OPINION
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The friar of Tangier

In July of 1968, the dethroned king of the Rolling Stones showed up in Yahyuca with his girlfriend Suki and an engineer with microphones

In the mid-1990s I was fortunate enough to meet Paul Bowles when, as part of a TV travel series, I was sent to interview him in Tangier. The author of The Sheltering Sky bravely endured an hour under the hot lights in an uncomfortable chair, answering in Spanish a series of questions about beats, the bohemian colony, the Rolling Stones visit and other shopworn themes.

Off-camera I recorded two comments. The first, a warning about mayún: "It was what finished my wife." Indeed, this hashish sweet is "an atomic bomb for the senses." The second: "What I know about Moroccan music I learned in a book by a Spanish priest." Which seemed a joke, until I read a book that connects Bowles with Father Patrocinio García Barriuso: "It is odd to note that two so different men - one liberal and promiscuous, the other belonging to the deep religious right - shared an interest in the music of the country, and produced studies of some relevance on it."

In the time of the Spanish Protectorate in northern Morocco, García Barriuso (1909-1997) wrote articles in the Franciscans' review Mauritania, on various aspects of Moroccan life: marriage law, religious freedom, and especially music, both refined and popular. This is what makes him a link in the chain of circumstances that caused Brian Jones' visit to Jajouka, or, as García Barriuso prefers it, Yahyuca.

Jones' visit belongs to the folklore of the counterculture. In July of 1968, the dethroned king of the Stones showed up in Yahyuca with his girlfriend Suki and an engineer with microphones and an Uker recording machine. His guide was Brion Gysim, a friend of Paul Bowles and a well-known adventurer of the underground.

The aim was to record the pagan rites of that village in the Rif. Two mad days generated a number of tapes which later, edited in London, were released, after Brian's death, as Brian Jones presents the pipes of pan in Jajouka. And they put the Yahyuca musicians in orbit. They were, in the words of William S. Burroughs, a "four-thousand-year-old rock'n'roll band."

On the strength of the album Timothy Leary, Ornette Colman and many others made the pilgrimage to Yahyuca. The Master Musicians of Jajouka, as they were billed, recorded with Bill Laswell, and with all the Stones, in the memorable Continental Drift, of the album Steel Wheels. Jagger and company brought the Rif musicians to the Ben Abou palace in Tangier, also visiting Paul Bowles.

Now back to father García Barriuso. In 2001 a facsimile edition came out of his book on Hispano-Muslim music in Morocco. By way of the Cervantes Institute, I get my hands on a copy: an immense tome, abounding in musical examples, photos, drawings. Overwhelming erudition.

Indeed, in it he speaks of the bagpipers (and drummers) of Yahyuca. The friar underlines the similarities between certain airs they play and the muiñeiras (an old musical genre) of Galicia. He notes that not even in the Rif are they immune to political waves from the outer world: "They also play Cara al Sol (the Spanish fascist anthem), or rather, they murder it."

It should be noted that the friar's book was published in 1941, by the Instituto General Franco. A paradox of colonialism: the Spanish officers in the Protectorate despised the natives, but ended by admiring some aspects of their culture. The Instituto, with its own office building in Tetuan, formed part of the Franco regime's diplomatic offensive: cold-shouldered by the Allied democracies, it sought to make friends in the Arab world. Meanwhile the Moors were useful in intimidating the Spanish people: as late as 1956, Franco still appeared in public escorted by his Moorish Guard, drawn from among the pitiless warriors who had helped him win the Civil War.