"The Israeli occupiers have made all possible efforts that could be made by any colonialist to change the face of Palestine and deny the existence of the Palestinian's." - Yasser Arafat, 1998 (from the CD artwork of Observe With Sadiq Bey).
William S. Burroughs once wrote that Arabic music seemed to work on what he called "hashish time," evolving without discernible beginnings and weaving and drifting endlessly through the air. With releases numbering over 100 and counting, the politically-themed and rhythmically-driven message of Muslimgauze continues to thrive with no end in sight, despite the sudden death of its driving force, Bryn Jones (1961-1999).
The Manchester native began recording in 1983, citing the previous year's invasion of Lebanon by Israeli forces as his inspiration. Despite his pro-Palestinian focus, Jones was not an Arab, nor was he a Muslim. But his anger at the pro-Israel bias of Western media outlets spawned the artwork and slogans which surrounded his incredibly large musical output with controversy. Titles like 'Fatah Guerrilla', 'Hebron Massacre', 'The Rape of Palestine' and 'Vote Hezbollah' viscerally cemented the Muslimgauze aesthetic.
While obviously not the first or last musician to use taboo as a springboard into inspiration, Jones' particular choice of motif was and is sometimes viewed - like many anti-Israel sentiments - as automatically and unequivocally anti-Semitic. While there is obviously a tremendous amount of difference between these two attitudes, they have been virtually joined together for the last 50 years. Though Muslimgauze artwork and liner notes have sometimes vigorously displayed support for the Arab struggles in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Chechnya, among others, there are no signs of any actual religious bigotry to be found.
In the small number of interviews he gave, anger and bitterness - covering everything from politics to album sales - comes through most harshly, along with a seemingly simplistic view of Middle Eastern politics. This small amount of public persona we have seen contrasts very sharply with the portrait painted by those who knew him.
The man behind the music, according to those who worked with Jones, was surprisingly soft-spoken and polite, considering the misconceptions his artwork and titles led many people to form. Jones' music was as unpopular with the general public as his message and motif. His output stretches across many genres and techniques; the one central Muslimgauze focus is rhythm. from the pulsings of slower, the desert ambience of the early albums to the extended percussion sessions and harsh gyrations of beats and bass which emerged from later Muslimgauze output.
Because his record labels have promised to continue releasing the many recordings Jones so frequently sent them, his legacy will live on. If nothing else, Jones' will have a better chance at succeeding with at least one of his oft-stated wishes in interviews; the Muslimgauze experience will prompt some to seek out a more-accurate and less-biased source of news and information on a culture, people and politics continually denied full access in Western media outlets.
article by: Michael O'Connor
This text originally appeared on Disinformation