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The Road To Jajouka (2013) CD Review
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Aug. 21, 2013 5:10 p.m.

The Road To Jajouka

is one of the most interesting and at times beautiful discs I’ve listened to this

year. It’s a collection of music by The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by

Bachir Attar, with lots of additional help from some well-known musicians such

as Flea, Mickey Hart and Ornette Coleman. This is music from a village in the

mountains of Morocco, with the traditional sounds intact and celebrated. The

music is unique to that area, and is passed down from generation to generation.

The Road To Jajouka

is a benefit album to help preserve and keep the music of Jajouka alive, and

will provide health care for the musicians and their families. Close your eyes,

and this music (or certain tracks, anyway) will transport you.

The first moments of “Hand Of Fatima” are almost eerie –

but very quickly this track attains a beauty. And then a good drum beat comes

in by Billy Martin. It’s so interesting to mix a somewhat modern beat with the

otherworldly traditional sounds of the Master Musicians. What is surprising is

how well it works. It doesn’t feel like one form was artificially tacked on to

another. And yet this (as the other tracks) was recorded in various places at

different times. This track includes a spoken word section by Bachir Attar –

which is from the film Jajouka, Something

Good Comes To You

I was a huge Grateful Dead fan, and got to see Mickey

Hart and Planet Drum in the very early 1990s. Mickey is a drummer who seeks

(and finds) inspiration from all places on this planet, from all cultures and

musical genres. So it’s not all surprising to find him involved in this project.

It’s natural. What’s somewhat surprising is the combination of his sound with

that of DJ Logic. So this track, “Baraka,” is more in the electronic realm than

most of this collection’s tracks.

“Djebala Hills” is one of my favorites. This is so

beautiful, so exotic, particularly due to the vocals by Falu. This track

transports you out of your normal realm. It gets your mind working on levels

it’s likely unused to. And it features Flea (from Red Hot Chili Peppers) on

bass in the second, wilder section of the song. The journey this song takes is

incredible and surprising. I absolutely love this music. Turn this one up and

let it take over.

Falu provides some more wonderful vocals on “Sufi Hadra,”

a track that also features some great percussion.

“Ghaita Blues” has a great groove on bass and drums, a

groove that changes and feels like it’s slinking through the city alleys at

night. The traditional instruments play over this groove, creating a great

juxtaposition that makes the familiar seem unfamiliar. Or perhaps the other way

around. Either way, it’s an interesting atmosphere. By the way, that’s Dave

Dreiwitz on bass. You probably know him from Ween.

I first got interested in Ornette Coleman in the late

1980s when Jerry Garcia played with him (the first track I heard was “Singing

In The Shower”). Right away I got his sense of playful exploration. So he’s a

perfect choice for collaborator on this project. And the track he performs on,

“Jnuin,” is one of my favorites. It’s wild how his saxophone blends in with the

Master Musicians. His cries, his shouts of joy fit right in so beautifully, so

perfectly. This is a magical track.

On an album full of interesting and surprising

combinations of musical instruments and styles, “Al’Aita,” the final track,

stands out. It features Howard Shore and The London Philharmonic Orchestra

playing with the Master Musicians of Jajouka. “Al’Aita” has an intense build

that really got right on top of me. And then it suddenly breaks, like coming

upon a clearing in a jungle, where there is a sense of beauty but also danger.

The track’s quiet moments are as intense as its louder moments.

CD Track List

  1. Hand Of Fatima

  2. Baraka

  3. Djebala Hills

  4. Boujeloudia Magick

  5. Into The Rif

  6. Ghaita Blues

  7. Jnuin

  8. Sufi Hadra

  9. Al’Aita

The Road To Jajouka

is scheduled to be released on September 10, 2013 through Howe Records.

Note: I also posted this review on Michael Doherty's Music Log.

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