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House Of Tudor 

Master Musicians of Jajouka, OtherStarPeople, "Musical Atrocities and Eccentrics, 1926-52," and New Music on the Mountain

Wednesday, Sep 8 1999
The Master Musicians of Jajouka have existed as a musical entity in their small village in the foothills of Morocco's Rif Mountains for over 4,000 years. Being of an aristocratic caste, they are exempt from farm work; they are musicians by birthright and their days are devoted to the esoteric study of their craft. Traditionally, their music -- comprised of frenetic drumming, plangent voices (male and female, though never together), the ecstatic drones and trills of the oboelike double-reed ghaita, and the delicate plucking of three-stringed gimbri - venerates gods and touches the ears of sultans, but occasionally a Western admirer drops by to carry their music to the "wider world." In the '50s, expatriate beats in Tangier found the Master Musicians a perfect accessory to smoking kef. (In a lazy, elegant rasp, William S. Burroughs once described their music as "the primordial sounds of a 4,000-year-old rock 'n' roll band.") In the '60s, the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones recorded the Master Musicians of Jajouka, but his compulsion to enhance the four-century-long tradition with washes of hippy-dippy psychedelica left something to be desired. Nearly 30 years later, Bill Laswell produced a pristine recording that captured the region's varying shades of dark and jubilant ardor, including the exultation of the goat-god Bou Jeloud, which, from all accounts, must be seen to be believed. An upcoming album, produced by Asian Underground champion Talvin Singh, promises to be an even blend of unmodified field recordings and Singh-style remixes. In preparation for the springtime release, the Master Musicians of Jajouka are touring a little; they are opening for Crash Worship, which is kind of like Super Diamond taking top billing over the real thing, but at least there will be lots of fire and madcap fruit-eating during the goat-skin climax at Maritime Hall on Thursday, Sept. 9, with Subarachnoid Space opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18-20; call 974-6644.

Emerging from the estrogen fury of L7, snarling singer/guitarist Jennifer Finch (henceforth to be known as "Precious") has discovered a masculine complement (in the form of fey-voiced, ever-so-stylish, ex-goth named Xander Smith) and a flossy pop sensibility in their jointly fronted quartet OtherStarPeople. Filled with sparkly instrumentation, European new wave ooh-ooh-oohs and doo-doo-doos, and CaliPhonic song titles like "Ocean Way Sunday," "California Shine," and "Sun & Sky," the OSP debut Diamonds in the Belly of a Dog is, exactly as the name suggests, a twinkling gem delivered by an unlikely messenger. Lyrically, Precious is still wrestling with all the usual rock grrrl things -- frustration, desertion, betrayal, drugs - but it's done with such coy little nods ("Looking around for the spoon/ But the spoon ran away with the clock") that OSP rarely sounds more serious, or less delightfully infectious, than Pop Will Eat Itself. The OtherStarPeople support Queens of the Stone Age at Bottom of the Hill on Friday, Sept. 10, with Clone opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 621-4455.

Drawing from thousands of unusual films, archivist Dennis Nyback has put together a little something for all us weirdos here in San Francisco. While "Musical Atrocities and Eccentrics, 1926-52" will not include footage of countless violins being marched into showers or naked men smearing themselves with ketchup and tubas, Nyback does promise such disturbing occurrences as Liberace and the Lawrence Welk Mother's Day special. Also, the famous Man With Duck, a vaudeville performer from the '20s who sings "Ma, He's Making Eyes With Me" with bestial accompaniment, and Eddie Peabody, a banjo player who seemingly discovered the joys of methamphetamine way back in the '40s. Part of the "Uneasy Listening" series being shown in conjunction with the "Sounds Like Art" exhibit, "Musical Atrocities" will screen at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Friday, Sept. 10, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $3-5; call 978-2787.

My most adorable great-grandmother was among the first people to build a home on top of Mount Tamalpais. At the time, there were no phones, electricity, or roads to speak of (the rut-filled dirt skims that eventually passed for roads never ceased to paralyze visitors) but the beauty (and the price) of the place compelled her. By the time I came along, the accommodations were quite lovely and civilized, but the mountain was still wholly untamed: In the summer we hunted the garden for rattlers so the dogs and children didn't get bitten; we threw the headless snake bodies to the buzzards that relentlessly circled below. In the winter, as night fell, the wind ripped through the valley and echoed along the rocky crags until the air was filled with nerve-shattering howls and unearthly screeches. The windows shook and, nestled against my great-gran and her little dogs, so did I. Eventually, she'd wake and pat my sweaty forehead: "Don't worry, Silke, that's just the mountain singing to you." Night after night, the mountain sang and, over time, my fears dissolved into music -- something I've never forgotten. It gives me great pleasure to imagine human musicians joining that wild cacophony, even if it is during the day. The Rova Saxophone Quartet performs its fourth annual open-air New Music on the Mountain concert, joined by world-renowned cellist Joan Jeanrenaud (Kronos Quartet, John Cage, David Byrne, John Zorn), violin virtuoso India Cooke (Frank Sinatra, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett), and guitar innovator Fred Frith (John Zorn, Brian Eno, The Residents). Folks are encouraged to bring picnic lunches to the Mountain Theater on Mount Tam on Sunday, Sept. 12, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 487-1701 (due to high fire danger this time of year, calling ahead is advisable).

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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