An interview with Frank Rynne from 2007
Joujouka via Johnny CashBy Paul Hawkins,
Frank Rynne interviewed by Paul HawkinsPhoto/Illustration credits: Boujeloud painted by Brion Gysin 1958. All rights reserved firstname.lastname@example.org. The Master Musicians of Joujouka photo by Frank Rynne.
The Master Musicians of Joujouka were first promoted in Western literature by William Burroughs in the 1950s. Since they first attracted the attention of Burroughs’ sidekick Brion Gysin in the early fifties, they have been fêted and visited by a host of cultural luminaries including Paul Bowles, Brian Jones, Acid guru Timothy Leary, who wrote an essay on his trip in Jail Notes (1971), Ornette Coleman, The Rolling Stones, and latterly by producers Bill Laswell and Frank Rynne.
The most recent celebrity to receive the musicians’ hospitality in Joujouka (or Jajouka) was Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan who Rynne accompanied to the remote mountain top in 2006.
Rynne’s Joujouka experiences are different from many westerners. Rynne, like Brion Gysin, who spent 23 years in Morocco so as to be close to the musicians, has kept up his contact and made dozens of visits to the village over the past fifteen years. With his then partner in crime, the writer, musician and art terrorist Joe Ambrose, they, like Brion Gysin, were friends of the Moroccan painter Mohamed Hamri who first brought his native village and their Master Sufi trance musicians to the notice of the Western avant garde.
It was in Tangier that Hamri met Paul Bowles in 1950 and later Gysin and Burroughs. Tangiers was where the Beats gathered in Morocco in the 1950s and 1960s. It was an International Zone ruled by six powers who all vied for prominence. This was the Interzone of Burroughs’ fiction and Gysin and Hamri were at the centre of that world. Both Rynne ’s and Ambrose’s knowledge of the village, the music, culture and the individual villagers is unparalleled. Their work together is discussed in great detail in an extensive interview with me in Jocelyn Braddell’s online journal The Handstand - April 07.
I caught up with Frank Rynne to find out about his work with the Master Musicians of Joujouka, which is soon to enter its sixteenth year. Frank talks about recording three CDs, radio shows, films and soundtracks in Joujouka, as well as managing the Master Musicians of Joujouka.
Joujouka Black Eyes was recorded in organic moments. We’d eat, talk, then have some music, eat, move to the back of the house away from the sun, and have a little music. Day and night blended together. Time was marked by a Friday ritual; the older musicians were shaved by the younger ones before they went to the mosque. Occasionally Hamri would get restless and after 12 days we would return to Tangier for a weekend.
FR: Yes, of course. When I first got there many of the old masters were still alive and even the current leader Ahmed Attar, at the age of twelve, played with Jones when he was a dancing boy and apprentice drummer. I knew the Mujdoubi brothers Ali and Mujehid, who were between eighty and ninety years old, and then had free access to Berdouz (Mohamed El Attar) the leader of the drummers, the Boukhzar and Errtoubi families, Mohamed Mokhchan, and all the Attars including the off shoot families like the Jagdhals.
FR: The Brian Jones recordings form part of the cultural heritage and inheritance of the village. The musicians living and dead who played on it mostly still have strong family connections in the village. I am often introduced to the sons and daughters of late great masters or former leaders of the Master Musicians who have returned to visit their families. The relatives of Mallim Fudal, Berdouz, Sherkin and of course Ahmed El Attar the current leader is son of Master piper Titi and is also the nephew of the late Hadj Abdelslam Attar, who was lead piper in the mid seventies and the father of Bachir Attar. El Hadj died twelve years before I got to Joujouka. The old generation were something… strong uncompromising men with a great sense of humour. Berdouz loved sweets, I used to meet him in the village and he always wanted sweets. He had a demeanour like the Dalai Lama but less complicated. A beautiful soul. I have a painting Hamri did of Berdiouz in 1994 when I was there first. As the years went by, on each of my returns, I was greeted with the bad news of many musicians passing. Mohamed Mokchan is the oldest now at 76 years. The rest of the musicians are between the age of 45 and 65 but thankfully there are many young musicians too.
- Ahmed El Attar drum and vocal
- Mohamed El Attar lira and rhiata and vocals
- Mustapha El Attar drum
- Ahmed Bouhsini rhiata lira
- Abdelslam Boukhzar drum vocal
- Abdelslam Errtoubi rhiata and lira
- Mujehid Mujdoubi lira
- Muinier Mujdoubi drum
- Muckthar Jagdhal drum and vocal
- Mohamed Mokhchan rhiata and lira
- Abdelslam Dahnoun drum, rhiata, lira
- Abdellah Ziyat Rhiata, lira, vocal
- El Hadj clapping and vocal
- Si Ahmed violin
FR: The music is part of life in the village so people learn the tunes very young. Playing the flute is a great way for a boy to pass the day when minding sheep. You can hear their attempts in the distance when in the higher mountains. Rhythm is for dancing to and at weddings and festivals the rhythm of Joujouka seeps into the consciousness of the young Joujouki from the feet up.
FR: The Festival Sidi Ahmed Scheich de Zahjouka is now in its sixth year. It hosts readings, discussions on culture and the arts, discussions on the local co-operative movements and helps bring attention to the folk arts like weaving, baking and of course The Master Musicians of Joujouka play each night. The local co-operative in Joujouka employs many women in traditional arts and is a great initiative for the area. Cash jobs for the women in the mountains are rare so this is important as it may help some women stay in the mountains rather than seek a livelihood in the nearby towns of Ksar El Kebir, Larache or Tangier.
Check the website for more information on The Master Musicians of Joujouka.
For info on booking accommodation in Joujouka or The Master Musicians of Joujouka email email@example.com
Thanks to Frank and The Master Musicians of Joujouka. A HesterGlock venture by Paul Hawkins.
Previously published in TheHandstand.org, blogcritics.com and