The Master Musicians of Jajouka feat Bachir Attar – Apocalypse Across The Sky

Posted: 29 February 2020 in Albums
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ZEHRA – 6th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s always some impending doom or looming crisis facing us. As a species, we seemingly need some end of days narrative and a horizon shaded with the colours of oblivion in order to function – or maintain order. Collectively, we thrive on the drama. Given the state of the planet and of western democracy, it’s something of a shame that we’re still here, that we’ve not obliterated ourselves in a nuclear holocaust, that the earth hasn’t been swallowed by a black hole or supernova, that the millennium didn’t bring about the collapse of civilisation, that Ah Pook failed to materialise in 2012.

I’m listening to the mystical, timeless sounds of The Master Musicians of Jajouka, as captured on the colossal double album Apocalypse Across The Sky while being inundated with updates on the ever-accelerating spread of COVID-9: my office have emailed telling me that having pulled international travel a couple of weeks ago, there’s no travel between UK offices, including those within the same city, and that I’m to be prepared for enforced home-working. Could it be that where SARS and Bird Flu failed, we finally have the 21st century’s answer to bubonic plague? Time will tell, but it very much does feel as if there is indeed Apocalypse Across The Sky. Bring out your dead!

Having first come into being in 1950 and been introduced to a wider audience via the conduit of polyartist and William Burroughs collaborator Brion Gysin, The Master Musicians of Jajouka really broke into western consciousness in the late 60s, after Gysin took Rolling Stone Brian Jones to the village in Morocco – although there are now two groups purporting to be the ‘real’ Master Musicians: the one on this album, which ‘features’ Bachir Attar is the one Brian Jones encountered on his visit, when Attir’s father was at the helm. It’s ironic, as this is music that transcends all boundaries.

Apocalypse Across The Sky doesn’t sound especially apocalyptic, or radically different from any of the other recordings of the Master Musicians (in either iteration) I’ve heard that were captured since Brian Jones’ 1971 Pipes of Pan album, via the snippets captured in 1973 which appeared on the Burroughs album Break Through in Grey Room (my first encounter, and one which, with murky recordings sandwiched between various tape experiments, encapsulated the cut-up experience in a most singular way), the performances of various Joujouka musicians who performed at Gysin’s 1001 café in the mid-50s, released on One Night @ 1001 in the 90s, and on to more recent recordings.

Perhaps it’s my untrained ear: perhaps it’s that like many strains of dance and trance, which are very much dependent on the effects of repetition on both the mind and body, that much Sufi trance music sounds similar by design. But then again, when I described this music as timeless, I meant that the expectations of progression and evolution which are part and parcel of contemporary genre tropes simply do not apply here: folk music is steeped in tradition, and this is folk music in the truest sense, and therefore its very purpose is to remain unchanged and to preserve the past.

That isn’t to say all the pieces sound the same: some place considerably greater emphasis on the trilling pipes, while others are dominated by the complex polyrhythms, and Apocalypse Across The Sky does its thing and does it nicely, again capturing the experience of The Master Musicians of Jajouka. It’s hypnotic, captivating, resonant on a subliminal, psychological level.

AA

The Master Musicians of Jajouka feat Bachir Attar – Apocalypse Across The Sky

Comments
  1. […] „It’s hypnotic, captivating, resonant on a subliminal, psychological level.“ auralaggravation.com […]

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