Ahmed Attar drumming in Jajoujka/Joujouka/Zahjouka in the 1970s fom the Master Musicians of Jajouka/Joujouka 1980 European tour brochure.
Hello every body I'm Ahmed Attar. I'm ready to answer these questions:
Bachir Attar and his manager, Cherie Nutting state that he is the one true and hereditary leader of the Master Musicians. They say he inherited his leadership from his father. This would mean his father was also hereditary leader?
Ahmed Attar: Bachir Attar has gathered retired people (military who play Gaita) from Ksar el Kebir and outside, and has become their leader. He has no connection with us, the Mallimin/Masters who live in Joujouka / Jajouka. (Editor's Note: Ksar El Kebir is this is the nearest city to Joujouka / Jajouka / Jajouka, about 20 km form the village in the plains below the Ahl Srif Mountains)
How do the Master Musicians chose a leader?
Ahmed Attar: For many years the musicians chose the leader with the agreement of anyone in the group for a period of 1 year; or more if he worked well, or they change him for another one.
Who were the last five or ten leaders of the musicians and when were they elected?
The leaders were:
Elghailani Mohamed (dead), (1956),
Zekiken Ahmed (dead), (1958),
Mejdoubi Mohamed(dead), (1964),
Attar Ayachi (dead), 1965 (Editors Note: father of current leader Ahmed Attar),
Twimi Ahmed(dead), (1967),
Abdeslam Attar (Djinnoun Bachir's father, in 1978 leader for 3 years ).
Attar Abdeslam Ali (alive he has 98 years old)(1983),
Attar Mohamed (dead) 1990
, and me Attar Ahmed (called Titi). 1999
(editor's note dates are year of election to leadership)
plus who was never the leader but he a big musician who works with us Retoubi Mefedal (alive)
Does leadership pass from father to son?
Ahmed Attar: The leadership doesn't pass from father to son because we find several leaders and their sons have no relation with this music but if the son wants to be a musician he can , but not a leader automatically.
What does the leader do?
Ahmed Attar: The leader has to be: clear, confident, skilful and know how to promote the music, and to discuss with people who want to celebrate ceremonies. He is the speaker for the musicians.
Is Bachir Attar the hereditary leader?
Ahmed Attar: Bachir exploits his English language (because none of us musicians speak English) to claim to be a leader with power ,with help of his ex-wife, but no one in Joujouka trusts in Bachir because he stole their money. The big manager was Hamri the painter of Joujouka / Jajouka / Jajouka .In this time all the musicians worked together with Hamri not Bachir. One day Bachir with his brother forced Hamri to make him give them contracts which Hamri had made with the Westerners. They forced Hamri to sign blank sheets of paper. From this day the musicians of Joujouka / Jajouka have no relation with Bachir. (Editors note: This attack took place 27 December 1995)
How does Bachir Attar hurt the traditional music of the village of Joujouka / Jajouka Does he play the same music as the Masters in the village? in style and quality. How is his music different from the music played by the Masters in the village?
Ahmed Attar: When Bachir uses other instruments, he hurts the spiritual music. The Masters Musicians of Joujouka / Jajouka play only the pipes and drum (ghaita and tbel) with no instruments added. When you add other instruments, the music loses its quality.
Is he considered a true Mallim/Master by the Master Musicians?
Ahmed Attar: He isn't because in his group there are some musicians who play better than Bachir. He leads them because he speaks English and gives them some work.
Can the musicians explain why Bachir Attar says they are fake, or impostors?
Ahmed Attar: He says that because he wants to be the only representative of the music of Joujouka / Jajouka so as to exploit the Master Musicians name and to gain money. That's clear because the only one in Joujouka / Jajouka who has a big car (4/4) and a big house and a big account in the bank is Bachir Attar.
What would the Masters like to say to people who claim Bachir Attar is the true leader of the Musicians?
Ahmed Attar: Whoever wants to know more can come to Joujouka / Jajouka to see Bachir’s house and where the others musicians live. We are poor and he became rich because he takes our money. In Joujouka / Jajouka no one talks with Bachir. He is alone. Who can lead people when the people are boycotting them???
How much damage has Bachir Attar's behaviour done to the village?
Ahmed Attar: He makes damage in the media abroad, but in Joujouka / Jajouka all the people know him. We play in religious and civil ceremonies, in festivals, for parties of the KING that's why here in Morocco they don't call Bachir Attar to play they call us.
The letter from the Southbank Centre states that the musicians who played in London are the same ones who played with Ornette Coleman in January 1973. Is this true? Who in the village alive today played with Ornette Coleman in 1973?
Ahmed Attar: This not true because all of them are Dead. There is only one musician still alive in Joujouka / Jajouka who played with Ornette Coleman in 1973 (Ali Abdeslam Attar, you can come to ask him, he did not go to London this year).
Ahmed Attar 5 August 2009
Interview conducted and translated by Mohamed Karbach
1/ Mohamed Hamri's Open Letter of Protest 1995
In recent years there has been a lot of misinformation about the Master Musicians of Joujouka who have also been known as Master Musicians of Jajouka, which the musicians have not commented on. The Masters who live and play in their village do not speak languages other than their native Riffian Arabic or Djebli.
For the first time ever the current leader of the Master Musicians Ahmed Attar has answered a series of questions which address the issue of leadership of the Masters and also the claims of his first cousin, Bachir Attar, who records and tours as Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar and Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar claiming to be the leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
In order to shed some light on these issues a series of questions were sent to the Masters and an interview was conducted and translated by Mohamed Karbach who is a son in law of a Master Musician.
The above statements show that at no time in his life was Bachir Attar the accepted or elected leader of the Master Musicians of Joujouka/Jajouka.
In the period he claims to have taken over the leadership the leader was Mallim Ali Attar and he was followed in the role by Mohamed Attar, and then the current leader Ahmed Attar from 1999.
The crux of Bachir Attar's false claims to be the the leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka are that he is the hereditary leader and that the leadership passed by tradition from father to son. The list above, as well as the clear answers from Ahmed Attar on the issue of hereditary leadership, present a very different history to the one passed off by Bachir Attar, his wife Cherrie Nurtting and their business assocaites. No such hereditary leadership exists in Joujouka/Jajouka.
The leader in the 1950s Zekiken, was the the uncle of Hamri who brought Brion Gysin, Brian Jones, Timothy Leray, Robert Palmer, William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, John Giorno and more to the village and put the music on the map. Mejdoubi Mohamed was from the powerful Mujdoubi family who produced some of the hardest men and greatest rhiata players in the village. Many of the leaders since 1956 were from the Attar family and they include the Attar Ayachi, uncle of Bachir Attar and father of the current leader Ahmed, Abdeslam Attar, Bachir's father and uncle of the current leader Ahmed, and Ali Abdelslam Attar the oldest musician in Joujouka.
It is clear that the claims made in the press and elsewhere by Bachir Attar to be leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka have no factual basis.
The Master Musicians acknowledge that he does lead a troupe of ex-soldiers who play instruments and who live in the nearby city Ksar El Kebir . This group is currently known as "The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar". They are not the Sufi Mallimin or Master Musicians, of the village and community of Jajouka/Joujouka/Zahjouka.
Ahmed Attar (beside tomb) and guests including l-r Gordon Campbell, Maneau, Jonathan Amar,, and Lisa Blanning, , at the tomb of Sidi Ahmed Scheich 6 June 2009. Master Musicians Festival 2009. Photo by Frank Rynne