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Various Artists: The Road to Jajouka

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Mickey Hart, one of the musicians featured on The Road to Jajouka, once said that his band, the Grateful Dead, was not in the music business but rather in the transportation business. That sense of conveyance washes over you as these nine tracks sometimes gently and often raucously unfold. The music sweeps you in and carries you away and bounces you around and sets you down again; you surrender to it willfully.

Produced by Billy Martin (of Medeski Martin & Wood), who contributes drums and percussion, the benefit project-all proceeds go to the Jajouka Foundation-pays tribute to the Master Musicians of Jajouka, a group of trance musicians rooted in the foothills of northern Morocco’s Rif Mountains, currently led by Bachir Attar (whose father led it before him) and featured in various configurations throughout. Although the roots of this music stretch back more than a millennium, Martin-unlike Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones, who recorded the 1968 version of the troupe unadorned in the field-is more focused on connecting the group’s mesmeric modal vamps to modernity than on channeling ancient spirits. With contributors ranging from Ornette Coleman, whose howling alto dances madly with Attar’s ghaita (an African reed instrument) and masses of drums, to guitarists Marc Ribot and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, bassist Bill Laswell, MMW itself (backing Attar’s spoken word on the opening “Hand of Fatima”), DJ Logic (allying with Hart), John Zorn on alto and bassist Flea (the latter two together on “Djebala Hills”), The Road to Jajouka is a feast of exotic, alien, enveloping sounds.

Originally Published