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PREVIEW: Master Musicians Of Joujouka Festival
Richie Troughton , March 17th, 2016 14:57

Richie Troughton looks ahead to this year's edition of the Master Musicians Of Joujouka

The annual Master Musicians Of Joujouka festival held in their village based in the Rif Mountains of Morocco returns this summer from July 15-17 with spaces limited to just 50 – booking is open now.

The ninth edition of the festival will this year honour Brion Gysin, the artist, writer and pioneer of the “cut up” method, who would have been 100 this year.

Gysin, born on 19th January, 1916, accompanied Brian Jones to the village in 1968 on the trip that led to the recordings that made up the Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka LP, released by Rolling Stones Records in 1971, and for which Gysin provided liner notes. Gysin’s own relationship with the Musicians began when he visited Joujouka in the 1950s with his friend, the artist Mohamed Hamri. Having decided that he would like to hear their music every day Gysin went on to open the 1001 Nights restaurant in Tangier, at which the Masters held a residency, with up to 15 Musicians from the village rotating every fortnight.

The current group of Master Musicians keep the thousands of years old sacred sufi trance music alive and each year invite guests to the village to experience the music in an intimate setting. Over the weekend the Master Musicians perform traditional folk music by day and whirlwinds of droning trance played on rhaita and drums, with the ritual performance of Boujeloud, or the man in goat skins, long into the night, likened by Gysin to the Roman fertility festival of the Lupercalia.

All food (locally sourced) and refreshments are included in the ticket price, along with transport to and from the nearest main train station, Ksar El Kebir, accessible from all major cities in Morocco. The Musicians and their families provide accommodation allowing guests to experience life in the village, with opportunities to visit the cave of Boujeloud and the shrine of sufi saint Sidi Ahmed Schiech, who is said to have written much of the music the group performs to this day, which is believed to have healing powers.

A new recording of the Master Musicians Of Joujouka was released by Ergot Records last year, featuring recordings made at the 2012 festival. The Into The Ahl Srif album was the group’s first vinyl release since the late 1970s. The album captured the Master Musicians as they appear live, with a dozen Musicians performing unplugged from their mountain top base. While Jones’ recordings were edited and heavily produced, the two sides of this record document raw, uninterrupted segments from sets that can top three hours. Check out a sample above and watch highlights of the 2015 edition below. For more information about the festival and booking, click here.

Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival 2015 from Tom Cottey on Vimeo.