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6. Joujouka/Jajouka/Zahjoukah

Moroccan Music and Euro-American Imagination

Philip Schuyler

The Master Musicians of Jajouka enjoy a large and loyal following in North America. The musicians, who come from a small village in northwestern Morocco, completed two tours of the United States and Canada, in fall 1995 and summer 1996. There are currently eight available CDs of the group in different configurations and under different spellings, and two of these have done very well indeed. One, a reissue of the 1971 LP Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, produced by Philip Glass in 1995, was offered in both the regular “jewel box” and in a deluxe, velvet-bound, gold-tooled limited edition (with a bonus CD) for an initial list price of $75. Another, Apocalypse Across the Sky, was listed as one of the ten best records of 1992 by both Jon Pareles, chief popular music critic of the New York Times, and Steve McClure, Tokyo bureau chief of Billboard magazine. Apocalypse ended that year at number 10 on Billboard’s chart of best-selling world-music albums, behind Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum and ahead of albums by Salif Keita and Bob Marley.

Jajouka CDs are a staple of a number of college and alternative radio stations, where they appear on the playlist along with music by John Cage, Maurice Ravel, Scissor Girls (a Chicago no-wave band), Harry Pussy (“Miami’s supreme noise band”), and Meatmen (a Washington, D.C.-based, “old-school punk” band best known for the album Pope on a Rope). Apocalypse was recommended by the Vampire Server on the World Wide Web as a “Notable Gothic Work to provide mood music for MASQUERADE sessions, or even table top sessions.” “For that international feel,” the Vampire page advises. “Absolutely primal. You may not get it at first, but you will… ” ( Finally, the Brian Jones album has been a topic of favorable comment in Didjeridu Digest, a Usenet news group dedicated to the Australian Aboriginal log trumpet, whose contributors discuss such issues as the effects of mouth jewelry (pierced tongues) on didjeridu resonance and the possibility of serenading dolphins and seals by playing underwater ( These appearances on the Web are what the critic Terry Teachout recently called “an infallible index of Zeitgeistiness” (Teachout 1996).

The Jajoukans have performed on record with such musicians as Ornette Coleman (1973) and the Rolling Stones (1989), and they have been joined in concert by the Klezmatics (1996) and Donovan, the recently resurrected 1960s psychedelicist. Their music has been used in such films as Nicholas Roeg’s Bad Timing (1980), Bernardo Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky (1988), and David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991). They have been the subject of at least one journalistic “novel” (Davis 1993) and one ethnographic film (Mendizza 1983, on which I served as adviser, translator, and scriptwriter [Schuyler 1983a; 1983b]), and they also play a pivotal part in a performance piece by the poet Nancy du Plessis (1995).

The Master Musicians are, in short, a worldwide world-music phenomenon not unlike the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Mystère des Voix Bulgares, but, as Peter Watrous pointed out in one of the few skeptical reviews of their 1995 tour, “The cult around the Master Musicians of Jajouka is unlike anything else in pop music.” In this chapter I examine the history of this “cult,” its guiding myths, and some of its effects on the village itself.

The Village

Jajouka (or Zahjoukah, as some villagers pronounce it) is a village of about eight hundred people, located two hours south of Tangier in the Jbala region, an area of Arabic speakers in the foothills to the west of the Rif Mountains in Morocco. Like most villages in the region, Jajouka has special local industries to generate cash or trade goods, beyond the subsistence provided by its flocks of sheep and goats and its crops of grain, vegetables, and olives. In other villages the specialty might be pottery or weaving, basketry or pickpocketing, military service or marijuana smuggling. In Jajouka the specialties are music and, for want of a better word, mysticism. The musicians are best known for their performance on the ghaita, a short oboe, and the tbel, a double-headed side drum, which are played together for processions during weddings and circumcisions and for the weekly hadra, a healing ceremony. For more intimate occasions and, especially, for training and practice, the ghaita may be replaced by the lira, a small recorder-like flute. The musicians also perform secular entertainment music in a chamber ensemble consisting of a kamanja (viola), a lotar (plucked lute), and various drums.

