Hamri Revisited – An exhibition of paintings by Mohamed Hamri on display at Tangier American Legation

Hamri Revisited – exhibition brochure cover

An exhibition featuring a collection of paintings by Mohamed Hamri, who was also known as ‘Hamri – The Painter of Morocco’, are on display at the Tangier American Legation in Tangier Medina.

The exhibition, originally scheduled to run between March and June this year, was postponed due to the museum’s closure during the Covid-19 pandemic amid lockdown measures in Morocco.

Following the museum’s re-opening on 22nd July there is a further opportunity for visitors to see this collection of the artist’s work for an extended period until 19th September.

Cover of the new edition of Tales of Joujouka

To coincide with the exhibition a newly revised edition of Hamri’s book Tales of Joujouka has been published. The book features Hamri’s stories and folk tales from his home village of Jajouka.

The book was originally published in 1975 by Capra Press in California. It was translated from Darija by his wife Blanca Hamri.

A statement from the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies said: “We are happy to announce that the Legation’s Museum and Research Library will both reopen to the public on Wednesday, 22nd July. We will adhere to all of the government’s reopening guidelines, including requirements of all visitors to wear masks, have their temperatures checked at the door before entering, and other safety and hygiene measures.

“We are also very happy to inform you that Blanca Hamri has graciously consented that our ‘Hamri Revisited’ exhibit, which was set for March — June, will be extended another two months, so we invite you to come see the works and a retrospective of this major 20th century Moroccan artist. You may also purchase copies of Hamri’s newly reissued book, Tales of Joujouka.

“Thank you very much for your support.”

Exposition en hommage à l´artiste-peintre Mohamed Hamri / Exhibition in tribute to the artist-painter Mohamed Hamri 

News report on Medi1TV in Morocco
The original publication of Hamri’s book from 1975

Mohamed Hamri (1932-2000) was a Moroccan artist born in the village of Joujouka. As a child among the first sounds he heard were the pipes and drums performed by the Master Musicians of Joujouka.

By the late 1940s Hamri was bringing groups of his family’s Musicians to Tangier playing music on the trains.

In 1950 Hamri encountered Paul Bowles and soon met Brion Gysin who would become his mentor and introduced him to the works of cubist and surrealist artists such as Picasso, Dali and Braque.

Master Musicians of Joujouka by Mohamed Hamri, 1992

Hamri was first exhibited in 1953 at the gallery of the Hotel Rembrandt in Tangier.

To coincide with the exhibition Gysin wrote an essay, ‘The Innocent Painter’, which was published in The Tangier Gazette.

Gysin stated: “He [Hamri] was given the best of materials with which to work, right from the start, and good materials are dear, but no real painter can work with poor materials. He began to draw with India ink on good paper, and then was given the very best brand of pastel with which to colour his drawings. Later he was shown how to use gouache but told to employ it as he thought best. His first oils were done on boards with the tricky enamels which few painters but Picasso have used. Yet nothing intimidated him: he was at once able to destroy what he thought unsatisfactory, and do it better next time. He made the painter’s discovery that the paint seems to work itself and become a living thing with which the painter struggles until he can “bring it off” with the aplomb of a bare-back rider. Most recently he has begun to work on canvas with great effect. “Why, it’s just like cooking” he exclaimed delightedly, and he was not the first painter to find that out.”

Further exhibitions of Hamri’s work followed internationally throughout the 1950s in Grand Canaria, Madrid, New York, Düsseldorf and Berlin.

Mohamed Hamri at the Temple Bar, Dublin in 1992 with Master Musicians of Joujouka – Mohamed Mokhchan, Mohamed El Attar, Abdullah Ziyat and Abdesalam Dahnoun – photo by Ira Cohen

After meeting Hamri, Gysin was soon introduced to the music of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, of which he said, “I just want to hear that music for the rest of my life.”

In 1954 Gysin and Hamri opened the 1,001 Nights restaurant in a wing of the Menebhi Palace in Tangier where a group of visiting Master Musicians of Joujouka played every night.

