Jajouka

16/03/20Bill Laswell's Essential Early '90s Moroccan Recording Receives First-Ever Vinyl Treatment

Upon listening to this recording, our first reaction was to turn down the volume. However, we were also quick to  realise that, although this may not be one for the faint of heart or faith, may not be what we would categorise as 'easy listening', it is most definitely an essential if not iconic piece of work, bound to widen our musical horizon. And if that doesn't convince you, it was recorded and produced by the master of 'collision music' Bill Laswell. No? Still not intrigued? Well, what if we told you that late Beat Generation writer and visual artist William S. Burroughs himself dubbed the Master Musicians of Jajouka a "4,000 year-old rock'n'roll band"

The album description gets straight to the point: "Without doubt, the music of the ensemble in all its incarnations over the centuries is deeply rooted in Sufi mysticism, paganism and the cult of the goat-god Boujeloud. According to a myth, many centuries ago Boujeloud appeared to a shepherd called Attar, an ancestor of today's ensemble leader Bachir Attar, and till today every year at the end of Ramadan a fire in honour of the goat-god is ignited. This pagan root aside, the music performed in several hour long rituals on traditional instruments like tebel and tariyya (drums), ghaita (a woodwind instrument), lira (flute) and gimbri (stringed instrument) reveals hypnotic, trance-inducing qualities and is considered to have magical and healing properties."

Originally released in 1992, the quintessential album "Apocalypse Across the Sky" by the Master Musicians of Jajouka just received its first-ever vinyl release on Berlin imprint Zehra. Its story traces back to the 1950s, when British painter Brion Gysin and American composer Paul Bowles "were among the first Westerners to witness such a ceremony" by the ensemble in Morocco and were deeply impressed. In 1967 Gysin brought Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones to the small village of Jajouka, where the latter "recorded the ensemble for what became the first 'world music album'."

This drew the attention of other creative minds in the Western hemisphere, resulting in collaborations with the likes of William S. Burroughs, Ornette Coleman, Marc Ribot, Flea, Talvin Singh, the Rolling Stones and, of course, Bill Laswell. In 1991, Laswell travelled to the small village in the Rif mountains to record the group and create "a pure document of the ensemble, raw and upolished, but exquisitely recorded."

Fast-forward to 2020 and we now have this iconic release available on Bandcamp as well as on vinyl, which collectors and connoisseurs alike will surely know to appreciate. But listen for yourselves and consider this a gift, from the goat-god, Zehra Music or the musical universe. We'll leave that up to you.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom