Tair Lajbal : the Spirit Bird that Flies Over the Atlas Mountains

Tair Lajbal : the Spirit Bird that Flies Over the Atlas Mountains

“You will fly over the ocean,” he continued, “by the power of baraka, the blessing of Sidi Moulay Brahim,  tair lajbal, indicating the spirit bird that flies over the Atlas Mountains”

Memoir of a Berber by Hassan Ouakrim

The young girl stood up and took a few steps to stand beside the figure in colourful, flowing robes already dancing directly in front of the line of musicians.  The low monotone of the hajhuj and the rhythmic clacking of the qraqebs crackled through the cold November air.  She imbibed heavily from a white cloud of burning incense and a cloth of colour was placed over her head. Blind, her own dance joined that of the dancing figure beside her.

The girl was endeavouring to cure or treat a ‘malady’ of some description,  either by invoking or pleasing benevolent spirits or by propitiating malicious ones.  She was entering trance,  a dissociative state which permits the fording of dimensions between this world and the world of the jinn..

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Abdesalam, Master Musician of Joujouka

Abdesalam, Master Musician of Joujouka

The taxi driver in the transport hub city of Ksar el-Kebir said he knew the way to Bachir’s house in the village of Joujouka/Jajouka.

Liesbeth van Roij and I had decided to see what remains of the legend of the Master Musicians of Joujouka/Jajouka,  and had travelled,  via Tetouan and Larache,  to Ksar el-Kebir by bus from Chefchaouen.  The remaining part of the journey was undertaken by grand taxi,  from the taxi rank at the edge of the city,  and along the small R410 past olive trees and small villages into the hills of the Ahl-Serif southern Rif mountains.   The mountains are named after the local  tribe of the same name.

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