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 Muslimgauze
Bryn Jones
Jan 14, 1999
Age 38 

Pneumonia  
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NY TIMES
 
    
Bryn 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 years.  

 
Islamaphonia
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. 

 
 
 
       
 

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Bryn Jones was not a practicing Muslim and never went to the Middle East. His recordings as Muslimgauze however, qualified him as one of the Western artists most explicitly slanted in his favor of the Palestinian liberation movement. Since the Manchester native's works were instrumental, most of the political statement was inherent in the packaging: witness titles such as Fatah Guerrilla, Return of Black September, Hebron Massacre, Vote Hezbollah, United States of Islam and The Rape of Palestine. Jones could have been a potentially controversial figure if his releases were available in anything except severely limited editions -- usually less than one thousand copies of each.  Despite their lack of prominence, Jones' blend of found-sound Middle Eastern atmospheres with heavily phased drones and colliding rhythm programs were among the most startling and unique in the noise underground. 

 Formed in 1982 to protest the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Muslimgauze's first release was the Hammer & Sickle EP, which appeared in 1983 as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  During the 1980s, Jones averaged almost two Muslimgauze albums per year, plus additional EPs and limited releases (of 500 copies each). With 1990's Intifaxa, he earned his first release on Extreme Records, an American label with releases by Robert Rich and Paul Schütze. Five albums followed for Extreme in the next four years, while a half-dozen were released on the Dutch Staalplaat, distributed in the States as well through Soleilmoon. As the decade progressed, Muslimgauze output became even more concentrated -- five albums in 1994, six a year later, and an unbelievable eight LPs in 1996. The experimental/noise underground increased in visibility during the late '90s, with Muslimgauze productions gradually encompassing heavier beats and a style close in execution to post-industrial beat-heads Techno Animal, Download and Scorn. The Muslimgauze project ended tragically in 1999 when Jones died suddenly of a rare blood disease; a number of posthumous releases including Lo-Fi India Abuse and the nine-disc Box of Silk and Dogs soon followed. -- John Bush, All Music Guide

 
 
   
 
 

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