Muslimgauze, a political experiment in music
Not as a means of creating as much noise and din.

Muslimgauze is an original and experimental musical phenomenon born in the 1980s/1990s in the midst of an avant-garde electronic explosion. Some critics still call it an "unidentified political-musical meteor." Born from a work of hybridization where we find pell-mell musical genres such as ambient, noisy, tribal, industrial and experimental, it feeds on elements of Western and Eastern cultures. In other words, this music syncretizes styles, techniques and cultures.


1 – Multiple origins...

Coming from the industrial and experimental music scene, Muslimgauze, whose real name is Bryn Jones, is an artist from the profusion of the English Underground.

Even if in experimental music melodies are rare, rhythmic breaks numerous and voluble, repetitive and insistent, some critics classify him in the category of ethnic British musicians.

In reality, this music is first and foremost the fruit of an artistic milieu, that of Manchester musical. It is also the expression of a specific social and political era, marked by Margaret Thatcher's liberal economic reforms.

However, whatever musical name is given to it, this eclectic current is fundamentally revolutionary in the sense that it sets in motion all existing music, destroys musical codes and overturns its principles.

Bryn Jones will confess, during rare interviews, some initial and formative influences of the moment such as the band Can (band) and the phenomenon of Krautrock (German progressive, experimental and psychedelic rock of the late 1960s, mainly represented by bands from West Germany), or bands like Faust (band), Tangs and Throbbing Gristle.

Subsequently, the British artist experimented with this musical vein by creating "E. g. Oblique Graph", he went beyond the zeitgeist, even becoming post-punk and post-industrial by the stylistic break with traditional music. At the same time, it suppresses the rhetoric and introduces a strong political commitment.

The examples of Joe Strummer of the Clash, or Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols are almost contemporaneous with Bryn Jones' work.

His first album, in this vein, is called "Completely Oblique". (ed. This is not the 1st E.g Oblique Graph album. It is a compilation of all That material.) No less than seven albums followed under the same name. Examples of tracks or albums such as Extended Play, Triptych, Inhalt perfectly illustrate this first approach.

Completely Oblique OpaquesNecronomiconTriptychPiano Room

2 – Varied political choices

It was in September 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, then in the midst of a civil war, that the name Muslimgauze appeared.

It is a deliberate and conscious choice on the part of the committed artist. The musical originality of Muslimgauze and its political dimension give birth to a vagabond music that materializes to the ear as so many a-melodic illustrations of our conflictual contemporaneities.

Bryn Jones constructs a new concept in a total freedom of tone and creation, Music and Politics come together and become one in a breathtaking work.

Let's let the artist tell us himself the vision he has of his work:

"I start with a political fact, an event, a story, etc. From that comes an idea, from my head and with my hands, I create the song. I leave a few sounds in order to keep the final track as basic as possible, to keep the idea and the song as raw as possible. I'm still working on tape machines, adding sounds, doubling down on DAT and so on, testing. I've never touched computers or samplers, I use analog equipment, old tapes, amps, anything. I hope that Muslimgauze sounds unique, detached, not belonging to any musical formula. I don't like using computers, I like the raw result of analog.", in HartZine: E.g. Oblique Graph. – Complete Oblique

Azzazin Uzi MahmoodWish Of The FlayedJaagheed Zarb

3 – The originality of Muslimgauze

Adding elements of oriental influences carried by Western techniques, this crossing is the very DNA of his musical work, as its name suggests, a Muslim gauze or muslin (a piece of fabric with crossed threads originating from Gaza), and thus translates his preoccupations, always musical, but also socio-political.

«For around ten years, Muslim gauze have been creating their own mix of western and eastern cultures, influenced by the middle east and the PLO, their releases are interesting musically as well as thought provoking politically.»

The work of musical hybridization will be refined over time with an ever more accentuated desire to surpass and to mix assumedly, as in a patchwork work. The essentials of musical or 'noiseal' phrasing will always remain intrinsically 'minimalist' and 'unstructured', Bryn Jones mixes music, sounds, noises and voices.

Minimalist music is repetitive, serial, even very close to its postmodern and experimental concept. In the same way as in Muslimgauze's work, it is built on the juxtaposition of words, sequences, short sounds as well as on what is called in this artistic movement the regular pulsation (a kind of absolute musical phoneme).