The spiritual and geographic center of Jajouka is the tomb of Sidi Hmed Shikh, who is credited by the villagers both with bringing Islam to the region and with providing them with their livelihood, music. The saint’s name might be translated as “Lord Hmed the Leader,” or “Mr. Hmed the Old Man.” In Moroccan terms, that is roughly equivalent to calling him (with apologies to Jane Goodman [1995]) “Saint John the Unknown.” His name offers no hint of his origin or his biological or spiritual lineage. According to the historian Hamid Triki (pers. com.), he appears in none of the major volumes of Moroccan hagiography. Indeed, his tomb may be empty, but that is not unusual: of the thousands of shrines in Morocco, hundreds are equally open to question. In sacred real estate the tenant is sometimes less important than the location. Thus many tombs are associated with some prominent natural feature, such as a grotto or a waterfall; in Sidi Hmed Shikh’s case, there was apparently once an impressive fig tree in the courtyard of his shrine, but it has died and been replaced by a smaller successor. Nevertheless, a few pilgrims from the surrounding villages still visit the shrine in search of a cure for various ailments, principally infertility and insanity.

In the normal course of events, the descendants of the saint would care for the pilgrims, manage their treatment, and accept their donations. If necessary, the saintly family would also hire professional musicians to accompany certain rituals. But Sidi Hmed Shikh’s descendants—if he had any—have died out, and the religious duties have fallen to the musicians. This is, as far as I can tell, the one feature of the village that is unique.

The musicians are of two lineages, named Rtobi and, most prominently, Attar, who together make up about half the population of the village. The musicians perform at weddings and other events in the surrounding region—or at least they used to—but it seems that the best and brightest have always exported themselves to the cities, where there was more consistent demand for their services. Many of them also enlisted in the sultan’s army, as musicians or in other capacities. In either case, they returned whenever possible for holidays and, eventually, retirement.

This brief description, which differs somewhat from the Master Musicians’ publicity, is what I have been able to deduce from the villagers’ accounts and from my contacts with performers from other similar musical villages in the Jbala region. In any case, it seems that at the end of World War II, the village of Jajouka was in very straitened circumstances. Sidi Hmed Shikh was very much a local saint, who did not inspire great pilgrimages or generate great income (when compared, for example, to Sidi Mohammed ben Aissa in Meknes, Moulay Abdallah in El-Jadida, or Moulay Brahim in the High Atlas). The military option had been lost to the musicians during the Protectorate period (1912–56), when Morocco was split between the Spanish and the French, along a line just to the south of Jajouka.[1] Even as entertainers the musicians were not widely known. Unlike, say, the village of Mtiwa, farther to the north and east, which is famous for many kilometers around, Jajouka was virtually unknown to Moroccans outside the immediate area. As recently as fifteen years ago, one could mention the name to musically knowledgeable people in Rabat and they would understand—and repeat—“jaqjuqa,” that is, “the shaking of a rattle” or, by extension, “meaningless noise” or “unruly behavior.” Mention the name in Qsar el-Kbir, a large market town thirty kilometers from the village, and people would say, “Which one?” There are, I was told, three villages of that name in the region.

Paradoxically, the musicians’ local obscurity may have facilitated their rise to international stardom (without the concomitant acquisition of fabulous wealth), as they were willing to entertain ideas—and people—that more prosperous musicians might have rejected. In this respect (and, indeed, in their music) the Master Musicians resemble Les Musiciens du Nil, discussed by Katherine E. Zirbel in this volume. As Zirbel points out, “World beat music producers and audiences have focused most on ethnic minorities and peripheral groups to the exclusion of national popular culture.” Marginal groups may appear more exotic to Western listeners and more malleable to producers. At the same time, musicians who are well established in their own culture may not want to take the time to deal with strangers.[2] Clearly, the Master Musicians of Jajouka did not arrive at American record stores, radio stations, and concert halls by magic—although the idea of magic is an important part of their promotional strategy. Their success in the West is the result of record producers’ use of exoticism and difference as a marketing tool, and the trajectory of their career follows a path determined by, as Steven Feld puts it, “the workings of capitalism, control, and compromise.” But Feld, an ethnomusicologist writing about his own experiences as a producer, also notes that such “transcultural record productions tell specific stories about accountability, authorship, and agency” (1994, 258). In the case of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, whatever impersonal forces may eventually have come into play, the initial promotion of their music was, at bottom, a labor of love, the work of one man, Brion Gysin, with the help of Mohamed Hamri.