Hamri’s close association with the Master Musicians of Joujouka continued after the closure of the restaurant in 1958. In 1962 he founded the Association Serifiya Folklorique de Joujouka.

Hamri became friends with Brian Jones, the founder member and lead guitarist of The Rolling Stones, in the mid-1960s.

In August 1968 he organised the trip to the village for Jones which resulted in the LP, Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka, released in 1971 on Rolling Stones Records. The gatefold sleeve artwork for the album featured Hamri’s painting of Brian Jones the Master Musicians of Joujouka.

Hamri also organised the 1973 visit of Ornette Coleman to the village. Coleman’s collaboration with the Master Musicians of Joujouka featured on the album Dancing In Your Head.

Mohamed and Blanca Hamri pictured in 1973 while working on Tales of Joujouka

Hamri collaborated with his wife Blanca to tell the stories of the music from Joujouka in the Tales of Joujouka collection, published by Capra in 1975 and originally serialised in Le Journal De Tanger.

In 1992, Hamri was invited with the Master Musicians of Joujouka to appear at the Here To Go Show in Dublin, celebrating the work of Gysin and William S. Burroughs. The event was organised by Frank Rynne, who is now the manager of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, having worked closely for many years with Hamri.

Rynne said: “Two years later I went to Joujouka with Hamri. I didn’t know what to expect but hoped to get a few tapes of them playing while relaxed. I spent over one month in Joujouka and got to hear music I couldn’t believe existed.”

The Rynne-produced Joujouka Black Eyes album (1995) includes ‘Brahim Jones Joujouka Very Stoned’ – a song composed by Hamri.

In 1974, William S. Burroughs said of Hamri’s artwork: “The djinoun spirits of Morocco whisper and ripple and frolic through Hamri’s paintings… scattering light over fruit trees, sunflowers, walls and fields, pelting the streets of Tangier with winter rain. You can breathe all the magic of Morocco from these canvases, the pipes of Pan that make perfume in the air.”

Blanca Hamri previewing the Hamri Revisited exhibition at the Tangier American Legation ahead of their reopening in July. Photo credit El Boukhari Youssef

Blanca Hamri said: “Once upon a time, when the world was young, a small boy sold sweet cakes in the mountain villages. He rose at dawn, picked up the trays of fresh baked pastries from the widow he worked for and mixed vegetable colors into the frosting, swirling them into patterns. He learned that bright and clear colors were the most attractive and enjoyed mixing lovely shades of pink, blue, green and yellow. He then got on his donkey with straw panniers full, and rode from village to village hawking his wares.

“Did he dream that one day he would be a famous painter and have books written about him? I do know that it wouldn’t have surprised him in the least. After all, it is all written, and all one can do is embrace it with an open heart and hand.

“Here is a door to the story of an artist, music master, great chief and storyteller whose life and work were full of blessing, much laughter and tears, and a total conviction that it is an honor to be alive and live in Morocco.”

John Davison, Director at the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies, said: “We’re grateful that Blanca Hamri allowed us to extend the exhibit through late September. The museum is open Mondays-Fridays from 10am to 5pm and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. It is closed Sundays and Moroccan holidays. Entrance fee 20 dirhams; guided tours 50 dirhams per person.”

For more information visit the Tangier American Legation website

For anyone unable to travel to Tangier a virtual tour of the museum, including the Hamri Revisited exhibition, can be viewed here

The 2020 edition of the Master Musicians of Joujouka annual festival in the village has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The group have been unable to work since March. During this period all proceeds from digital download sales of the Into The Ahl Srif album will be donated to the Master Musicians of Joujouka.

The album is available now to listen and download from the Ergot Records Bandcamp page: ergotrecords.bandcamp.com/album/into-the-ahl-Srif

More information about the Into The Ahl Srif album here

For latest news on the 2020 festival and updates on rescheduled dates when available visit here

A Requiem for Brian Jones – 2019 Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival in pictures

‘The 4000 Year Old Rock and Roll Band’ – Melody Maker ad for Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka LP

Last year’s festival in Joujouka was held in memory of The Rolling Stones founder and lead guitarist Brian Jones on the 50th anniversary of his death on 3rd July 1969.

