Jnuin “El Hadj” Abdesalam Attar (c. 1900 – 1981)
Was familiarly known as Jnuin, a homonym for djinn (or elemental spirit) entirely appropriate for the man who worked hard to preserve Jajouka’s magical music while leading the Master Musicians out of an uncertain period into a new era. He led the band in the 1950s when they performed regularly at Brion Gysin’s 1001 Nights Restaurant in Tangier, for their first records, and on a tour of Europe in 1980. Known for his generous hospitality as well as his musical talent, had an encyclopedic knowledge of Jajouka’s musical history and taught the musicians many of the oldest songs in order to keep the village’s traditions alive. Jnuin and his brother were truly the greatest masters of their time and are responsible for passing the legacy of music on to their sons, of which Jnuin had six, five of whom become musicians. As the title “El Hadj” suggests, the devout was able to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. After his death, his son Bachir Attar inherited the mantle of leadership.
bachir attar (b. 1963)
Bachir Attar was only four years old when he began studying the music of Jajouka under his father, who was the leader of the Master Musicians until his death in 1981. Although Bachir was still a young boy in 1968 when Brian Jones came to the village, he saw clearly how this “big musician from the highest band of the world” really felt the music of Jajouka and Bachir became inspired to “get our music out into the world.” After his father passed away, Bachir inherited the role as leader of The Master Musicians of Jajouka and has since devoted his life to preserving the secrets of the music and sharing its healing power with the rest of the world. “I have to travel to save this music. We can't just hide it in the village. If we did, it would have died a long time ago,” Bachir explains in the forthcoming documentary, The Hand of Fatima. In 1988, Bachir met American photographer Cherie Nutting at the apartment of Paul Bowles. They fell in love, got married and Bachir began to divide his time between New York and Jajouka from 1988 until 1996, a prosperous period for the group during which Cherie managed the band and facilitated several tours and records. Although the couple separated in 1996, they have since resumed a close relationship and Cherie picked up as manager once again in 2004. Bachir has played gimbri, ghaita and lira all over the world, both with the Master Musicians and as a solo artist. He has performed and recorded with a wide range of musicians, including Debbie Harry, Ornette Coleman, Talvin Singh, Bill Laswell, Maceo Parker, Lee Ranaldo, Critters Buggin and The Rolling Stones. Bachir is a born leader and a true master.
brian jones (February 28, 1942 – July 3, 1969)
Born in Cheltenham, England, Jones was a founding member and lead guitarist of The Rolling Stones. As fan and aficionado of many styles of music, he went to Jajouka in 1968 when Bachir Attar’s father was leader of The Master Musicians of Jajouka. Bachir Attar recalls Jones “dancing with his headphones” as he recorded The Jajouka musicians for the The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka* which was released posthumously on The Rolling Stones label in 1971 after Jones’s tragic death. (*misspelling the name “Jajouka” as “Joujouka”). In 1994 using a new cover and the correct title, the “Pipes of Pan at Jajouka” was re-released by Point Music in collaboration with Phillip Glass, Bachir Attar, The Rolling Stones and The Estate of Brian Jones. In 1989, as documented by BBC Television, The Rolling Stones traveled to Morocco to record with Bachir Attar and The Master Musicians of Jajouka in memory of Brian Jones. The ensuing cut, “Continental Drift” appears on the Stones’ 1989 Steel Wheels.
Linda Lawrence, the mother of Brian Jones’ son, Julian Jones, and her husband, Donovan Leitch, sought to connect two sons of “The Pipes of Pan” in 1990s. Jullian traveled to Jajouka to meet Bachir Attar who later played at various Brian Jones Memorials in England, including a 1994 tribute at The Marquis with Julian Jones, Donovan, Marianne Faithful and Noel Redding. Donovan, Linda, and Julian Jones remain good friends of Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka to this day.
brion gysin (January 19, 1916 – July 13, 1986)
Brion Gysin was a painter, writer and performance artist who invented the cut-up technique of writing used by his friend and collaborator William S. Burroughs. He also was co-inventor of the Dream Machine with Ian Sommerville. Born near London but raised in Canada, he was later to spend much of his life living between Paris and Tangier. His friend, Paul Bowles, invited Gysin to Morocco in 1950. While attending a moussem (a local cultural/religious festival) in Sidi Kacem with Bowles, Gysin likely heard The Master Musicians of Jajouka, led at the time by Bachir Attar’s father El Hadj Abdesalam el Attar. “This is the music I want to hear for the rest of my life” Brion reputedly said to Bowles. By coincidence he later found this music again when his lover, Mohamed Hamri, brought him to Jajouka. Gysin opened the 1001 Nights Restaurant with Hamri in Tangier in order to showcase the Master Musicians to expatriate Tangier society, but the restaurant only lasted a few years. Gysin also took many artists, including Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, and Brian Jones, to visit the musicians in their village. In the 1970s, Brion left Morocco and lived in Paris until he died of cancer in 1986.