Brion Gysin

Brion Gysin, born in England in 1916 of a Swiss father and a Canadian mother, was a citizen of the world and, eventually, of the United States. He was a painter, a writer, and, for a time, a scholar. At the age of nineteen, he was personally purged from the surrealist movement by André Breton. By the time he was thirty, he had written two books, A History of Slavery in Canada and a biography of Josiah Henson (1789–1883), the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom.[3] According to Allen Ginsberg, it was Gysin who provided Alice B. Toklas with her famous recipe for hashish brownies, and he is widely credited with inventing, some years later, the cut-up technique of writing made famous by William Burroughs. In the years after World War II, Gysin was in Paris, living on a Fulbright fellowship and the remains of his GI Bill. He first came to Tangier in July 1950, at the suggestion of Paul Bowles. In later years Gysin liked to say, “I meant to stay the summer, or a month or two, something like that, and because of the music that I heard and got wrapped up in, I stayed some 23 years” (Mendizza 1983).

That summer Bowles took him to a festival near Tangier where, as he recalled in 1982, he heard some music “out of the corner of [his] ear, out of some sixth other sense,” and he went off to follow the sound. When he came back Bowles asked him what he had been doing, and he replied, “That’s the music that I want to hear for the rest of my life” (Mendizza 1983).

Within a year of his arrival, Gysin had met Mohamed Hamri, an adventurer and reputed smuggler, who was hanging around the European community learning to paint. Gysin later wrote about his friendship with the Moroccan in his novel, The Process, where Hamri is identified as “Hamid” and the protagonist, Gysin’s alter ego, is portrayed as an African-American.

Hamid is, after all, my Baba, my Bab, my little back door into Islam through which the hue of my hide helps me slip in disguise when once I slough off my American cultural color.

“I’m an accidental Occidental, Hamid,” I assure him. “I’m an African: same-same, like you. You say so, yourself,” I insist.…Naturally enough, I have never been able to pull my Occidental mind along inside Islam after me but Hamid knows that and makes all sorts of allowances. (Gysin 1973, 70)

Gysin may have cast himself as an African-American because of his interest in the history of slavery, or he may have meant to compare the situation of American blacks to his own marginalization as an openly gay man. Be that as it may, there is a play on words here between “Baba,” a term of endearment, “bab,” the Arabic word for door, and “my little back door into Islam.” Even more important is Gysin’s recognition that he could not pull his Occidental mind inside Islam, which is amply demonstrated by his interpretation of Moroccan practices.

Hamri knew of Gysin’s interest in music, and he invited his new friend up to Jajouka, his mother’s native village and the home of her first husband, one of the Master Musicians. After several visits, Gysin finally heard the musicians play what he thought was the music that he had encountered at the festival with Bowles. A year or more had passed since he had first heard this music—briefly and from a distance. Even after all that time, perhaps he did in fact recognize the musicians and the music; but it is equally possible that it was some generic Jbala tune, first played by some other group and then later reprised by the Jajoukans, or that he simply (unconsciously) decided that the music in the village he had come to love was the same as the music that he “wanted to hear for the rest of [his] life.” In any event, Gysin now focused his fan’s attention on the Master Musicians of Joujouka (as he and Hamri preferred to spell it).

Hamri provided Gysin entrée to the village and served as his interpreter of its history and its customs. Together they codified, in effect, the mythology of the Master Musicians. Hamri, with the help of Blanca Nyland, later published his version of the legends in Tales from Joujouka (1972). Gysin introduced bits and pieces of the story into The Process and other writings, but mainly he spread the myth through the pens of his many visitors, including Robert Palmer (1971, 1989), Timothy Leary (1970), and Stephen Davis, who liberally transposed Gysin’s tales and Hamri’s Tales into his novel, Jajouka Rolling Stone (1993). The scope of this chapter does not permit a full examination of the complexities and contradictions of the various myths of Jajouka—Gysin’s, Hamri’s, and those of the villagers themselves—but several elements stand out:

