Bryn Jones Montage
Muslimgauze: The Wire article

"When somebody invades a country, it's usually punished. Israel isn't. They get away with every breach of human rights there is - and it looks like it's going to continue."Muslimgauze

For Bryn Jones, the man behind Muslimgauze, the decision to make music stemmed from one single event: the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Since then, the Manchester based percussionist has released some 20 albums, each inspired by a particular event in Middle Eastern history, and characterised by there deliberately provocative packaging (Jones produces most Muslimgauze artwork, such as the example shown here). The latest, Maroon, follows in this tradition, coming with a set of commemorative PLO stamps. If Jones's muse conjures up images of violence, the music itself maps out more seductive terrain: serene and exotic soundscapes whose rolling contours conjure up endless deserts.

Speaking to Jones, his intentions are clear: to use the music of Muslimgauze to convey his own sense of injustice and outrage, and to encourage others to examine the cause of it. When I put it to him that this is essentially a politicised approach he is quick to dissociate the act of creation with the artefact itself. "The music isn't political, but the making of the music is; it's influenced politically. But we don't preach; that's why there are no lyrics."

Even though he is the sole member, Jones uses the pronoun 'we' consistently when referring to Muslimgauze. He claims that he wants it to be viewed as a 'group', but it seems symptomatic of something deeper, a conscious desire to submerge his persona within the guiding philosophy of his muse. Although not a practicing Muslim, this willing subjugation of the individual to the greater force bears more than a passing resemblance to the Islamic faith.

In fact, it's easy to draw comparisons between Jones's personal situation and those of the people he so vociferously champions. The unshakeable faith in his own beliefs smacks of fundamentalism: his attitude to his continuing obscurity is as fatalistic as his belief that the conflict in Palestine will never be resolved; and the very fact that he is unrecognised in his own land - the majority of Muslimgauze sales come, surprisingly, from America - is an ironic reflection of the plight of the Palestinian's, outlawed from a land that they regard as rightfully theirs.

Jones is a sincere, driven man, yet his vision is a singular one. What would he do if the Middle East conflict were resolved? Would he be forced to stop making music? "No, we'd look for other oppressed peoples, Tibetans, Afghans, to champion."

article by Peter McIntyre
This text and picture originally appeared in The Wire magazine (issue # 136).
Reproduced by permission.
The Wire on-line index.

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