New doc, book on great critic/historian/enthusiast/musician ROBERT PALMER

Press release from Anthology Film Archives:


THE HAND OF FATIMA (2009, 75 minutes, video)
by Augusta Palmer
November 13 – 19

Documentary double portrait of a rock critic & his favorite band
Daughter of rock critic Robert Palmer travels from Mississippi to Morocco to investigate her father’s 1971 encounter with the men William Burroughs called “the world’s only 4000 year-old rock band.”

filmmaker Augusta Palmer
Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka
Anthony DeCurtis, editor of Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer

Anthology is thrilled to present the US Theatrical Premiere Run of THE HAND OF FATIMA, a double portrait of a rock critic and his favorite band. Robert Palmer was America’s pre-eminent music writer, best known for his book DEEP BLUES and his work for the NEW YORK TIMES. The Master Musicians of Jajouka are a hereditary Moroccan brotherhood who play music older than history, but have also jammed with Ornette Coleman and Sonic Youth. Using Robert Palmer’s writing about the band as her guide, Palmer’s daughter Augusta set out for Morocco in 2005 hoping to find out what happened when her father first met the Master Musicians of Jajouka on assignment for ROLLING STONE in 1971.

The film intercuts verite footage of the filmmaker’s journey with animations of Robert’s experiences in the 1970s, allowing the filmmaker (and the audience) to glean the truth between the lines of Robert’s mystical journey and to understand his all-consuming need for musical transcendence. That need was more than met by the Master Musicians, who were introduced to expatriate Tangiers society by the artist Brion Gysin in the 1950s, and then popularized by Rolling Stone Brian Jones, who recorded an album in their village which became a cult favorite upon its release shortly after his death. Encounters with Yoko Ono, Donovan, Anthony DeCurtis, and the elder Palmer’s four wives round out a journey that culminates with the Master Musicians’ indelible performance in their remote Moroccan village.

This theatrical run coincides with the publication of BLUES & CHAOS: THE MUSIC WRITING OF ROBERT PALMER, a major collection edited by Anthony DeCurtis and published by Scribner.

Anthony DeCurtis, Bachir Attar, and Augusta Palmer will also co-host a benefit for The Master Musicians of Jajouka at Le Poisson Rouge on November 16:

Praise for the film:
“Rather than a simple ‘documentary’ or a look back down memory lane, this is film as an investigation into myth, self-creation and the complexities of personal relationships. I found it profoundly moving, as well as sharp, funny, and bittersweet. … [It’s] a kind of emotional thriller…which picks up on the evidence, pursues the clues, and then ends with a new dispensation, a settling of the dust and a clear way ahead.” –Ian MacFadyen, writer and editor, NAKED LUNCH @50

“Robert Palmer left Little Rock and made good as the chief pop critic at the New York Times, traveling easily and knowingly between the worlds of Yoko Ono and Sonic Youth, RL Burnside and William Burroughs. Revisiting the remote Moroccan village where music may have begun, filmmaker Augusta Palmer explores the transcendent siren of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, coming to terms with her father’s passions and legacy, his drug abuse and ex-wives, his abandonment of her. This daughter’s unflinching portrait of her unsettled, genius father—author, musician, record producer—is a personal journey of reconciliation, of myth-making and myth-breaking. Palmer the father was adopted by the last generation’s Jajouka master, the Otha Turner of their Hill Country, allowing Palmer the daughter — and us — an intimate visit to an elusive world.” -Robert Gordon, Author IT CAME FROM MEMPHIS and director, JOHNNY CASH’S AMERICA

Fri, Nov 13 through Thurs Nov 19 @ 7:30 & 9:15 nightly. Add’l screenings on Sat & Sun at 5:30.

Filmmaker Augusta Palmer (both shows) and Anthony DeCurtis, editor of BLUES & CHAOS: THE MUSIC WRITING OF ROBERT PALMER (7:30 show only)

Bachir Attar (b.1963) was only 4 years old when he began studying the music of Jajouka under his father, who was the leader of the musicians until his death in 1981. After his father passed away, Bachir inherited the role of leader of The Master Musicians of Jajouka and has since devoted his life to preserving the music of his village. As Bachir says in The Hand of Fatima, he has become an ambassador for Jajouka: “I have to travel to save this music. We can’t just hide it in the village. If we did, it would have died a long time ago.” Bachir has played gimbri, ghaita and lira all over the world, both with the Master Musicians and as a solo artist. He has performed and recorded with a wide range of musicians, including Debbie Harry, Ornette Coleman, Talvin Singh, Bill Laswell, Maceo Parker, Lee Ranaldo, and The Rolling Stones.

and his band:
The Master Musicians of Jajouka are all residents of the small village of Jajouka in the Djebala hills of Northern Morocco. They are a hereditary brotherhood who preserve one of the oldest known musical traditions on the planet. Recognized for their music by the Moroccan royal family, by jazz masters like Ornette Coleman, rock gods like Brian Jones (who recorded the musicians’ first album, Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, in 1968), the Master Musicians begin learning complex rhythms and melodies as children in order to become true maalimin, or masters. The Master Musicians play a variety of folk, ancient and newly written musical pieces on traditional, locally made instruments: the double reed rhaita, the lute-like ghimbri, the bamboo flute (or lira) and several sizes of handmade drum. Many of the compositions in their extensive repertoire are unique to the Attar family and their traditions in Jajouka. Boujeloudia , the ritual music of the “father of skins” Boujeloud (whom several writers have linked to Pan), is performed in the village during the week long festival of Aïd el–Kebir. Hamza oua Hamzine , their oldest and most complex musical number, was played by the Jajouka Masters for the Sultan, both in his palace and on the battlefield. The Hadra summons the spiritual energy of the holy saint buried in Jajouka, Sidi Ahmed Sheikh , who is said to have blessed the Attar family and their music with baraka and the power to heal people of mental and physical illness. (For more information about The Master Musicians of Jajouka, please visit

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

One thought on “New doc, book on great critic/historian/enthusiast/musician ROBERT PALMER

  1. Pingback: Robert Palmer, in print & on screen «

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