  • The musicians’ family name. Gysin took the name Attar as evidence of the musicians’ descent from an ancient lineage reaching back to the Persian mystic poet Farid al-Din al-Attar, author of The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq al-tayr). This seems to have been pure speculation on Gysin’s part. The villagers tell a variety of different stories about their origins, but when I spoke to them in 1982, none corresponded to Gysin’s tale. For one thing, the musicians’ estimate (admittedly very hazy) put their arrival in Jajouka about two hundred years before the time of Farid al-Din al-Attar. In any case, Attar is a fairly common surname in the Jbala, where it is the designation of a rather low class tradesman—not a producer of exotic essences but a gatherer of herbs and spices.
  • The saint’s power of healing. Gysin maintained that the saint’s curative blessing was administered through the music performed by the musicians. The musicians do claim to be conduits for the saint’s power, which they convey through the touch of their hands and instruments. Curiously, they also claim that their music does not generate a healing trance state but rather that it is meant merely to soothe troubled minds.[4] In any case, the music alone, outside of the shrine and the ritual context, is not the sole instrument of healing.
  • The royal patent. Gysin likened the musicians’ role in the sultan’s army to the relationship between the Scottish pipers and the Stewart kings. According to Gysin, the Jajoukans possessed a “royal patent” entitling them to wake the monarch in the morning, pipe him on his way to prayer, and play him to sleep at night. The musicians may well have been the sultan’s “personal musicians,” in much the same way that all his soldiers constituted his private (as well as state) armed forces. Presumably, they once had a written commission to that effect. At present, however, the musicians have no “sealed dahir” in their possession, only a certified copy (from the 1950s) of a lost form (from the 1930s) issued by a Spanish Protectorate clerk acknowledging receipt of some undetermined document.
  • The figure of Bou Jeloud. Bou Jeloud, a dancer dressed in goatskins, is the central character in a masquerade produced annually in Jajouka (and other villages and towns elsewhere in Morocco) in the week following the feast of ‘Aid el-Kabir. The other characters in the Jajouka festival include an old man, known as “al-Haj” (pilgrim), and ‘Aisha Hamqa (Crazy Aisha), a local manifestation of ‘Aisha Qandisha, the well-known Moroccan she-devil. ‘Aisha is always danced by a boy in drag, and was once danced by a dozen transvestites, in tribute to her multiple identities and great powers. According to my observations in the 1970s, members of masquerade teams elsewhere in Morocco included other transvestites, pseudo-Jews, boys posing as old men, amateur musicians pretending to be professionals, and kids wearing Halloween masks imported from Taiwan.

Borrowing an interpretation from Edward Westermarck (1968), Gysin equated the Moroccan “goat god” with Pan and suggested that ‘Aisha might be Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love. The Pan thesis has proven to be irresistible to Western journalists and listeners, and served as a powerful fuel for William Burroughs’s imagination.[5] The argument, however, has been convincingly contradicted by The Victim and Its Masks (1993), Abdellah Hammoudi’s detailed study of Bou Jeloud, the surrounding team of masqueraders, and their relation to the feast (not to mention their interpretation by Westerners). Hammoudi stresses that, however tempting the parallels to Pan might be, the participants are all Muslims, the masquerade itself is closely tied to the most important feast on the Muslim calendar, and the actions of the dancers have serious implications for the welfare of the village. In other words, this is not, as one website called it, “pagan party music.”

Gysin believed that the quality of the music somehow depended on the pristine—not to say primitive—quality of the village itself. As Hamid describes the place in The Process, “Up there in Jajouka, there is no wheeled traffic, no running water other than rills and no electricity. Electric light scares Bou Jeloud away and one day soon, when it gets to my village, it will” (Gysin 1973, 78).

The best way to protect the music, Gysin believed, was to find a way to allow all the musicians to remain permanently in the village. This idea, however, was probably misguided: although photographs from the early Protectorate period show a band with thirty ghaitas (and villagers tell of groups with more than one hundred), such grand ensembles would probably have come together only on holidays. The local music economy would not have supported such a large group, so, even in the best of times, many of the musicians would spend most of the year at their jobs in the city or the army. In fact, for a couple of years Gysin himself contributed to this pattern of employment. Though he was never able to achieve his dream, for a time he did find a way to contribute to the village economy in a more traditional manner, and to support himself as well.

In early 1954 Gysin opened a restaurant called the 1001 Nights in the Mnebhi Palace in the Casbah of Tangier. To entertain his guests—mostly wealthy expatriates, including Barbara Hutton and Cecil Beaton—he brought rotating groups of musicians down from the village. It seems not to have occurred to him that the flash of diamonds could be as dangerous to the musicians as any electric light, but he still tried to protect their innocence in the big city. He said of the musicians,

I realized that what they had was so precious and so volatile that I refused to let them have a radio, because I had heard the disastrous influence of that sort of movie music that comes from Cairo that has drowned out all the local musics in practically all the Islamic world. So they were not allowed to hear that. If they wanted to hear that sort of…rubbish, they could go to some other place. (Mendizza 1983)

Judging from this quotation, Gysin suffered from acute schizophonophobia, that is, to embellish an expression coined by R. Murray Schaefer (see Feld 1994), a fear of sounds separated by the recording process from their original source. But in this case, the affliction was unilateral, for although Gysin was vehemently opposed to having the musicians listen to the mediated, disembodied sounds of other people’s music, he seemed to have no objection to having their music recorded and heard by others.

