VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Road to Jajouka: A Benefit Album

Album: The Road to Jajouka: A Benefit Album

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Howe Records

Release Date: September 03, 2013

Jajouka 9-3


 Morocco’s Master Musicians of Jajouka are revered for their timelessness and organic “realness.” Their uncluttered, pre-technology Berber Sufi trance music stands as testament that some things – such as the human need for cosmic consciousness – survive untouched by contemporary changes.

 Odd then, that this benefit/tribute album to the Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar (proceeds go to the preservationist Jajouka Foundation) should be cutting-edge modern in its approach to the ancient ceremonial music. Produced by drummer Billy Martin of Medeski Martin and Wood, it features Western musicians and mix masters adding their new parts to Master Musician tracks that mostly come from the 1996 release Jajouka Between the Mountains. Very 21st (or at least 20th) Century.

 But then, change must come to every tradition. And change already has affected the Master Musicians. Awhile back, they split into two groups – Attar’s (whose father led the group in the 1960s, when they were first discovered by Western world-music seekers like Brian Jones and Ornette Coleman), and another, which spells its name as “Joujouka,” led by Mohammed Hamri, an elder involved since the 1950s when the Beat writers living in Tangiers discovered them.

 In general, this album’s approach works well because the Western musicians are simpatico to rhythmic trance music but also know how and when to take it one step beyond. 

 “Hand of Fatima,” where the music surrounds and plays over Attar’s spoken-word passage, matches Marc Ribot’s bluesy, sinewy guitar and banjo with Attar’s lira, an ancient bamboo flute. “Djebala Hills” combines East Indian singer Falu’s mysteriously serpentine vocals, John Zorn’s explosive alto sax and interplay between Martin’s drums and Aiyb Dieng’s talking drum. Layered into it all is Flea playing electric bass with the Master Musicians at a performance in England. It’s cathartic.

 There is a track or two that doesn’t do much new – on “Baraka,” Mickey Hart’s drums and DJ Logic’s turntable manipulation just overplay dull repetitious beats to the lovely flute.

 “Jnuin” brings in one of America’s greatest master musicians, Ornette Coleman, for blistering alto-sax explorations while Attar provides support on ghaita, a wooden oboe that has a strange joyously sad sound. This comes from a private home recording that Coleman made in 2009 with the Master Musicians.

 The album also includes a track by composer Howard Shore from the 2000 soundtrack to the film The Cell, on which the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Attar’s Master Musicians balance discordant, ominous classical music with the quietude and inner peace of this deeply felt world music.

 DOWNLOAD: “Jnuin”

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