The Rites of Boujeloud
Jack Sargeant interviews the Master Musicians of Joujouka
from Fortean Times Nov 2006
"THE GREAT GOD PAN IS NOT DEAD BUT ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN THE LITTLE HILLS OF MOROCCO" – Brion GysinThe Master Musicians of Joujouka are steeped in mythology. Introduced to the west through the artist, writer and beat affiliate Brion Gysin, who saw in their music an accompaniment to his ethereal paintings and Dreammachine. Lost Rolling Stone Brian Jones famously recorded the Master Musicians and in the ensuing years musicians ranging from Ornette Coleman to Bill Lazwell to the Islamic Diggers have collaborated with the villagers.
The Master Musicians' music echoes back through generations, intimately linked to the village community, culture, and their saint the Sufi mystic Sidi Achmed Scheich, who one-thousand years ago heard in their music and circular breathing techniques melodies that could cure illness. As Master Musician Abdelslam Eertoubi states, "Joujouka has the sanctuaries of four saints. If you have a bad back or sore bones you visit Sidi Ghari's tomb and lie on the stonewall. This will help. My family are descended from Sidi Achmed Schiech who founded the village a long time ago. This is his land. He is the Cultivator with Lions and Healer of Crazy Minds. He used a lion to plough the land. People still come if they are disturbed in the mind and we play music of Sidi Achmed Schiech for them. They sit in his sanctuary and it helps them." Their genealogy has roots in a combination of mysticism, Sufism, Islam, mythology and local geography. The group play mountain music and it is informed by the magical nature of the landscape; "Joujouka has Boujeloud, the goat man. His cave outside the village is a special place."
The music is based in the story of the young shepherd Attar who would let his flock feast on the lush greenery by a cave. To enter this cave was taboo, but Attar would enter its depths and sleep. While sleeping he was entranced by beautiful music, hauntingly played across the threshold between sleep and wakefulness, between the sacred and profane worlds. As Attar awoke he saw Boujeloud – the Father of Skins - playing a pipe. Echoing descriptions of Pan, a situation further confused by Gysin's writing on Joujouka, Boujeloud appeared as a satyr; part man and part goat. Boujeloud taught Attar the secrets of the flute under two conditions, he would never share the music, and he would provide a bride from the village of Joujouka. Attar broke his oath, and played the music for the villagers. The enraged Boujeloud swore to take a bride, but the villagers tricked him by presenting him with Aisha Kandisha, the mad woman. But her insane dancing tired Boujeloud, who, sated but exhausted left the village alone. In his wake the harvest was successful.
Each year he would come to Joujouka when he heard the music, and each year he would return to his cave without a bride but leaving a rich harvest in his wake. Eventually Boujeloud vanished, but the ritual continued, with Attar dressed in sheep skins re-enacting Boujeloud's dance and with local boys taking the role of Aisha. This mythology informs the ritual, as the group play the music taught to Attar, Boujeloud is manifest through a chosen performer while other boys dress as women. The music reaches a trance-like plateau before finally blasting into an ecstatic revelry, celebrating and banishing Boujeloud for another year. In his wake he leaves fecundity and a blessed harvest.
While the music is passed from generation to generation, each player adds to the music. This is a living ceremony, which develops over time, "We have all played music since we were boys" says percussionist Ahmed El Attar, "each time we play together it is different, even if it is the same music. Joujouka music is healing music. It is of the moment." The music is passed through families and the wider community, rhiata player Abdellah Ziyat states, "It is not so much that we teach younger musicians. If you grow up in Joujouka then this music will be in your blood. You hear it at weddings and festivals. If there are musicians in your family you will hear it at home. Young people learn the rhythms, some might play the flute. If they want to become musicians then they must play with the group and learn little by little. We can all play drums or flutes but we do what we are best at. We are always teaching someone, we talk about music and argue about the correct way to play. A young musician must go step by step but the Masters, if we take him as one of us we will teach him."
Music and dance informs all of daily life as Mohamed El Attar observes his sons started playing flute while minding sheep, they danced to the music and now dance as Boujeloud. While the Master Musicians have released - or been featured on – numerous recordings the complete rites of Boujeloud have not been released. Now Sub Rosa have issued a CD featuring a series of recordings of Boujeloud from the 1990s. Although the music is part of the spiritual and cultural life of Joujouka its effects stretch beyond North Africa, Ahmed El Attar: "If you dance to Boujeloud, if you stamp his rhythm it will bring you good health. Morocco, London, America it is the same. People have come to Joujouka and they could not have babies, and after listening to Boujeloud they later had children. People from all over Morocco have traditionally come to Joujouka. They like to see it, they like to be in the country of Sidi Achmed Schiech. It is good for them." The first notes of the Joujouka pipes echoing into the hills, from his cave Boujeloud returns to dance and bless the community once more.
Further Reading Hamri, 'Titti's Tobacco', in Xochi 23, number 1, 2004. Brion Gysin, 'The Mountains of London', in Xocki 23, number 1,2004. V Vale & Andrea Juno, eds, ReSearch 4/5: William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Throbbing Gristle, ReSearch Pubs, 1982.
Terry Wilson & Brian Gysin, Here To Go… Creation Books, 2001.
Jack Sargent is a writer and his latest book is the Third Edition of
The highly influential writings of the original circle of Beat generation authors have been widely studied, but motion pictures emerging from the Beat movement have been largely neglected. Film journalist Sargeant (Lost Highways: Road Movies), an authority on underground movies, fills that void with this articulate and entertaining cinema history. Starting with a detailed synopsis and analysis of Pull My Daisy (1958), a film written and narrated by Jack Kerouac, and ranging through subsequent underground efforts, Sargeant shows that the nonconformist Beat attitudes of social disillusion and rebellion against convention are especially conducive to visual expression in alternative film. Also, several lively interviews, most notably with Allen Ginsberg and Jonas Mekas, brim with vivid digressions and flashes of insight about cinema and American culture. The original 1997 British edition, upon which this expands, was largely overlooked, likely owing to the lurid nature of other titles in the publisher's cinema series, such as Eros in Hell: Sex, Blood, and Madness in Japanese Cinema. However, for admirably examining the emerging genre of a Beat-related underground cinema, the present work is essential for cinema collections. Recommended for academic libraries. Richard W. Grefrath, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Sargeant not only understands the mechanisms of the art world, he also knows the workings of the 'power of transgression'. He laces his essays with the ideas of theorists such as Foucault, Bataille, and Deleuze. In the process of conducting his interviews, Sargeant reveals that he is more eloquent and well versed than his subjects. Could this be further proof that intellectuals have a place in the underground after all? -- Your Flesh
The focus he (Sargeant) shines intelligently upon the concept of 'Beat Films' is years overdue. A book of this nature must surely have been done before, but no, it has not. As much a book about the atmosphere of Beat creation as it is of film making, Jack Sargeant has come up trumps here. -- Beat Scene
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