Gysin continued to support the musicians of Jajouka even after 1001 Nights closed down in the uncertain period when the International Zone reverted to the newly independent government of Morocco. In the 1960s he helped to fund the building of the madrasa, a clubhouse for the musicians where they could spend time away from their families, house and entertain visitors to the village, and, in theory, train the next generation of musicians.

Thanks to the restaurant, his association with Burroughs, and his own considerable charisma, Gysin had a wide circle of admirers among the Beat elite, and when Morocco became a popular destination for members of the counterculture in the 1960s, he was often sought out for advice. In those years he was described by Timothy Leary as “the elegant orthodox bishop of this metropolitan see [Tangier],…one of the great hedonic mystic teachers” (1970, 133–34). Gysin tried to turn his connections into support for the musicians by encouraging small-scale culture tourism in the village. Not everyone was impressed with the musicians—Burroughs first described them as looking like “a bowling team from Newark” (Morgan 1988)—but sooner or later even the skeptics seemed to sing the praises of the village.

Brian Jones

The most famous of Jajouka’s visitors, of course, was Brian Jones, one of the founders of the Rolling Stones, whom Gysin took to the village in 1968. Jones took along a girlfriend, Suki Potier, and a recording engineer, George Chkiantz, who recorded examples of a variety of musics—including performances by the village women.

Jones took the tapes back to Tangier and then to London, where he began playing with them in the studio, mixing different tracks, splicing different sections together, running some of them backward, and putting it all through various filters and phase shifters. He never completed the project—he died a year to the day after his night in Jajouka—but the record was eventually released in 1971 as Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka.

The Brian Jones album has been called “the first world music recording.” If so, it was well ahead of its time. The term “world music” first appeared as a commercial category in the late 1980s, although the expression (not to mention the music) had been around for some time before that. The World Music Institute (WMI), for example, was founded in New York in fall 1985 to present concerts of a wide range of different musics, from blues and avant-garde jazz to flamenco, Mauretanian popular song, and Central Asian art music. WMI’s founder, Robert Browning, traces the expression back to Bob Brown, who is said to have coined the phrase in the 1970s at Wesleyan University as an alternative to “ethnomusicology,” a term he regarded as stodgy. Nevertheless, according to the editors of World Music: The Rough Guide,

The name was dreamed up in 1987 by the heads of a number of small London-based record labels…initially as a month-long marketing plan to impress music shops, the critics, and buyers that here were sounds worth listening to. The name stuck, however, and was swiftly adopted at records stores and festivals, in magazines and books, on both sides of the Atlantic. (Broughton et al. 1994, introduction).[6]

A look at the diverse offerings in the WMI calendar or the catalog of Realworld, Rykodisk, or any similar record label suggests that the term “world music” is intentionally inclusive and amorphous, promising only that a given concert or recording will be different, different from what one is used to listening to, different even or especially, from other world-music items. Even so, Timothy Taylor (1997, 19–31) has discerned a number of common themes used in marketing recordings in this category, among them, claims of authenticity in style, primality in emotion, spirituality in content (and in packaging), and celebrity in production and promotion. Each of these elements was, in fact, embodied in the very title of the first “Joujouka” recording. First comes Brian Jones, the deceased rock star and producer, followed by Pan, the god of delirium who goes back to the roots of European civilization and the bowels of human emotion, followed, finally, by the name of the village. In contrast to most ethnographic recordings of the time,[7] the country of origin is not mentioned at all, but the group is treated as a starring act. In short, if it was not actually the first world-music recording, Brian Jones Presents was certainly a harbinger of later work by David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, and others. It also proved to be a watershed in the West’s approach to Jajouka.

Although Gysin himself was clearly attracted by the Gnostic mysteries of the village, his friends were more stimulated by, as Burroughs succinctly put it, “drugs and sex.” Burroughs did not need to specify that, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the sex was homosexual. But that began to change with the Jones visit when, for the first time, a woman joined the entourage. Gysin (who later claimed that he couldn’t even remember Suki Potier’s last name) objected that Jajouka was “no place for a woman,” and when Jones insisted that she come, Gysin made her cut her hair and wear trousers. Gysin was, perhaps, right to be worried. In the wake of the Brian Jones visit—and, above all, the subsequent recording and press coverage—the number of visitors to the village increased dramatically, and many were not the sort that Gysin approved of. As a group, the new visitors could be characterized as hippies rather than Beats. The most famous among them were musicians, not writers, and the writers practiced journalism, not literature. At the same time, the sex changed from homosexual to heterosexual, and the emblematic drug of the visitors changed from heroin to LSD, although, of course, marijuana remained a constant (and not all visitors were drug users).[8]

