Fessari Ahmed art work

Muslimgauze is the alias of one person in Manchester, England who sympathizes, as I do, with the Palestinian plight. Through art and music Bryn Jones gives voice to the suppressed who are subjected to media fascism daily. Terrorist organisations, like Hamas, are a typical topic of Bryn Jones' work, as well as anything else that fights against the nation-state of Israel. In a recent interview he was quoted as saying "the music can be listened to without appreciation of it's political origin, but I hope that after listening the person asks why it's called what it is called and from this finds out more about the subject. It's up to them. Go out and discover."

I myself have read a copy of the holy Quran as well as associated with the Muslim community here in this country, but all this well after being exposed to, as well as irrelevant to, I might add, Muslimgauze. Since my father's death, which lead to my self-burial into the punk world, I have repeatedly run into the name Muslimgauze, in readings and on radio stations of larger cities. I only recently began to pay attention to this group including the purchase of a couple of CDs. The issues Bryn Jones tackles in his art and music are also concerns which I share, but do not fully understand.

Living in America it is sooooooo difficult to receive news that is not biased against the Islamic world. America's vendetta against the Islamic world, more specifically the Middle East, is of no secrecy to anyone. Foreign policy in that area of the world has been focused on destroying the OPEC alliance, for obvious reasons; $. Muslimgauze is a mind bomb intentionally set to destroy the head of Western State.

"Muslimgauze's output has mushroomed over the past two years, which have provide a ceaseless, violent muse for Jones's insistent drums and musing electronics" stated Richard Gear in an article in the Village Voice (28 Act 94). In my experience dabbling in Islam, (everything from praying in a mosque in PBX to looking for the American Sufi order on the west side of Manhattan) nothing consistently holds my devotional habits more a tune than the music of Muslimgauze (no pun intended). "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."

Approaching this musical group from my Christian upbringing is no easy task. Baptized in the self-sacrifice of Christ before I could say "goo", I am equally disturbed by the fascist tendencies inherent in much of Islam. Typically I would consider myself an animist or an atheist, but this is easier said than done. Muslimgauze seems to hold the rudiments of an ancient order of souls/like-minded free individuals. For instance, even though he is the sole member, Jones uses the pronoun "we" consistently when referring to Muslimgauze. He claims he wants it to be viewed as a "group", but it seems symptomatic of something deeper, a conscious desire to merge his persona within this guiding philosophy of his muse. Although not a practicing Muslim, this willing subjugation of the self to the greater force bears more than a passing resemblance to the "submission to God" that is Islamic faith.

"In fact," writes Peter McIntyre, in issue #136 of "The Wire" magazine "it's easy to draw comparisons between personal situation and those of the people he 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 unrecognized 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."

Even though Bryn Jones has never been to the Middle East, neither have I, and yet I am sure, just as anyone or everyone who has or hasn't been there, will be easily drawn to such an atmosphere evoked by Muslimgauze. The music of Muslimgauze, like the writings of Isabelle Eberhardt, remind me of some piece of my past I was supposed to forget. "The radical Islamic increases poverty. The Algerians want change; if one looks at what happens there now. It is their problem, the outside interests don't have a word to say in this country," stated Jones in a recent interview where he was questioned on the subject of Algeria.

Fusing modern technology with traditional sounds, Muslimgauze evoke Allah's world like the best of songs of the late Nusret Fateh Ali Khan, if not better. Taken from an e-mail list on the subject of Muslimgauze one recipient had this to say: "I know this is gonna sound idiotic, but I have yet to hear a bum release ... I guess it's because his releases are usually quite alike, yet not formulaic ... in other words, there are no surprises like a radical music redirection .. . you know what you're gonna get, and if you like that type of anthemic, semi-ambient, mid-eastern industrial, droney type thing you can't go wrong."

I've only heard a handful, or so, of Muslimgauze releases, but I'd have to agree with the above statement. The artwork, as well, is equally stupendous. Islamic artwork forbids the depiction of human and other natural forms, so it primarily consists of calligraphy and geometric designs, which mimic things in nature. Most anyone is familiar with the world famous Taj Mahal, and mosques around the world are revered by architects for their efficient use of resources, durability, as well as aesthetic. The art of Islam incorporates mankind's inclination to escape. "You cannot go on feeling violently all the time - the human organism does not allow it. But an idea persists; once you have persuaded yourself of it's truth, an idea justifies the continuance in cold blood of actions which emotions could only have dictated in the heat of the moment. Indeed it does more than justify actions' feelings; it imposes them" (Aldous Huxley).

Muslimgauze have been making sounds to crush the Judeo/Christian corporate alliance for well over fifteen years and continues at an alarming rate, often releasing two albums or more a year. At the beginning of the 80's, a many layered sound-network began in the debris of the fertile Industrial wasteland, to assume the shape of Muslimgauze. "Becoming increasingly political, Muslimgauze earned itself a name for rhythmic patter; the pulsating, interwoven western and eastern music traditions.

"From industrial raga to somewhere between ambient dub and eastern ethnic percussion, it is difficult to nail down the typical Muslimgauze sound, albeit there is one. The strong and unequivocal affinities for the Middle Eastern topic are the most obvious about the releases, particularly in this decade. Muslimgauze embodies one of the most uncompromising, something that one could disagree with, pro-Arab stands that one can think of. When meeting Bryn Jones one expects to find an extreme, militaristic freak armed with spray bottles and hand grenades, pulling arms for the Palestinian concerns, as his CDs suggest. This quickly disappears as Bryn Jones, a.k.a. Muslimgauze, has one of the most inconspicuous, shyest, reserved natures that one could meet on Earth. Both his physiognomy, as well as his clothing style, falls far from being extreme in any manner, closer to the category of Nerd tastelessness that would not even be cool to name. A skinny, taciturn fellow is responsible for one of the most uncompromising and richest flowing formations of the post-industrial era? Now, why not? Finally seclusion and loner-hood have brought forth some scraps about the artist, which a critic could sink their teeth into. It is good, that he is"(#1).

"Like peace in the Middle East, I also doubt Muslimgauze has any possibility of receiving any airplay on all major radio stations. Despite the fact that Israel is almost everywhere, one can begin to conceive of the atrocities this nation has bestowed upon the Palestinian's. After more than fifty releases Muslimgauze continue to defy total credibility, although seemingly possessing a clear, if extreme, political stance and transparent intentions in a fanatical support for the Palestinian cause. He is not a Muslim, an Arab or even a descendant of the Middle East. In fact he has never been to Palestine and openly admits that he has no ambition of ever going at all. He does not even maintain any contact with Arabs in and around his home town of Manchester, England. In a way, he even disassociates himself from Arab culture and yet he admits to open disgust and revulsion at Israel's treatment of the Arabs, predominantly fuelled by his naked hatred of Israel's occupation of Palestine. Apparently, this strength of conviction started nearly 15 years ago with Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Of course, Fringecore in no way judges his conviction or beliefs. This is free speech, free view press. It is just that I feel the mixing in of Sadaam Hussein, bombed out Iraqi dessert shots on Album covers (even though I do not in any way agree they should have been banned), and other unrelated issues just because they occur in the same geographical vicinity , diminish the integrity of the original cause. Muslimgauze will continue to be a force for equality in the world for Palestinian's"(#2).

Quote #1 was taken from the February 1997 Artefakt interview and #2 from the Fringecore article of the same month and year.

article by Max Bliven
graphic by Algerian Muslim artist Fessari Ahmed
This text and artwork originally appeared in Passive Lobotomy Press #15.
2500 NW Regency #106
Bend, Oregon

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