Brian Jones visited Joujouka in 1968 and recorded the LP Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka (released on Rolling Stones Records, 1971).

In his liner notes for the LP Jones said: “I don’t know if I have the stamina to endure the incredible strain of the festival.

“What exists here is a specially chosen representation of the type of music which is played and chanted during the festival.”

A Requiem for Brian Jones was held in Joujouka, Morocco from 5th to 7th July 2019.

The village square and mosque in Joujouka
Shiekh Ahmed Talha dancing to the Master Musicians of Joujouka
Brian Jones is said to have sat on this rock to listen to the Master Musicians during his visit to Joujouka
The Master Musicians of Joujouka in full flow on the opening evening of the festival
Boujeloud dances in front of a bonfire
Marlon Richards, son of The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, followed in his parent’s footsteps by visiting Joujouka for last year’s festival. Pictured here with Master Musicians of Joujouka manager Frank Rynne
Master Musicians of Joujouka group leader Ahmed El Attar at the tomb of Sidi Ahmed Shiekh in Joujouka explaining the healing powers of their sacred Sufi Trance music the mystic brought to the village
The finale of music on the third night of the festival

To experience the sounds of the Master Musicians of Joujouka live at the Festival in their village – check out the Into The Ahl Srif album – recently released for the first time in digital format.

The album is available now to listen and download from the Ergot Records Bandcamp page: ergotrecords.bandcamp.com/album/into-the-ahl-srif

The 2020 edition of the Master Musicians of Joujouka festival has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the group have been unable to work since March. Proceeds from download sales of the album will be donated to the Master Musicians of Joujouka.

More information about the Into The Ahl Srif album here

For latest news on the 2020 festival and updates on rescheduled dates when available visit here

Flashback to the Master Musicians of Joujouka appearance at Glastonbury Festival 2011

Master Musicians of Joujouka and Boujeloud open Glastonbury Festival 2011 on the Pyramid Stage. Photo – Jill Furmanovsky

This weekend was set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival at Worthy Farm.

Like many events on the music calendar this year’s Glastonbury has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We look back to when the Master Musicians of Joujouka travelled from Morocco to Pilton, Somerset to open the 2011 festival on the main Pyramid stage.

The Master Musicians arrived at the festival site on the early hours of Friday morning on 24th June – and had just a few hours to prepare for their set.

Live on the Pyramid stage

Master Musicians of Joujouka opened Glastonbury 2011 on the Pyramid Stage. Part 1 of this crowd-filmed footage ends with the classic ‘Brian Jones Joujoujka Very Stoned’. Part 2 features part of the Boujeloud Rite which has been likened by Brion Gysin to the Rites of Pan. The Masters finished their set with a Sufi prayer blessing all the festival goers and the festival organisers and all the people of the world in troubled times.

Thanks to murasakiryu on youtube for posting this footage.

Part I

Part II

Live at the Stone Circle

This set was recorded at the megalithic stone circle at Worthy Farm on Saturday 25th June. The video was shot by Joachim Montessuis who collaborates with the Master Musicians for the Joujouka Interzone project.

Report of the Master Musicians of Joujouka at Glastonbury 2011

Master Musicians of Joujouka backstage at Glastonbury ahead of opening the 2011 festival

When the Master Musicians of Joujouka were asked to perform at Glastonbury 2011, it was an opportunity for Musicians from the village to play to their largest audience to date. Prior to Glastonbury, the Joujouka group had not visited England since 1980 when the then 35-strong pre-split group visited Europe for three months on their first major tour, including a gig at Worthy Farm.

Rikki Stein organised the 1980 tour of Europe – and returned to work with the Master Musicians of Joujouka at Glastonbury

Glastonbury marked a return of sorts for group leader Ahmed El Attar, who had played on that 1980 tour as a young drummer. Several other current Musicians followed in the footsteps of their relatives who had been present on that trip.