After Brian Jones, one could say that the rest is history, but the beginning of history is not necessarily the end of myth. Whereas Gysin was capable of tempering his enthusiastic exaggerations and acknowledging his ideas as speculations (complete with supporting sources), others have tended to dispense with the scholarly pedigree and caution, distill the story to its most spectacular essence, and present it all as fact. Thus, for example, Robert Palmer (1971), writing in Rolling Stone, elevated the musicians from their (possible) status as royal retainers: “The musicians have always been an aristocratic group—Arabic rather than Berber-speaking, and set apart from the majority of the villagers.” Although many journalists have identified the Jajoukans as Berbers, Palmer is correct that they are, in fact, Arabic speakers, but so is the great majority of the population for a hundred kilometers around. He is also right that they are set apart from the rest of the villagers, but their profession would be more likely to make them outcasts than aristocrats.

Similarly, Ornette Coleman, who recorded in the village in 1973, proclaimed that the music was six thousand years old (not four thousand, as Burroughs [1973] suggested, or jested) and that it had the power to cure cancer. Coleman’s cousin, James Jordan, told People magazine in 1986 that Coleman was “accepted by the tribe as a master musician.…Coleman was so comfortable with the music he found on that mountain, it was almost as if he had undergone some kind of reincarnation.” Coleman himself told his biographer,

See, when I went there and started performing with them, I was never informed on what they were going to play, how they were going to play it, when they were going to stop, when they were going to start, any form.…I wasn’t prepared for anything at all.…Sounded as if I had rehearsed it with them. It wasn’t true. Not at all. (Litweiler 1992, 161)

The musicians had a different impression. According to what they told me, they were very impressed by Coleman’s musicianship but also confused by his performance practice: “He could write down anything that we played, exactly. But when he played what he had written, it didn’t sound like us at all.”

Perhaps the greatest transformation has occurred in the character of Bou Jeloud. Thanks to a slip of the pen on the part of Paul Bowles, the festival has been transposed (in some sources) from ‘Aid el-Kabir to ‘Aid as-Saghir, the feast at the end of Ramadan. In most accounts the other characters in the masquerade simply disappear from the story. The musicians themselves have helped to emphasize this change: when they tour they bring along only one extra dancer to play the part of Bou Jeloud, perhaps because they sense that the American and European public may be fascinated by the reincarnation of an ancient Greek god but are less interested in, for example, pseudo-Jews and transvestite boys. Finally, in the press and in their own publicity, Bou Jeloud is no longer “like” Pan, he is Pan, a figure previously unknown (by name at least) in the village. A press release, attributed to Bachir Attar, the current leader of the musicians, goes even further, identifying Bou Jeloud as “The Male Principle.” This is the sort of idea that may have appealed to Gysin, but it goes against actual practice. As Hammoudi (1993) points out, Bou Jeloud (under a variety of names) is, at the very least, of ambiguous sexuality. In certain places the character is known as “The Cow” (tamugait) and has a single, prominent teat. Although Bou Jeloud in Jajouka has a masculine name, he is a curious example of the Male Principle, since he wears a woman’s belt and hat.

In recent years stories about Jajouka have shifted their emphasis away from drugs, sex, and even rock ‘n’ roll to focus instead on the New Age, curative properties of the music. According to Glow Magazine (Sherrard n.d.), for example, Bill Laswell’s recordings (of Jajouka and other groups) are “different from ethno-musical adornment, which is what Paul Simon does, adding ethnic elements to his songs like so much MSG. It is entirely different from ethno-music packaging, which is what Peter Gabriel’s Realworld Records is: the music industry’s version of La Choy Foods.” In short, Laswell’s productions “are in no way ethnomusicological ‘field recordings.’ They are recordings of trance masters produced by a trance master.” Similarly, promotional material for Sub Rosa Records stresses that its new recording of Joujouka is “not another world-music record, but a unique experience—what is proposed here is nothing but a new way to live.” Even Bachir Attar, on a world-music fusion album (with the Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng and Maceo Parker, a saxophonist from James Brown’s band), is described as “the numinous vehicle,” the embodiment of “the latest model of energy…, the heir apparent to the thousand year legacy of Dionysian rockingitis, of Apollonian ecstasies—the multi-generational orchestra of high healing.” A few fans, at least, seem to take this seriously. When Bou Jeloud danced at the group’s Cambridge performance on their 1995 tour, a young couple came up to the edge of the stage, hoping to be swatted by Bou Jeloud’s switch of fertility.

