by / March 29th, 2013 /

Preview: Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival

The sixth annual Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival takes place this June 14th – 16th, in Morocco’s Rif Mountains. The first was held in 2008, to mark the 40th anniversary of Brian Jones recording the Masters in 1968 at the Rites of Pan Festival, excerpts of which were subsequently released in 1971 on the influential Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka album. Guest of honour at this inaugural event was Anita Pallenberg.

The current incarnation of the festival is the brainchild of Paris-based Dubliner Frank Rynne, the group’s manager. Former singer with ’80s aspirants The Baby Snakes, and soon to be conferred with a doctorate in history from Trinity, Frank first starting working with the Masters in 1992 when he helped bring them to Dublin for the Here To Go event at the Project Arts Centre. In 1994, Frank spent two months in the Masters’ home village of Joujouka, recording the Joujouka Black Eyes CD. Since then, he’s made Sufi: Moroccan Trance and Boujeloud with the Masters and organized their appearance at Glastonbury in 2011, where they played the Pyramid stage and also had informal sessions in their own encampment every night.

Joujouka is an intimate festival, unlike any other you’ll ever experience. In fact, Frank describes it as, “a festival in reverse: a small number of people watch the same band for three days, up close. The best place to hear and feel this powerful trance music is under a starry sky in the hills where it has been performed for centuries. The Master Musician and their families are amazing hosts. The festival gives unprecedented access to this secretive tribe.” Places are strictly limited to 50 people, and guests experience life in Joujouka, staying with the musicians and their families in their own homes in the isolated village. The Master Musicians play in intimate sessions around their madrassa / school throughout the weekend, culminating in the highlight of the festival, the village’s celebration of the Boujeloud ritual in the village square. This is an all-night affair, with entrancing improvisatory Sufi drones underpinned by relentless, massed drum rhythms, harder than anything that ever came out of Chicago House. Healing properties are claimed for this music, so intense is the involvement and communion of performers and audience.

Some places are still available for this summer’s bash, but you’d better act quickly to avoid disappointment. Tickets are €350, which includes transport from the nearest town, Ksar El Kebir, to Joujouka on Friday 14th and return there on Monday 17th; plus you have full board and lodging in the musicians’ homes. Food is prepared in traditional Joujouka fashion from locally sourced produce. Joujouka is a farming community, and as well as Sufi trance music the village is famous for its beautiful olives and olive oil. But aside from three square meals a day and a roof over one’s head, let’s not forget the non-stop musical extravaganza, which would be worth the cost of admission alone.

For more details email Frank at joujouka@gmail.com.

Photo: Jill Furmanovsky