Opening the main Pyramid stage on the Friday of Glastonbury, the Master Musicians of Joujouka played a head swirling trance set, managing to do their huge repertoire justice within their allotted 40 minutes. The oldest Musician, rhaita player Mohamed Mokchan, 78, weaved up the line, teasing his bandmates with colourful notes from his pipe. Ahmed El Attar, meanwhile, stepped out to the front, banging his tebel/drum in the air, enjoying his moment of rock stardom, proselytising the group’s message to a spellbound audience.

A chaos call halfway through the set signalled the entrance of the dancing dervish, the goat God character himself, Boujeloud. Wrapped in goat skins (not a gorilla outfit as some commentators saw it), wearing a floppy hat and brandishing olive branches, he would rush over to onlookers at the side of the stage, swiping at them with his branches. The Musicians closed their set with a traditional Joujouka sufi Islamic prayer, wishing peace and blessings on festival organisers and everybody watching.

Afterwards they led a post-gig celebration, with BB King drummer Tony ‘TC’ Crawford joining them for an all-drumming, all-dancing dressing room jam, followed by eating lunch backstage next to the Wu Tang Clan. Surreal scenes.

Master Musicians of Joujouka with BB King drummer Tony ‘TC’ Crawford

Together the Joujouka group are tight, a true brotherhood, who would do anything for each other. At Glastonbury they adjusted one another’s uniform orange turbans, helped each other shave and even tucked each other in at night, huddled away side by side in their tipi. This touching intimacy was extended to the crew, as we sat in for breakfast, and shared lazy lira performances in the mornings with one or two lucky passers-by. Somehow the Musicians even found room to dance in the tiny space among the huddled bodies. As at home, the Musicians play and play, all day long.

In the build up to the Master Musicians of Joujouka’s appearance at this year’s Glastonbury festival, Frank Rynne described the group as the loudest folk band in the world. His statement is supported by the fact that there are few, if any, acoustic instruments louder than the rhaita double-reed woodwind pipes used by the Masters in their sufi trance mantras. Glastonbury provided the perfect opportunity to see just how voluble this music could be, in an experiment that would surely have delighted early champion of the group Brion Gysin.

As well as opening the Pyramid Stage, the group were to perform a series of impromptu sets over the course of the weekend in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the annual festival held in Joujouka. They played one particularly iconic set at the highest vantage point overlooking the whole site, lined up in front of Hollywood-style ‘Glastonbury’ lettering and faced with a panoramic patchwork of tents stretching as far as the eye could see. Captured by the group’s exquisite harmolodic ‘sonic jewellery’, bystanders who had been enjoying a peaceful retreat away from the mayhem elsewhere were given no choice but to pay attention, many joining in to dance alongside the Musicians as they walked through the scattering of bodies, like the last gang in town, spreading their ‘baraka’ (spiritual blessings). 

“The music flows in streams to nourish and fructify the terraced fields below,” wrote Gysin in his liner notes for the Brian Jones LP.

The spiritual music of Sidi Ahmed Shiekh performed by the Master Musicians of Joujouka at the Stone Circle

High above the rest of the festival site, the Musicians did indeed fill the air with the drone tones of their sacred music, subliminally infiltrating the mass consciousness across the site. The view from up there was reminiscent of the rolling hills surrounding Joujouka, but with a temporary city of tents in place of the green valleys. When the sound travelled out and over, the effect was akin to Gysin’s description: “The great wind drops out of your head and you hear the heavenly music again.”

For a mesmerising half hour the group could be heard across the entire site from hill to hill, until they were abruptly stopped – for drowning out the band on the Park Stage down the hill (where Radiohead and Pulp played their ‘secret’ sets). Grudgingly the Musicians had to down their instruments. Or was that triumphantly? Either way, around 200,000 people had been exposed to the power of Joujouka music.

Live at The Crow’s Nest
Master Musicians of Joujouka at Glastonbury 2011 – Mohamed Mokhchan, Mohamed El Attar, Abdeslam Rrtoubi, Mustapha El Attar, El Touhami Talha, Ahmed El Attar, Ali Ezouglali, Ahmed Talha, Abdeslam Boukzhar, El Khalil Radi, Abdellah Ziyat, Mohamed El Hatmi

Words and photos by Richie Troughton. Excerpt text from an article originally published on The Quietus