mohamed hamri (1932 – 2000)
Hamri was born in Ksar–el–Kebir, Morocco to a mother who had originally come from Jajouka. He was a street hustler and later in life became known as a painter. He met Brion Gysin and in 1951 he took Gysin to his mother’s village, where Gysin recognized the music he had first encountered at a moussem (a local cultural/religious festival) in Sidi Kacem. Because of his proficiency in English, Hamri was selected by Gysin to act as manager for the Jajouka Musicians and he provided the artwork for the original cover of Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan. Unfortunately, Hamri placed his name in the credits as composer and arranger of the music despite the fact that he had never studied music and was not a musician. After this and a series of hustles, and the Master Musicians fired Hamri from his position as manager in 1973. After the death of Jnuin “El Hadj” Abdesalam el Attar, a few of the elders left the majority of the band and allowed Hamri to manage their splinter group, but to little success. After the recording of Apocalypse Across the Sky with Bill Laswell, however, all the older musicians, such as Berdouz who had followed Hamri, asked to return to the original group led by Bachir Attar. In 1995, the reunited group embarked upon successful European and US Tours.
william s. burroughs (1914 – 1997)
William Burroughs was a renowned novelist and member of the Beat Generation best known for the novel Naked Lunch, which make extensive use of the cut-up technique invented by his friend and frequent collaborator Brion Gysin. Burroughs was a resident of Tangier in the early 1950s, where he saw the Master Musicians of Jajouka perform at the 1001 Nights. Allusions to the village of Jajouka in Burroughs’ novel The Ticket That Exploded (1962) inspired music writer Robert Palmer to visit the village in 1971. Burroughs, Gysin, Palmer, and Ornette Coleman visited Jajouka together in 1973.
paul bowles (December 30, 1910 – November 18, 1999)
Paul Bowles was born in Jamaica, New York and studied music with Aaron Copland before moving to Tangier, Morocco with his wife, the writer, Jane Bowles. His first novel, The Sheltering Sky, was a best seller in 1950 and adapted into a film by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1990, in which Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians appear as background artists. His other novels include The Spider's House, Let it Come Down, and Up Above the World as well as a great number of short stories. From 1988 to 1990, he wrote a personal journal entitled Two Years Beside the Strait published by Peter Owen in London and later renamed Days, Tangier Journal: 1987–1989 by Ecco Press in the United States. Part of this diary tells the story of Bachir Attar and Cherie Nutting and their journey to bring The Rolling Stones to Morocco to record with The Master Musicians of Jajouka in 1989. In addition the to his writing accomplishments, Bowles’ contributions to music include many of the first recordings of Moroccan music under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1959. Although Bowles never recorded Jajouka music, he likely first heard The Master Musicians in the early 1950s, led at the time by Bachir Attar's father El Hadj Abdesalam el Attar, while attending a moussem in Sidi Kacem with Brion Gysin. Gysin later brought him to Jajouka and in the 1980s he became a great friend of Cherie Nutting, Bachir Attar and Master Musicians.
robert palmer (1945 – 1997)
Robert Palmer was a musician, critic, and devotee of Dionysian ecstasy born in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a horn player (clarinet, saxophone, flute), he co-founded seminal sixties band The Insect Trust, and jammed with Ornette Coleman, Bono, and the Rolling Stones. He cut his critical teeth writing for Rolling Stone, then wrote for The New York Times from 1976-1988. Best remembered for his book Deep Blues, Palmer also wrote Rock & Roll: An Unruly History, as well as books on Jerry Lee Lewis, Lieber and Stoller, and a monograph on music from Memphis and New Orleans. In 2005, his daughter Augusta Palmer visited Jajouka in search of her father’s legacy and shot the musicians performing over Aïd el–Kabir for her documentary, The Hand of Fatima. Blues & Chaos, an anthology of Palmer’s writing edited by Anthony DeCurtis, is due out in 2009.
ornette coleman (b. March 9, 1930)
Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930, Coleman became one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The renowned saxophonist and composer was invited to visit Jajouka by New York Times critic Robert Palmer. Coleman and Palmer played alongside the musicians for several days in 1973, and a small portion of that collaboration appears on Coleman’s album Dancing in Your Head, released in 1976. Coleman has performed with Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians on several occasions throughout the 1990s. Still an accomplished and active performer, Coleman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2007 for his album Sound Grammar.