Some of the most important exponents of this vein are, for example, Steve Reich, John Cage, Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

Some will say that if you listen to Muslimgauze, you will also listen to a little Steve Reich (Steve Reich, between revolution and tradition) or vice versa.

Example: Steve Reich – Piano phase Vs E.g. Oblique Graph. – Piano Room or Muslimgauze – United States of Islam

«His music has been variously described as expressive recordings of drums, synth and percussion ideas, percussive based experimental sound, using western instruments with an eastern approach.»

This music, built in fragments, is not always accessible. Deliberate fracking is undoubtedly confusing, but above electro-experimental West-East encounter with, in the background, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would thus be a "postmodern, artistic-political" meditation that could be likened to a Goethian anti-diwan*. The dialogue and the encounter would be summed up in a jerky musical lament at the other end of the centuries when harmony has finally disappeared.

To give an example, the cross-pollination of his music is fully felt in the album "Zul'm" (cruelty or unjust acts of exploitation, oppression and mischief), whose particularity is to be punctuated with samples of instruments, Arabic voices and oriental songs. The album with multiple motives unfolds on a melody that seems disturbing in this atypical universe. The presence of darbuka or quanun is not incongruous, quite the contrary. These instruments give it an originality and impressive beauty.

4 – Originally was oppression and anti-imperialism

Concerned in his own way with the history of the Muslim world and its culture, more particularly that of the Middle East, Muslimgauze questions this hyphen which can be interpreted as that of the separation between two cultural entities, Western and Eastern. He highlights these ruptures and takes sides in an unmanageable and insurmountable conflict.

The reminder of historical events is an antiphon that can be found through the titles and iconography of album covers such as: 'Abu Nidal' (founder of Fatah), 'Return of Black September' or 'Coup d'état', 'Hajj', 'LPO', 'Hamas arc', 'Vote Hezbollah', 'Fatah Guerilla', among many others.

Beyond the musical aspect, the visuals of the covers are the main medium of a conscious political message. They reflect the artist's criticism and denunciation of the oppression suffered by so many peoples in the world.

Music and image are the pretext for a tense dialogue with the Other, a dialogue whose impossibility finds expression in a body of work immense in its quality and volume (around 300 albums in the space of one to two decades).

Even if the Muslimgauze experience gives the impression of being exclusively concerned with only one part of the world, his first albums already addressed the question of destructive imperialism with the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro's Cuba and his regime, or De Gaulle's France.

By the time he experienced the "E. g. Oblique Graph", Bryn Jones had begun his work as an artistic and intellectual undermining artist with titles such as: Milena Jesenska (journalist, writer and translator, friend of Franz Kafka), Soviet occupied territories, Homily to Jerzy Popieluszko (Chaplain of the Solidarność trade union murdered by the Polish state security services). The album Flajelata is dedicated to all the dissidents of the Soviet Union.

There is also a surprising track: "Murders Linked To Gaullist Clique" which is a musical diatribe on the excesses of "Gaullist colonization" (with a surprising sound use of a French radio show where we can hear in the background Chagrin D'Amour ... »

Hamas Arc Return Of Black September Islamaphobia Sadaam's Children

5 – A musical tour of conflicts

It is a music that finds its raison d'être in the contemporary world of the wars of the twentieth century. Music is fragmented because history and politics are minefields of absolute destruction. It is composed of non-melodic cataclysms, in short, because these sources of inspiration are also melodic. The world of men is oppressive, their intention imperialistic.

E.g. Oblique Graph's anti-Soviet affirmation, mixed with small oriental touches, intimate premises of Muslimgauze, will only confirm this tendency of a visceral anti-imperialist commitment.

It is in the Middle East that many of the world's conflict axes are crystallized. This is perhaps also why this region is at the centre of Bryn Jones' attention, which he was able to transcend through the musical composition specific to his time and milieu.

This original work will continue thereafter, with a number of albums to his credit, in a broader questioning of the world such as: India with 'Indian summer of Benazir Bhutto', and China with Muslims of China, Missing Tibetans, or Yugoslavia with 'Last mosques of Herzegovina', black Africa with 'Abyssinia Selasie', and Poland with Under the hand of Jaruzelski.

So many titles like so many milestones in an imaginary and intellectual cartography that gradually takes shape in the mind of the listener, and which gives all its coherence to his words.

This article originally appeared on L'Influx' (October 29, 2021)
translated with the assistance of Bing Translate.

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