The Master Musicians of Joujouka are the greatest live band on the planet. They’re the town band from the tiny village Jajouka in the foothills of the Rif Mountains in Northern Morocco. They only got electricity about 10 years ago. They’re a farming community and their music is for the village. It just happens to be incredible.
Their music is steeped in folklore and tradition, and its recent history is littered with recordings with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Ornette Coleman, whilst William Burroughs and Brion Gysin were also frequent visitors to the village. There’s definitely a counter culture cache to this band, which is probably what drew everyone in (myself included), but once you experience their music all of that just evaporates and is irrelevant.
This epic Live In Paris set covers many of the different facets of their music, from the fiddle and vocal music to the incredible wooden flutes to the powerhouse rhaita reed instruments which pierce the air with ecstatic abandon. Everything is played over relentless polyrhythmic hand percussion that builds or drops in tempo or intensity in unison. It was recorded live at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris in 2016.
This is old music, much of it passed on from previous generations. And to say that this band are tight feels pretty ridiculous. This music is their blood. They have grown up hearing it, living it, and now they play it. It is part of who they are. Many people will listen to this music and hear something quite exotic, an unusual combination of instruments, something powerful and primal -and there’s no denying this is here, but it’s also so much more. This is the sound of Jajoukan culture, it’s a different relationship with music than we have, this is inclusive a shared community experience, the rich sound of the myths and traditions of an ancient village. The final piece, ‘Boujeloud’, a rite for the harvest clocks in at 43 minutes and is pure ecstatic bombastic bliss. You can read more about this piece and a micro festival that honours it here. In short its music done differently, where they play for hours and the musicians and often the audience enter into some kind of ecstatic trance. It’s music that heals the soul.
The Master Musicians of Joujouka have had numerous recordings in the past, most notably the Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka in 1971 where he added phasers to conjure up the incredible feelings this music brings. Yet the fidelity has never been this good, or this accurate. This is the closest you can get to experiencing them live yourself. It’s a remarkable recording of a remarkable band.