Meanwhile, back in Jajouka, the Western accounts have folded back on themselves, reentering the mythology of the village itself. When I talked to the villagers in the early 1980s, they said that Brian Jones had not made much of an impression at the time of his visit. He was only there for a night, and, aside from his appearance, he was not much different from the other people whom Gysin and Hamri brought up. By the time the recording came out in 1971, they had forgotten about Jones, and it was only through their new crop of visitors that they learned about the album and their new fame. Over time the villagers realized that Jones had brought them a blessing, mixed though it might be. Today Jones’s picture hangs on the wall of the madrasa, next to the obligatory photo of King Hassan II. And now Bachir Attar says, “I was almost five years old when Brian Jones came, and I remember it like yesterday.”

Whatever the Jajoukans actually think of Western musicians like the Klezmatics, Donovan, or Ornette Coleman, the interest of outside performers has become a part of the villagers’ stories about themselves. Thus Bachir never fails to mention these contacts in newspaper interviews, and he often opens their concerts by dedicating the performance to Stephen Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith), Lee Ranaldo (guitarist with Sonic Youth), or other admirers who may be in the audience. It is as though he is invoking a new sacred lineage in the village, replacing the missing hagiography of Sidi Hmed Shikh.

This litany of glitterati—from Gysin, Bowles, and Burroughs to Guns ‘n’ Roses and Philip Glass—helps to draw audiences to Jajouka concerts and persuades them to buy their records. It is not clear what these arbiters of taste and avatars of hip actually find in following the Master Musicians—other than the company of their peers—but musicians and listeners alike pretend, and perhaps actually believe, that, despite all the exposure to the West, the music of Jajouka is ancient, authentic, and unique. Nevertheless, the mixing of the two saintly lineages, East and West, has produced some decidedly unusual offspring. When Daily Variety refers to the music’s “glorious air of purity…[that] makes no concessions to the Western world,” the writer conveniently ignores both Bachir Attar’s world-music experiments and the disco mixes on the second CD of the rerelease of the Brian Jones album.

In a field once characterized by anonymity, the Master Musicians of Jajouka have achieved brand-name status, complete with trademark battles. When the Brian Jones album was rereleased in 1995, the spelling of the name was changed from Joujouka to Jajouka, all references to Hamri were excised from the notes, and Hamri’s painting was replaced on the cover by a silhouette of Bachir Attar playing the ghaita. Hamri responded by picketing the group’s performances in England and distributing a broadside called “The Truth about Joujouka,” castigating Bachir for ripping off his family and creating a touring group of ringers from outside the village.

Hamri’s pamphlet raises a number of troubling issues about the results of this entire process—most notably, the question of who really owns and profits from this music. Past experience suggests that the villagers themselves are the least likely to realize material gain from the products marketed in their name. And as for “the truth” about Joujouka, or Jajouka, or Zahjoukah, it seems to have been lost in the mists of hype from the press, the musicians’ friends, and the musicians themselves. “In short,” as Robert Christgau (1996) noted in the Village Voice, “this tiny local style comes to the international marketplace burdened with more bullshit than any music can bear.”

What’s in a name? In the case of this village in Morocco, a great deal. Brian Jones, under the tutelage of Brion Gysin, called it “Joujouka,” which sounds like a diminutive term of endearment—an appropriate image of Gysin’s intimate connection to the village. In his battles with Bachir Attar, Hamri, Gysin’s first guide to the village, continues to use this spelling as a way to invoke a special kind of legitimacy, his direct link to the heritage of the Beats and early hippies.[9] Bachir, however, seems to have won both the publicity contest and the economic war. In addition to being more accurate phonetically, Bachir’s preferred spelling, “Jajouka,” is stronger, more streamlined, and, perhaps, more corporate. The “Jajouka” faction has its own logo and has even transcended its brand to contribute a new generic term to the English language.[10] Finally, “Zahjoukah” is the closest representation of the old Jbala pronunciation of the name, but this is just one of the complexities of local knowledge that international consumers are not yet prepared to hear. Oddly enough, however, the first time I saw the name spelled out this way was in metal studs on the back of Bachir’s blue-jean jacket, suggesting that, for better or worse, the prosperity of music in this village is now inextricably connected to fashions in Europe and America.


