Boomkat Product Review:
An all-time pivotal album returns after 65 years out of print; Brion Gysin & Paul Bowles’ stunning, legendary recordings of Moroccan Sufi trance rituals resurface on vinyl for first time
A major influence upon the likes of Led Zeppelin and Can when it was released back in 1966, these recordings have been coveted by generations of psych-o-nauts and out-rockers ever since, but original copies vinyl are severely rare. Finally, Rogue Frequency Recordings step in to plug the gap with selections of Gysin & Bowles’ 3 hour recording session yielding the might of Jilala’s massed percussionists and chanting to those in need of spiritual nourishment and replenishment.
“The Jilala, like the other religious brotherhoods of Morocco, is probably rooted in pre-Islamic ritual and celebration, but it is at the same time definitely a part of the great Sufi tradition of the Middle East. An off-shoot of the Kadiree order which was begun in Baghdad in the twelfth century by Moulay Abdelkader Ghailani or Jilali as he is often called in the Maghreb-the Jilala is an order of dervish musicians known for their practice of trance dancing and spiritual healing. They are called upon to exorcise evil spirits and to purify the heart. The Jilala are particularly useful in curing cases of epilepsy and hysteria, controlling the spirits or demons in possession of the subject through their music and the ritualized gestures of the dance. But mainly the dances are dances of exaltation.
Paul Bowles writes in a short story, The Wind at Beni Midar, "A Jilali can do only what the music tells him to do. When the musicians play the music that has the power, his eyes shut and he falls on the floor. And until the man has shown proof and drunk his own blood the musicians do not begin the music that will bring him back to the world."
The dancers come as they are called by the music; and their number varies with the size of the gathering and the place, including both men and women, the very old and the very young. Incense is burned throughout the evening; and the smell of black jowee or benzoin heightens the trance state and is often used to revive a dancer who has passed out. The women characteristically weave and bob back and forth to the music, spreading their arms and then crossing them over their breasts. As the tempo increases they throw their heads back, their faces showing mingled ecstasy and pain, harder and faster, their long blueblack hair unloosened and flying across their faces. The men more typically bounce from one foot to the other slashing at the air with their hands, or with arms outstretched gliding in circles moving from one leg to the other until fingertips nearly touch the floor. The highest moments proceed from the reciting of the zikr or repetition of the name of Allah and his epithets. At the very peak of intensity special acts are done as part of the dance. Slashing arms and legs with sharp knives, or laying down hard with a heavy belt on an extended forearm or across the back are an accepted part of the ritual. Sometimes a dancer will take off his turban and wind the cloth around his waist, giving each end to a fellow Jilali who then pulls as hard as he can until the dancer is lifted off his feet and begins to turn in the air. Live animals are known to be devoured in the trance state, and red hot coals are often handled without injury as a proof of faith and power. One member of the group once pressed his bare foot down into a heap of flaming coals for several minutes before dancing a special number devoted to their lame patron saint, Moulay Abdelkader Ghailani. During the first selection on the second side of this recording Farato, the fire-eater, drank a kettle of boiling water, eliciting from the women a wild burst of yu-yus.”