Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recording the Master Musicians of Jajouka part 3

Hymn to Pan

Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O man ! My man !
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan ! Io Pan .
Io Pan ! Io Pan ! Come over the sea
From Sicily and from Arcady !
Roaming as Bacchus, with fauns and pards
And nymphs and satyrs for thy guards,
On a milk-white ass, come over the sea
To me, to me,
                                                                                             -Aleister Crowley

The following two paragraphs below are reprinted from the recent blog on drummers.  The are included here for the sake of continuity.

 We left Tangier in the early afternoon for what I thought was going to be a 50 or 60 mile drive to Jajouka. For some reason it took all afternoon to get to where you leave the road and climb up the mountain to the village. At that time, maybe still is, Jajouka was completely off the grid in every way, no electricity, no roads going to it, no telephones, nothing resembling anything of modern civilization except a battery operated P.A. system used for prayer calls. There wasn't even a sign from the road we drove in on to indicate how to get to Jajouka. You have to know someone who knows or you would never get there. It was dusk when we arrived at the spot to climb the mountain. We rode up on horses which they had waiting for us. The equipment was put on a large flatbed trailer and pulled up the mountain by a huge, ancient-looking tractor via a rocky, treeless ravine that served as a road.

It was completely dark when we reached Jajouka, but still early, 7 or 8 pm maybe. We enjoyed a simple meal of lamb, fresh bread and mint tea before unpacking and setting up the gear. The plan was to get it set up, make sure it all worked so it would be ready to start recording the next day. The film crew had arrived earlier in the day, driving down from France the past few days, and had their lighting and generator all set up providing ample illumination in the Moroccan night. The musicians were hanging about so no better way to test the gear than do a run through with the actual players. Everything worked fine, much to my relief. The musicians kept playing and playing, they didn't want to stop, and we didn't want them to stop. I was surprised to hear the 5 am prayer calls sound off. We had worked all night though it only seemed a few hours, and I had a tremendous amount of energy. The musicians ignored the calls, they wanted to keep playing. We told them we had to wait because they would bleed onto the tracks. The group had about 6 -8 drummers and about the same number of ghaita (a simple double reed horn with a very bright timbre) players. Their music definitely warped consciousness in interesting ways.

We rested  for about 6 hours or so, got about around noon and enjoyed a light breakfast of fresh bread and olives.  The next session was scheduled for 4pm that afternoon giving us a few hours of free time.  I chose to hike to the nearby cave where it all began which was a little less than a mile away.

photo by Cherie Nutting

legend assigns the origins of the music to a cave in the hills of Jajouka. When the first Attar arrived in the region, he fell asleep in the cave of Boujeloud where the “father of skins” appeared to him in a dream playing the most beautiful music he had ever heard. Boujeloud, for whom Boujeloudia is played, returned to teach the villagers a special form of music they could pass down through the generations. - from the history page of the Jajouka website.

 In the liner notes to the album we recorded, Apocalypse Across the Sky,  William S. Burroughs writes:

Just as I did not at first appreciate Brion's extraordinary personality, the music of Jajouka was lost on me at first hearing, in 1957.  But in Paris a year later, Brion played me the tapes of his music and explained (anthropologist Edward) Westermark's theory that the annual festival at Jajouka coinciding with the Moslem lunar calendar feast of Aid el Kebir was in fact a reenactment of the ancient Roman Rites of Pan, the Lupercalia, ensuring fertility and ensuring the age-old balance of power between men and women.  And then at last I could hear the music and understand.

I had discovered this association prior to the trip so thought it would be interesting to record the Hymn to Pan by Aleister Crowley in the cave.  I brought a copy of Magick in Theory and Practice, a portable DAT recorder and a microphone and recorded it a couple of times.

The session that day went well into the night.  The next day the session started at 3pm only going until 7pm, by then we had everything we needed.  Four different styles of music were represented, three of them played by the same musicians but with different instruments playing the melodies.  The music most associated with Jajouka is called Boujeloudia and features the double reed piercing horns called ghaita or rhaita.  Many people unfamiliar with the Master Musicians of Jajouka would have heard this instrument in Howard Shore's score for the Lord of the Rings films, in particular the Mordor theme.  The second style features a primitive lute-like instrument called a Gimbri  accompanied with their version of a violin called a Kamanja played uprite on the knee.  This style includes singing whereas Boujeloudia does not.  The third style, also purely instrumental, features a group playing Liras which are their homemade flutes.  They sound much airier than a conventional flute.  As a matter of fact, all of their instruments are homemade.  These three styles include a drum group keeping time.  The fourth style of music comes from an all women's group consisting of six women, all from the Attar clan, playing drums and singing.  We were lucky to record them because they never play for outsiders but made an exception for us.  As I was playing back their first track on a small pair of portable Fostex monitors I'd brought some of them stared giggling.  They had never heard themselves recorded before.

