade away.

Photograph ©Frank Rynne

For more information see http://www.joujouka.net/


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Henderson Downing

Henderson Downing has written for various literary journals and small press magazines, he lives in London


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