Inside the Oldest, Most Exclusive Dance Party in the World
By making the MMJ the house band at their Tangier restaurant, Gysin and Hamri introduced them to the likes of Timothy Leary, William Burroughs and other American beats, as well as the Rolling Stones, which then included guitarist Brian Jones. Jones, instantly enamored, went on to produce their first album, Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan, just before his death in 1969. Depending which source you believe, either Leary or Burroughs dubbed the MMJ “a 4,000-year-old rock & roll band.”
Shortly after that, jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman arrived to record with the Masters. In the 1980s, they played at England’s Glastonbury Festival and elsewhere on a wild three-month tour. Slowly they built an international following, which came to include Frank Rynne from Dublin, who first visited the village in 1994 to produce a record (Joujouka Black Eyes) and has been their manager ever since, producing more albums, organizing tours and, for the past eight years, the festival.
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Music’s been an integral part of Joujouka since there’s been a Joujouka. Much of the history is shrouded in the same mist that rings the mountain landscape every morning and after it rains. But there’s consensus about the arrival of 15th-century Sufi saint Sidi Ahmed Schiech from Persia or Spain (a likely refugee of the Inquisition), who wrote music that had the power to heal disturbed minds. Today’s Masters are said to be able to heal through that same music.
Then there’s Boujeloud, a Pan-like half-goat man who’s known throughout Morocco, and who, according to myth, gave the gift of flute music to the master musicians. Every spring, he would come out of his cave and dance during the “feast week” that honored the Sufi saint, and bring fertility. The man who’s played this shamanic role for the past 47 years is an unassuming villager named Mohamed Hatmi. If you passed him on the dirt road, you might dismiss him as a simple man with little opportunity for self-expression. You would be very, very wrong.
Dressed in goatskin from head to knee, wearing a woven witchy hat and brandishing swaths of tree branches, gyrating onstage to the band’s cacophonous fusillade, Hatmi-as-Boujeloud is larger than life. His hips operate independently from the rest of his perhaps four foot, 10 inch frame, and he seems to be plugged into some infinite energy source. He thrashes musicians and when he races up to children in the audience, the blood drains from their faces as they flee in terror.
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