Jones, Pro-Palestinian Music Innovator, Dies at 38
By NEIL STRAUSS
Bryn Jones, who recorded dozens of CDs of experimental music under the
name Muslimgauze, died on Jan. 14 in Manchester, England. He was 38.
The cause was pneumonia derived from a rare fungal infection in his bloodstream,
said Geert-Jan Hobijn, who released Jones' music on his Dutch record label, Staalplaat.
Muslimgauze occupied a strange place in the musical world. He was a powerful,
prolific innovator, releasing albums that were alternately beautiful and
visceral, full of ambient electronics, polyrhythmic drumming and all kinds
of voices and sound effects. The recordings earned him a devoted following in
underground, experimental and industrial music circles worldwide.
But the albums' liner notes and titles were dogmatically pro-Palestinian,
a rarity among Western musicians in general but especially unusual in one
from Manchester who was not Muslim and had never visited the Middle East.
Some said Jones was aiming for shock value, but those who knew him described
him as a shy, mysterious man who was serious in his political beliefs and never
wavered from his commitment to music.
He began making music in 1982, Jones said, as a response to Israel's invasion
of Lebanon. Each album was inspired by a political event, from massacres to
peace accords. In the notes to albums like "United States of Islam," Jones
wrote that "support for the PLO has been a source of influence upon the music of Muslimgauze."
Jones recorded 92 albums with titles like "Hamas Arc" and "Vote Hezbollah,"
references to militant Islamic groups. He released some music only on DAT
tapes and one album packaged with table tennis paddles (a limited edition
of 500, dedicated to the Iranian female Olympic table tennis team), and he
was known for his provocative artwork.
The cover of an album from 1993 featured a close-up of Yasser Arafat and
the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, clasping hands after their
historic peace accord with the album title "Betrayal," emblazoned on
Arafat's hand. As his career progressed, Jones became more prolific, sending his record
label tapes for one album a week.
Hobijn said he had enough material to release Muslimgauze albums five more
|Bryn Jones was born and lived his life
in Manchester, England. He was the driving force behind the musical project
known as Muslimgauze. Bryn became ill in late December/early January, having
contracted a rare blood fungus that eventually took its toll on his immune
system. He was admitted to the Royal Northern Hospital and eventually developed
pneumonia and had to be moved to Hope Hospital Intensive care in Manchester.
The kidney machine that was stabilizing him had to be switched off and
he passed away.
Bryn was of course most known to the world
for his political and musical obsession, Muslimgauze. He worked tirelessly
for 17 years defining an entire genre of music all his own. The Muslimgauze
landscape is lush, densely populated, tense and beautiful, reflecting the
Palestinian dilemma and the Arab world, which were endless sources of inspiration
for him. Indisputably Bryn was the Sultan of a desert kingdom he alone
created, one grain of sand at a time.
His discography dwarfs nearly every other
musician in the world of electronic music. Each album was like a region
in his Emirate, each track, a vignette captured on a postcard or an evening
newscast telling the troubled story of his people. Though born in the UK
and certainly of English blood, his people were of course, the Arabs, the
Palestinians, and the oppressed. Bryn fought for them with each album,
drawing more and more people to an awareness and a better understanding
of their situation.
Bryn boldly told the story of the Middle
East, as much with words as with sounds and concepts. Bryn single-handedly
brought the Middle East to us forcefully; sometimes it was unpleasant,
violent and uncompromising, other times marvelous, beautiful, exotic, and
noble. His rhythmic brushes painted endless portraits of mothers sobbing,
markets bustling, old men pleading, young maidens singing, and too many
men tragically dying. Bryn brought the realities of the Middle East to
our ears, eyes, minds and hearts.
We have lost so much, an entire genre is
missing from the world with Bryn gone. Consider how many people you know
who have at least one Muslimgauze release in their collection. People from
all corners of the music world, ambient, techno, idm, gothic, dub, trip-hop,
ethno-tribal, industrial, ethereal… everyone has at least heard of him.
The ramification of his death will leave a deep chasm of silence where
once was beautiful sound.