Field research for this chapter was carried out in Jajouka and northern Morocco in the summers of 1982 and 1983, as part of the production and distribution of the film The Master Musicians of Jahjouka. Subsequent research was carried out during the group’s 1995 tour of North America. This work developed from an excerpt of a larger presentation made at Harvard University in fall 1995. An earlier version of this chapter was delivered at the Colloquium on the Politics of Culture in Arab Societies in an Era of Globalization, held at Princeton University in spring 1997. I am grateful for the comments of many people who have heard and read this work, particularly Walter Armbrust, Virginia Danielson, Abdelhai Diouri, and Kay Shelemay.

1. When I was in Jajouka in 1982, however, several members of the older generation of musicians were living off their pensions from the post-independence Royal Armed Forces, or off remittances from their sons currently in the army. [BACK]

2. Popular musicians who enter the world-music market, such as King Sunny Adé or Salif Keita, often have considerable prominence in their own countries. Thus the obscurity principle put forward here is not invariable—but it is strong. For instance, the most striking counterexample is, to all appearances, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the late qawwali singer, who was much in demand for both sacred and secular performances in his native Pakistan and for concerts and recording dates abroad. Despite the mystical, religious origins of his repertory, Nusrat was willing to collaborate with Western popular musicians like Peter Gabriel, Ry Cooder, and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and also to allow his music to be used in such violent films as Dead Man Walking and Natural Born Killers. As Richard Murphy notes in this volume (chap. 9), Nusrat eventually became the highest-paid performer in Pakistan, but Hiromi Lorraine Sakata (pers. com.) points out that Nusrat was for many years the victim of the same khandani snobbery that Murphy discusses. Only later in his career, after his success in Europe and America, did he achieve recognition at home. [BACK]

3. To Master, A Long Goodnight: The Story of Uncle Tom, a Historical Narrative (New York: Creative Age Press, 1946). At this writing, I have been unable to find any information about A History of Slavery in Canada. It may never have been published, or it may be a joke. [BACK]

4. According to Abdelhai Diouri (pers. com.), it is not uncommon for musicians in religious associations to deny that their music is used for trance. [BACK]

5. As Burroughs’s biographer, Ted Morgan, points out, The Ticket That Exploded uses autobiographical experiences (including visits to Jajouka) that were modified according to his readings in science fiction and “filtered through his various preoccupations, such as the Mayan civilization, scientology, and a Reichian view of sex” (Morgan 1988, 422). The view through these filters may be distorted, but at the same time the book provides testimony to Burroughs’s acute powers of observation. [BACK]

6. For a more extensive description of these events, see Taylor 1997, 2. [BACK]

7. For example, my first set of field recordings was published during the same period under the title Moroccan Folk Music, a name that was neither informative nor accurate. That it was not of my own choosing does not make the title any less embarrassing. [BACK]

8. Many villagers are themselves enthusiastic smokers of kif, a mixture of marijuana and strong tobacco, which is no more (and no less) of a drug for them than caffeine and nicotine are for Americans. Indeed, the kif pouch of Berdouz, the musicians’ lead drummer and master of ceremonies, was used as the centerfold in High Times magazine in the early 1970s, and the village was written up again in the magazine in 1996. The Moroccan government takes a different view, however, thanks to pressure from the United Nations and the United States and to its own interest in maximizing revenue from the state tobacco monopoly. When I worked with Michael Mendizza on the film The Master Musicians of Jahjouka, we were obliged to avoid any reference to or image of kif-smoking. The musicians also adhere to this line for official external consumption: in November 1995 Bachir Attar told Reuters World Service, “We do a song about this. ‘Brian Jones, in Joujouka, very stoned.’ It not mean stoned with drugs. Stoned with music.” [BACK]

9. The name Joujouka has been borrowed by other performers with no direct connection to the village, including a Japanese Techno duo in Tokyo. [BACK]

10. The Straits Times of Singapore used the term “jajouka” (lowercase) as a synonym for trance music. As it turns out, the article was plagiarized from the New York Times, but that only reinforces the generic use of the term, detached from its specific origin. Indeed, two writers for the New York Times, Jon Pareles and Neil Straus, and Paul D. Miller of the Village Voice have repeatedly used the word to describe the performances of jazz or hip-hop musicians with no apparent connection to the village. Meryl Peress, an American belly dancer in New York, has performed under the name “Jajouka” since the 1970s. [BACK]

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