Interview with Live In Paris producer Frank Rynne on working with the Master Musicians of Joujouka published on The Quietus.
The feature interview with Frank Rynne, published on The Quietus, explores in depth the challenges of recording the powerful new album Live In Paris and how the Master Musicians of Joujouka became only the second group ever to inspire a stage invasion at the Centre Pompidou.
“This is the first time that the weight – not to mention the searing, face-melting volume of the Masters – has been captured,” writes Sword on the newLive In Paris album.
Recalling the concert at Centre Pompidou, Rynne said: “Everyone was on their feet in the hall and by the end we had about 50 to 60 people on the stage. And the only two bands who have ever done that to the Pompidou were Suicide in the late 1970s and the Masters in 2016!”
Live in Paris by the Master Musicians of Joujouka is released today (23rd April) on Unlistenable Records.
50 years since their first LP Brian Jones presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was released on Rolling Stones Records, The Master Musicians of Joujouka are issuing a double LP recorded live at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Live in Paris, the first release on Unlistenable Records, is available now on 2XLP, limited edition cassette and digital formats.
The recordings are a full immersion into the Joujouka sound with disc one featuring hypnotic flutes and drums and a side of songs with mountain violin (kamanja) played by virtuoso Scheik Ahmed Talha and lead vocals by the late Abdeslam Boukhzar. Disc two features the frenzied deep trance of the rhaita suite Boujeloud, recorded in its entirety for the first time.
According to the record’s producer Frank Rynne: “Having worked with the Masters for nearly 3 decades I was holding off on producing a new LP until I was sure we could overcome the difficulties in recording this music where the group go from unearthly quiet tranquillity to being the loudest folk band on the planet. ‘Live in Paris’ has achieved that. It is the first Joujouka album that has both perfect low-end drums and the delicate high end of the lead rhiata. It’s the best Joujouka album so far. This has been a testing time with the group’s live performances and the planned collaborative tour of Japan with The Orb postponed due to Covid-19. It’s time for this music.”
Ahmed El Attar, leader of The Master Musicians of Joujouka, said: “This is the best we have ever sounded on a recording. After a year of Covid lockdowns we are delighted to offer this healing music and pray it will help some people.”
The first review for the Live in Paris album was published by The Arts Desk, who called it “Healing music from the Rif Mountains of Morocco”.
Mark Kidel, who saw the group several times on their 1980 UK tour, said: “This is music that trades on a great deal of hypnotic repetition, both in terms of the relentless rolling of polyrhythmic drums, and vocals that escape tempered unison and create instead an otherworldly and ceaselessly shifting pattern that eludes the mind’s quest for comfortable predictability. The same can be said of the interlacing of flutes that feature on some of the Joujouka musicians’s songs. Distortion, melisma, sliding up and down microtonal intervals: these departures from what someone trained in Western classical music would consider acceptable, have always been identified – in traditions that value them – as openings or fault-lines through which the ear can enable the listener to let go of normal consciousness, and connect with a source that offers healing and transcendence.”
“The treat is a 58 minute slice of the Boujedoud ritual that provides a climax to the Joujouka ritual. This long piece features the wild dance of a man wearing a goat skin. In the village he strikes onlookers, men and women with a branch, chasing away evil spirits, not least the female ‘demon’ Aisha Qandisha, who is also a feature of other trance ceremonies among the Gnaoua and the Aissaoua, other sects that work their healing all over Morocco. Boujeloud also confers blessings and fertility, albeit in a wild and unruly manner.
“The sophistication of this simple yet effective ‘soul science’ is universal, and refined over many centuries. There are no side effects to this musical medicine – just a kind of bliss that makes the body and soul function at their highest potential.”
Jarvis Cocker of Pulp who worked with The Masters in 2017 for his BBC Radio 4 show Wireless Nights previewing the LP wrote: “In January 2017 I had one of the most intense musical experiences of my life. I travelled to Morocco to witness the Master Musicians of Joujouka play in the village they call their home. Their performance lasted a whole evening, starting relatively gently indoors then moving outside & building to an unforgettable climax featuring a visitation from Boujeloud whilst a bonfire raged & the full moon hung in the sky above. It was a truly transcendental moment. Listen to this record & tap into that same power. The music of the musicians of Joujouka is not improvised – it has been honed & perfected over many, many years to help the listener access altered states. The performance captured here is structured in exactly the same manner as the one I witnessed. Put the needle on the record & prepare to take the journey of a lifetime.”
Another stellar endorsement comes from Harry Sword, author of Monolithic Undertow: In Search of Sonic Oblivion, who stated: “A transcendent, joyous, hypnotic trip. Nobody makes music like the Masters and Live in Paris captures the weight and sheer primal uplift of the Joujouka sound like never before: psychedelic in the truest sense of the word.”
Jarvis Cocker, founder and leader of Pulp, who visited the village in 2017 to record a binaural episode of his BBC Radio 4 show Wireless Nights, recommends putting “the needle on the record and prepare to take the journey of a lifetime”.
Previewing the new Master Musicians of Joujouka LP, he said: “In January 2017 I had one of the most intense musical experiences of my life. I travelled to Morocco to witness the Master Musicians of Joujouka play in the village they call their home.
“Their performance lasted a whole evening, starting relatively gently indoors then moving outside and building to an unforgettable climax featuring a visitation from Boujeloud whilst a bonfire raged and the full moon hung in the sky above. It was a truly transcendental moment. Listen to this record and tap into that same power.
“The music of the musicians of Joujouka is not improvised – it has been honed and perfected over many, many years to help the listener access altered states. The performance captured here is structured in exactly the same manner as the one I witnessed. Put the needle on the record and prepare to take the journey of a lifetime.”
You can listen to Jarvis’ visits to Joujouka on Wireless Nights: Joujouka at the BBC Sounds website here
In 2011, following their headline slot on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury the Master Musicians of Joujouka slept in tepees on the festival campsite. The next day they woke up in a field of mud. That evening they climbed a hill to the Crow’s Nest to play a set, while Pulp played their unannounced secret headline show on The Park Stage. The Master Musicians’ Crow’s Nest show was to begin the moment Pulp ended their show. Looking down the hill as 70,000 fans with their hands in the air and singing along to the chorus of ‘Common People’ during the final encore, Ahmed El Attar, leader of the Master Musicians of Joujouka turned to Live in Paris producer Frank Rynne and said, “Hadhi musiqa. Hadha Mallim.” (“That’s music. That’s a Master.”).
The new album from The Master Musicians of Joujouka Live in Pariswill be released by Unlistenable Records on 23rd April.
The album was recorded at France’s leading modern art museum Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris in September 2016 as the final concert linked to their Beat Generation exhibition and will be available as a 2xLP and download on Unlistenable Records via Bandcamp.
A first listen of the track ‘Jahjouka I Calihone’ is available now – visit the Unlistenable Records Bandcamp page
Live in Paris is available to pre-order for download and digital streaming in addition to a special cassette release limited to 150 copies. News on the double vinyl release to follow.