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