After the final session the feast began marking the beginning of the Boujeloud ritual, the ancient rites of Pan.  It begins with a sheep getting sacrificed then roasted on an open fire to provide the pre-ritual meal.  Another legend says that seeing this sheep led off to slaughter unhinged Brian Jones when he went there in 1968 to record the Master Musicians.  Being the only fair-skinned person amongst the darker Moroccans, he supposedly identified with the white sheep and became very paranoid that they were out to get him, too.  This began a year-long descent into confusion and chaos for him leading to his departure from the Rolling Stones, then his death.  I don't know the source of this story and have doubts about it, but you never know.  Something led to him falling off the deep end, and don't think  it can be attributed to drug abuse alone.  As his friend, Bob Dylan famously sang about him a few years earlier, "There's something happening here and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?"  However, it seems that line could apply to nearly everyone in one way or another though, perhaps, many wouldn't admit it.  The Jajoukians only have fond memories of Mr. Jones, from what I gathered.  Bachir Attar, a child at the time, remembers him dancing joyfully with the headphones on as he recorded their music.  It's unlikely we would have ever gone if Brian Jones hadn't blazed the trail.

The rites began after the evening meal at dusk as the sky began to darken into the night.  The musicians assembled out in a large field playing Boujeloudia style in front of a large bonfire.  A designated youth, I would guess in his late teens or early 20s, donned the goat-skin costume of Boujeloud.  It's always the same youth who holds this post until he passes it on.  The music puts him into a trance causing him to dance wildly about with a swatch of long grass with which he tries to swat people. Legend holds that if he catches a girl off guard and hits here with the grass, she'll become pregnant.  The musicians play all night long, the horn players employing circular breathing to maintain a constant sound.  They do not take a break except, one at a time, they'll stop to take a draw on a pipe of hash.  I noticed an elderly man, he looked at least 75, was the caretaker of the pipe.  He would load it, then bring it to each musician one at a time.   I saw that before he passed the pipe to the musician, he would smoke from it first ... every single time!  I was amazed at his tolerance to smoke that much of the strong Moroccan hash where one or two tokes works for hours.

I was out in the field watching and listening to this age-old celebration keeping my eye out for Boujeloud when I suddenly felt a stinging slap on my arm.  My attention had momentarily strayed so I got caught by the goat-god Invocant.  This modified my view of the ritual for it now seemed Boujeloud's intent was to keep people awake through the long night.  The shock into the present seemed similar to getting wacked by a Zen master with a stick.

 photo by Jill Furmanovsky/
and appears courtesy of the Master Musicians of Joujouka

I came to agree with the theory that this ritual is a rite of Pan.  In the Book of Thoth, Alesiter Crowley identifies Pan as the most extreme manifestation of male energy.  This explains the women getting pregnant if they are caught by him.  It also could explain a shamanic technique called "tickling the dragon" that has to do with carefully waking up the energy that Hindus call kundalini.  It's a powerful source of energy when handled judiciously but can get rather painful if unleashed to quickly, it you get caught by it like getting caught and swatted by Boujeloud.  Somewhere in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I the story is told of a yogi, whose name I don't recall, who activated his kundalini too quickly and faced painful consequences.

The musicians played and played and played that night.  As I closed my eyes to get a few hours rest somewhere around 3 am, they were still going at it off in the distance.  Next morning at breakfast the Jajouka guest book was passed around for us to sign.  We all glanced through it noting the various travelers who had come before: Gysin, Burroughs, Ornette, Leary, Robert Palmer and a host of others.  I didn't see Brian Jones' autograph in there, perhaps the tradition started later?

The tracks were mixed by Bill Laswell and myself at The Hit Factory in New York.  A highlight for me was playing the flute piece for Ornette Coleman back at Bill's Greenpoint studio and getting his blessing.  The next album we recorded was a Bachir Attar solo record done at Greenpoint.  A couple of months later I went to Paris to mix the film soundtrack, stayed at the Grand Hotel, and ate dinner at a restaurant that Gurdjieff used to frequent.  The film came out great, it included some early footage made by Burroughs and Gysin, just classic!  Unfortunately, it never came out due to some business or rights issue, I don't know the real reason.

The Master Musicians are quite active to this day actively touring and collaborating with various musicians around the world something they had yet to realize when we worked with them.  More information can be found here. 

As William Burroughs writes in the Apocalypse Across the Sky liner notes:  But the Pipes of Pan survive to this day.  Listen to this music, the primordial sounds of a 4,000-year old rock'n'roll band ... listen with your whole body.  Let the music penetrate you and move you, and you will connect with the oldest music on earth.


  1. Another fascinating tale! Thanks.

    I went to Morocco about 30 years ago when I was totally green where travel was concerned. If I get the time, I would like to get to Jajouka.

    You see the obvious link with Crowley's "Hymn to Pan". I wondered why Bill Laswell didn't use some music by Bachhir Attar or the master Musicians when he recorded that poem for the Greek Myths album.

  2. i ended up in Jajouka in 1997 too. Although i had heard of Jajouka from reading burroughs etc. but my real inspiration was the Axiom record. I signed the book too. and had the crazy experience of them jamming in the small room with horns in each of my ears...Thanks for the memories.

  3. LJ - I didn't realize Hymn to Pan was on the Greek Myths cd. I'll have to dig it up.

    Daevs - thanks for saying.

  4. You would missed it as it is not credited correctly. It is

    7/ Pan, The Playful God (Sabin,Laswell) 4.10
    of the Country

    with Wallace Shawn reciting, but with the title changed and no credit to the Beast...

    Daevs-- that must have been an experience! How hard was Jajouka to get to?