Muslimgauze was the sound of an angry Middle East, a prolific source of music dark
. Tension was a constant theme not only in the music but in the packaging. (For example, Betrayal
shows the hands of Yassir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin, and guns, knives, and news photos of an Arab world at war were a common motif in titles and sleeve art.) However, the music wasn't the usual agitprop fare: Music meant to rile a public to a cause isn't normally pigeonholed as ambient
or musique concrete
. But the band, hidden from public view, was rumored to donate proceeds to Palestinian terrorists, and that they were eventually silenced by Mossad.
Despite the prodigious output -- issuing almost a hundred EPs and albums between 1983 and 1998, over a hundred more since -- limited distribution and perpetual obscurity ensured the rumors were easier to find than the music. While the facts about Muslimgauze have little in common with the fictions, they are, if anything, stranger...Muslimgauze
was the nom de studio of Bryn Jones
, who lived from birth to death in the same house in Manchester, England. His reclusiveness was extreme even by the standards of IDM artists, performing barely over a dozen times in sixteen years
and never visiting the Middle East that fueled his music: When one of his labels offered to pay for a trip to Palestine, he declined. Obviously pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist, Jones insisted he was not antisemitic and, for that matter, identified with the plight of people in many occupied lands. Early tracks (when there was a Soviet empire) contain references to Afghanistan, and skimming the catalog
will show mentions of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Balkans, Uzbekistan, and other points of tension between Moslems and non-Moslems, or between Moslems. Interviews indicated a perspective on the human aspects of conflicts which seemed at odds with Muslimgauze's revolutionary posture. Wit leaked around the edges of the hardass persona, such as packaging a CD between two ping-pong paddles or titling a track 'Cairopraktar'.
Jones began his recording career in 1982 as E.g. Oblique Graph. Inspired by the punk scene and DIY ethos, he released a couple cassettes of ambience and noise, occasionally with politically-themed titles. It wasn't until Israel's invasion of Lebanon that he found his idée fixe, becoming Muslimgauze in 1983 and channeling his obsession with the Arab world into his music. The intensity of his fascination seemed to fuel the intensity of his output; the official Muslimgauze catalog
lists 15 titles in 1996 on vinyl, cassette, CD and even DAT, some in editions of only a couple hundred, or an edition of one
. In later years, he began exploring reggae
in collaborations with Rootsman
, and became more active in the remixing scene. According to interviews
, he used tape loops but never samplers. In 1998, the peak of his career with 16 new albums and an unprecedented number of live dates (five concerts in five different countries), he was hospitalized with a blood infection and died early in 1999.
The owner of Soleilmoon, one of Muslimgauze's record labels, complained that Jones was shipping new material in such volume that he began stuffing them in a cardboard box
to get them out of the way. A decade later, a steady stream of new Muslimgauze recordings help foster the fanbase and broaden interest in Jones and his work. A biography
is scheduled for publication in April. Fans stay in touch on the Islamaphonia
list, and rarities are appearing on the Arabbox site
. His music continues to inspire other artists who use his music to score their documentary footage
or create music collages
of their own, ensuring that the music, and maybe the message, may wander their own ways and recombine again in new hands.