The video above was made in 1989 recording Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood’s journey to Tangiers to record Master Musicians of Ja Jouk for their input for “Continental Drift” from the “Steel Wheels” album. In one part Jagger is sat talking to Paul Bowles, the American expatriate composer and author, about the music he recorded in the country back in 1959. Bowles first visited the area in 1931 and later settled in Tangier in 1947 following which he published his first novel The Sheltering Sky (1949). He is seen to have paved the way for the likes of the Beat Generation authors Jack kerouac and William Burroughs who wrote most of Naked Lunch there.
Although arguably best known for his first novel, Bowles was also deeply fascinated by the music of Morocco, a passion he was able to fulfil when, under the auspices of the Library of Congress, he set off on journey of discovery which would last six month and cover an estimated 25,000 miles over 23 locations throughout the country capturing vocal and instrumental music of various tribes and other indigenous populations.
Bowles’s Volkswagen Beetle, stopped along a mountain road in Morocco, 1959
Thanks to Dust-to-Digital we’re now able to enjoy those recordings which have an incredible range, diversity and beauty…and that air of mystery that only time can create. The label, like on all their other releases, have really gone to town with this 4 CD silkscreened Boxset which includes a 120-page, leatherette book, featuring extensive liner notes by Philip Schuyler, field notes by Paul Bowles and an introduction by Lee Ranaldo.
“The pieces with the greatest, and those with the smallest amount, of Arabic influence, are both to be found, strangely enough, in the same country: Morocco. This region’s contact with Europe has been that of conqueror: in its decline it has been comparatively unmolested by industrial Europe. By virtue of this, also because it once had colonies in Mauritania and Senegal, and thus has a fair amount of admixture of Negro culture, it is richer in musical variety and interest than Algeria and Tunisia. In the latter countries there is plenty of music, but in Morocco music is inescapable.” — Paul Bowles