The Master Musicians of Joujouka

The New Puritan ReView
Minneapolis, MN
Saturday, 9 September 2000

The 1971 album, Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, was truly a classic album, in the sense that it presented to the world at large a taste of something that was not likely to be co-opted by trendy consumerist interests, such as much of the rock music of that same era. Sure, we had our Folkways recordings and the like, but this was an honest-to-god artifact which sneaked in through the cracks of commercialism, and had the bona fide rock’n roll seal of approval, much like the way kids today will blindly toss down their cash for anything with one of Sonic Youth’s thumbprints on it. Not to slag everyone’s favorite New Yorkers, mind you, but just an observation as to how much we still need to be coaxed into trying out something new.

The point was brought back around in a more adventurous way in 1977, when Ornette Coleman introduced the world to his new ensemble Prime Time, with the release of his ground-breaking treatise on harmolodic theory, Dancing In Your Head. Aside from the ultimate call-and-response to the seventies’ over-saturation of jazz fusion, the album also featured a four-and-a-half minute track featuring The Master Musicians of Joujouka, accompanied by Mr. C (along with critic Robert Palmer on clarinet), in a track titled, “Midnight Sunrise”. As atonal as things seemed to get in those days, this little number was most useful in clearing out leftover guests at house parties, closing stores and restaurants when the employees wanted to go home, and getting rid of the girl you dragged home from the bar, but didn’t really want to do anything with. The apocalyptic nature of this music was owed to nothing more than the fact that people simply didn’t get it – that music as we had learned it in the good old US of A was based as much on mathematics as anything resembling soul, or better yet, the expression of soul, which presumably what playing music was supposed to be all about in the first place, eh?

Recently, with the CD version of this fine album, we can be reminded just what the fuss was all about – even more so, thanks to the inclusion of a bonus track, featuring a second excerpt from the same session. Anyone who truly loves drone-ish music should (hopefully) be able to appreciate this music, which as far as I can tell, has remained untainted throughout the past couple of decades since I have been made aware of its’ existence – thanks to Brian Jones, of course.

As a lingering testimony to the strength of this music, one need look no further than an album released in 1992 on the Axiom label, titled The Master Musicians of Joujouka featuring Bachir Attar: Apocalypse Across The Sky, brought to us by one Bill Laswell. To the Master Musicians’ credit, the purity of their music makes them impervious to Laswell’s modus operandi, of pillaging other cultures and diluting the life out of them. In this case – thank god, all he could do was to simply record the music as it was, and see that it was made available to our ears. Probably the only time in his entire career that something Laswell dipped his fingers into hadn’t suffered from his inverted Midas touch, and subsequently turned into shit. Obviously, the power of the Moroccans’ music was simply too great for him to corrupt, and we’re better off for it.

© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 2000; 2022