Introduction

The Master Musicians of Jajouka outside the cave of Boujeloud
Photo: Cherie Nutting

As residents of the small village of Jajouka in the Djebala hills of Northern Morocco, the Attar family preserves one of the oldest known musical traditions on the planet. Recognized for their music by the Moroccan Royal family for centuries, by jazz masters, rock gods, respected writers and elite artists from all corners of the globe, it’s not the influence upon western culture that sets the Jajouka masters apart. It’s the highly complex rhythms and melodies they begin learning as children from their fathers, which if practiced for a lifetime, allows them to become true Malimin or Masters. These skills and secretes of the Master Musicians of Jajouka have been passed through generations and have endured through centuries of struggle.

The Master Musicians of Jajouka play a variety of folk, ancient and newly written musical pieces on traditional, locally made instruments. Many of the compositions in their extensive repertoire are unique to the Attar family and their traditions in Jajouka. Boujeloudia, the rights of the “father of skins,” Boujeloud, is performed in the village during the week long festival during the Aïd el–Kebir. Hamza oua Hamzine, their oldest and most complex musical number, was played by the Jajouka Masters for the Sultan, both in his palace and on the battle field, for centuries. The Hadra summons the spiritual energy of the holy saint buried in Jajouka, Sidi Ahmed Sheikh, who is said to have blessed the Attar family and their music with baraka and the power to heal people of mental and physical illness.