Boujeloud, Bachir and the Pipes of Pan
I first heard about the Master Musicians of Jajouka from my friend, the poet, John Giorno . He had visited the ancient tribe and was in attendance during the rite of ‘Boujeloudia’ during which a young boy is selected to embody the spirit of the ‘Boujeloud’, a wild Pan-like entity who induces fertility by striking women on their bellies with two branches. At the start of the ceremony, ( which comes at the end of Ramadan, the month long fast ) a goat is slaughtered and the youth is stitched into the skin whilst it is still bloody and warm. Branches are then tied to his body and he is set spinning before a giant pyre. The musicians play all night, the music never stops as it induces a state of trance in the assembled throng and the boy himself. Throughout the night the musicians endeavor to control ‘Boujeloud’ and direct him in his sacred vocation. Bachir Attar once took on the role of Boujeloud as his father, Jnuin “El Hadj” Abdelsalam el Attar led the musicians in nocturnal session. When “El Hadj’ passed away in 1981, Bachir naturally took on the mantle to which he had been born. Consequently he came to know all the famous champions of Jajouka, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles and Mick Jagger. He remembers “as if it were a dream” Brian Jones visiting the village to record what would eventually be released as ‘The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka’ ( sic ) album. He recalls ‘the man with the big blonde hair” sitting down to a feast with the tribe. They had killed a fair goat in Jones’ honor and the Stone had a vision that the goat was himself and that it was he who was being eaten.
At the invitation of Destroy All Concepts label boss and producer, Dub Gabriel, I, along with my son, Joseph joined the musicians and their friends for another feast. This one held far from that Northern Moroccan village, in a suburban house in San Francisco which would become the setting for an all night jam session, one which we would have the honor of joining. The music of Jajouka goes back thousands of years. It is powerful spiritual stuff. The players are taught from early childhood and after many years of dedicated training, they finally become ‘Malimin’ or Masters. Only a few great masters arise each generation to pass on the secrets to their sons and nephews. Bachir is truly one of these. A highly charismatic man who directed the flow of energy throughout the session which was being recorded for a future release. We were joined by several other talented musicians, Ysanne Spevack on violin, Chandra Shulka on sitar, Jef Stott on Arabic percussion and oud, Kelly Freedman ( Mrs. Dub Gabriel ) on violin ( her hubby on melodica ) and Mark Deutsch on ‘Bazantar’ which is a unique home-made instrument, a cross between a sitar and a stand up bass. All the music was improvised from scratch. The nine Jajouka contingent played drums as Bachir conjured magic from his gimbri ( a three-stringed lute ). At certain points, Bachir would throw out a challenge to one of the musicians ( think dueling banjos gone east ), myself included. It was a nerve wracking but thrilling experience. Somewhat overwhelmed by the notion of playing with the legendary Masters, my twenty one year old son, Joseph, had been very nervous about joining in, ( he has been teaching himself to play the ghaita, a small oboe-like instrument which is the principle component of the traditional Jajouka sound. ) but at one point I gave him a little encouraging kick and he started to play.
He feeds the instrument through a number of effects pedals such as echo / delay / reverb and pitch shifter and this added another texture to the overall sound of the band. The music was intoxicating and a splendid time was had by all. Also in attendance that night was Cherie Nutting, photographer and the former wife of Bachir and now the band’s manager, a charming feline-like lady who now resides in Paul Bowles’ old home in Tangier ( the two were together for a number of years. ) Also, the lovely Alaura O’dell formerly Paula P. Orridge whom I had not seen since I stayed with her and Genesis in London back in the mid eighties. Jah Wobble’s old manager, Sean Leonard was also present. I would see the later again the next day at Amoeba records for the group’s live appearance. ( Joseph and I had already seen them play two times, in LA at Royce Hall and in San Francisco at Yoshi’s jazz club ) Before entering the large store, Bachir led the musicians around the block whilst playing their ghaitas and picking up a crowd of entranced followers, Pied Piper style. They eventually burst into the store much to the delight of the large crowd. Towards the end of their uplifting performance I was standing with my son in the thick of the throng when Bachir leaned into the mic to announce:
”Next we shall be joined by Dub Gabriel and DAVID J to play some trance music.”
Whaaaat? I never got the memo! . Anyway, I dashed over to Gabriel to find out what the hell was going on and apparently he had left me a text message two hours before the performance asking if I would be into joining him and Bachir for the encore. We scrambled to find a bass but, alas, none could be produced. The track was great. A deep dub trance workout. I was itching to play on it and so the following day I returned to ‘El Cassa del Dub’ and laid down some lines in the basement studio. The rest of the afternoon was again spent in the delightful company of Bachir and co. as we traded stories over Arabic coffee ( Bachir takes ten sugars in the tiny cup ) and days old pastries, souvenirs of the musician’s recent stay in a city hotel. They also returned with overcoats full of hotel toilet paper! As I was sitting there, looking at the wonderful character-full faces of the assembled tribe, I was struck by the resemblance to the plaster heads that my mum used to hang on the walls of our old semi-detached house in England. ( These cheap decorative items were popular during the sixties. ) I used to be fascinated by them when I was a kid and would stare at them and imagine the sounds of Arabia. It sounded vaguely like Jajouka. One day, we shall take up Bachir’s kind invitation to visit his village, high in the mountains of Morocco and there we will hear the music in the setting in which it was originally created and at night, perhaps Boujeloud will come to call.