Since 1983 Bryn Jones, the musician known as Muslimgauze, has been producing a unique blend of music crossing modern electronic instruments with those of an ancient civilization. Muslimgauze, as the name would suggest, is heavily influenced by the rich culture surrounding the Islamic Middle East.
Inspired by the plight of the Palestinian's and other Arab conflicts in the region, Mr. Jones uses his music to make a political statement. Unlike most politically motivated musicians who spread their message with words in the form of song lyrics, Bryn Jones gets his point across through images found on cover art work and songs or album titles. With images such as photographs taken in the aftermath of violence against innocent Arabs and titles like The Rape of Palestine (1988), United States of Islam (1991), Vote Hezbollah (1993), and Occupied Territories (1996) one can't help but wonder what the meaning is. Bryn Jones does not wish to preach to his audience, instead he hopes to inspire Muslimgauze listeners to educate themselves about the injustice he sees in the middle east.
While the politics of the region are very important to Jones, he also sees another side to the Islamic world that is often forgotten. The music of Muslimgauze is heavily influenced by traditional Arabian music and contains middle-eastern percussion and instruments. The mosque (located in Afghanistan) referred to in the 1994 release Blue Mosque and Beyond the Blue Mosque (1997) is one of many architectural treasures found in this part of the world. Muslimgauze serves to remind us not only of the political struggles of the Middle East, but also of the beauty found in this remarkable culture.
Muslimgauze has releases dating fifteen years, probably longer than most people realize. Looking through your vast discography I counted about seventy total releases. Obviously you must put a great deal of time into your music, is Muslimgauze your full-time job? Does the sale of your records produce enough income to live on or do you have an occupation outside of music making?
Of course Muslimgauze is "full-time". I believe in Muslimgauze, also there is no time to do other things as well, sales are low and are not the number one priority. I exist on the income, but I do not make large sums. The music is the most important result, not how many are sold.
Your latest release is titled Mazar-I-Sharif , what does this title mean and/or what is it a reference to? Another CD titled Vampire of Tehran was released a few months ago, who is the vampire this title refers to?
Mazar-I-Sharif is a town in Afghanistan. An area I am interested in, with the Taliban, earthquakes, Islam, invasions etc... The culture of Afghanistan is excellent.
Vampire Of Tehran is based on a man, a taxi driver in Tehran who killed females. When caught he was hanged from a crane after the relatives of his victims had been allowed to flog him; justice.
The music of Muslimgauze contains a great deal of elements found in traditional Middle Eastern music. Are these sounds synthesized or do you use instruments from this culture?
Muslimgauze music contains me hitting authentic Middle-Eastern instruments, in my own way, not correct I assume, but in my way.
I produce music I want to hear, hopefully different from anything else around.
I also never use a sampler/computer, I use old analogue equipment which helps me to sound or have my own sound.
I know you are living in the United Kingdom. Have you ever lived in or visited the Middle East?
I would never visit any occupied land, when Palestine is free, I would like to visit then. Vile Israel will feel the Palestine anger in full soon I hope.
Are you a practicing Muslim?How did you become interested in Middle Eastern culture and politics?
I am not a Muslim, I don't need religion.
I became interested in the Middle-East when Israel invaded Lebanon, from this I delved deeper and the Palestine question seemed very important. The culture is very easy to like, the history is vast.
After decades of mutual mistrust and even hatred for each other, the United States and Iran appear to be working towards a more friendly relationship. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has said he wants to end the hostility between the two countries. What is your opinion on this? Do you think it is possible for the western world to remain allies with Israel and the Arab nations as well?
No, you have to decide which side you are on, support the occupation and the suppression of Palestinian human rights or want the vile regime of Israel to end. The Western world has propped up the Zionists for many years, a sickening sight.
In your opinion should the western world, Europe and the United States, be involved in Middle Eastern matters? Example (among many others): the United Nations investigating Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq wants what Israel has, I trust Iraq more than any Zionist. The West (America/Europe) should keep out of the Middle-East totally. The Bosnian Muslims did not get what Kuwait received.
What is your position on the peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO? Do you believe this ancient conflict between the two sides can be resolved peacefully? What do you predict the final out come will be?
The peace talks were never going to work. When one side has everything, talk is no good to the other side with nothing. I cannot say what the P.L.O. or Hamas should do, I don't live there. I would like to see the people receive all they deserve, if it's through direct action, then so be it.
A lot of Palestinian supporters believe too much has already been compromised by Yasser Arafat, and that the Palestinian Liberation Organization should not accept anything less than Israel returning all of its occupied land. What is your opinion of Arafat? Which is more important a peaceful compromise or the full restoration of the state of Palestine?
Yasser Arafat has for many years been doing his best for his people. He can talk, while Hamas can inflict direct action.
Full restoration of land is all important. This area of the world is important to everybody on the planet. To stall and hinder year after year is storing up trouble.
Finally, do you support the fundamentalist groups, such as the Hamas, operating in the region who have been labeled militant extremists and terrorists? What do you think of individuals, both Arabs and Israelis, who resort to acts of violence against civilians such as bus bombings, and attacks targeted at Mosques, Synagogues, and other places of public prayer?
Zionists are the militant extremists, not P.L.O. and Hamas. The settlers are the provocation. No settlers or Zionists in Palestine; then you would see an improvement there.
When you are occupied what are you to do? You must fight back, which is what Hamas have done and will do I hope. If you reduce human rights, which Israel has, then when direct action is used, you cannot complain.
article by Barry D. Scheffel
This interview originally appeared in Digital Intersect Magazine (Issue #2 Summer 1998).
Mosque artwork by M.B. Leonard.