1330 Fukknire St.
San Francisco, California 94115

with Bachir Attar

Wednesday 8 pm $35 / 10 pm $30
Thursday 8 pm $35 / 10 pm $30

Jajouka is a small ancient village perched above a long valley in the blue Djebala foothills of the Rif mountains several kilometers from Ksar el Kebir, in northern Morocco. Once upon a time—a time before history —when the past was remembered in words and music recited in the fire-lit dark—a group of migrants, perhaps from the Phoenician settlement of Lixus on the Atlantic coast, made their home on the Mountain of Owls in the gold-green foothills of the Moroccan Rif. There, above the winding valley of the Loukous, a music was born in the magic and mystery of the darkness which for years beyond counting has survived, absorbing all influences that have come along, from Roman Gods and Islamic Saints, to the development of a modern Moroccan kingdom.

The inhabitants of this small village are from the Ahl Sherif (meaning "the saintly") tribe. The Attar clan of Jajouka is the founding family of Jajouka's Master Musicians and keepers of one of the world's oldest and most unique surviving musical traditions. The music and secrets of Jajouka have been passed down through generations from father to son, by some accounts for as long as 1,300 years. The musicians of Jajouka are taught from early childhood a complex music which is unique to Jajouka, until they finally become malims or masters. They possess baraka, or the blessing of Allah, which gives them the power to heal, and the endurance required to play some of the most intense and complex trance-like music around. The Master Musicians of Jajouka are all descendants of one family, the Attars. Attar is a Sufi watchword and a deeply mystical name meaning "perfume maker". Members of the group, who speak Arabic, adopt the surname "Attar," which translates as "the perfume maker." The band continues to reside in Jajouka.

An album produced by the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones a month before his drowning death in 1969, Brian Jones Presents: The Master Musicians of Jajouka introduced the unique sound of the Master Musicians of Jajouka to much of the Western world. At the time, the group had been performing their unique, drone-heavy music for several thousand years. The band, comprised of sons of sons of musicians, has subsequently recorded several unforgettable albums on their own and has been featured on albums by Ornette Coleman, the Rolling Stones, Randy Weston, Maceo Parker, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant. An album released by the group in 1992, Apocalypse Across the Sky, was produced by Bill Laswell and became an instant classic.

Proclaimed "one of the most musically inspiring groups in the world" by Mick Jagger, the Master Musicians of Jajouka perform a hypnotic style of music that The African Music Encyclopedia described as "a strange (at least to Western ears) combination of high-pitched, nasal, buzzing sounds (imagine a swarm of bees) with surging waves of rhythm which can induce an ecstatic trance state." An all-male group, the Master Musicians of Jajouka lineup for tonight’s show features 5 ghaita (a double-reed, oboe-like instrument) players and five drummers. Several of the musicians double on other traditional instruments including the the lira (a bamboo flute), and the gimbri (a three stringed lute). This music is comprised of several fairly simple parts, which are then intricately woven together in a way foreign to most Western ears, so that the resolution of individual phrases and sections can be difficult for outsiders to discern. The music can be extended indefinitely, and many performances last for hours at a time, with some musicians taking breaks and others stepping in to take their place. The music of Jajouka has always been highly respected and sought after by those living in the region.

Unknown to the Western world for most of their history, the Master Musicians of Jajouka were "discovered" in the '50s by beat novelist William Burroughs and composer/writer Paul Bowles, who recorded the band for the Library of Congress. Brian Jones was introduced to the group by painter, writer, and metaphysician Brion Gysin. Starting in the early '90s, the Master Musicians of Jajouka were led by Bachir Attar, whose father had led the group in the late '60s. The Master Musicians of Jajouka's first tour of the United States in 1997 included a reenactment of the week-long lunar feast of Aid El Kabir. In 1999, the group was visited by Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo. By the end of the '90s, the electronica world embraced the group as well; Talvin Singh produced their 2000 album The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar.

Long before the current Alaouite dynasty of the Moroccan sultans, the Master Musicians traveled with the sultans as their Royal Musicians. They rode at the head of the army and heralded the sultan's arrival in a new city. They had very old papers from the king which spelled out their duties and rights at the palace: to play the king to bed at night; to play for him in the morning; and to play at the mosque when he went to pray. These papers were renewed when the Alaoui family, the ancestors of the current Moroccan king, came to power. The papers addressed the Master Musicians with extraordinary respect and set them free from all labor, allowing them to collect a tithe on all the crops grown around the village.

The Master Musicians were the Royal Court musicians for seven kings of Morocco prior to Morocco's occupation by France and Spain, and subsequent Independence in 1956. People still travel to Jajouka on pilgrimage to visit the shrine of the holy man Sidi Ahmed Sheikh, who brought Islam to the valley centuries ago. It is said that this holy man plowed his field with a team of Berber lions, a feat which inspired the special Jajouka insignia―a lion created through the calligraphic weaving of sacred text from the Qur'an. Sidi Ahmed Sheikh also had the power to heal mental illnesses, and he blessed the music of Jajouka with this same healing power (baraka). To this day, the Master Musicians, along with the holy man of the village, heal mental illnesses of the people sent from around Morocco. The guardian of the tomb is a member of the Master Musicians led by Bachir Attar, and is off-limits to non-Moslems and curiosity-seekers.

Official Website: http://yoshis.com/sanfrancisco

Added by Yoshis on February 4, 2009

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