|Umělec magazine 2000/4 >> Muslimgauze Islam a la Manchester||List of all editions.|
Muslimgauze Islam a la ManchesterUmělec magazine 2000/4
David Lochsmidt | islam | en cs
"Bryn Jones (1961-1999), former citizen of Manchester, rarely explained or commented on the politically motivated work in his CD booklets. The titles of individual compositions almost always concerned events in Islamic regions; other times they represented names of high-ranking political and religious figures, and statements—the subjective opinion of the composer summed up in one word or sentence.
The music was secondary to Jones—a medium for promoting his political stance to the issues of the Near East. The Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 1982 was what first provoked Jones to use music to support the besieged country. His intention was to raise new questions in listeners concerning the causes of the conflict in the Near East, to add color to the black and white vision of the West.
Political events in the Near East the only influences for Muslimgauze. Jones strictly refused to answer the frequent and insipid questions on whether he was influenced by somebody else’s music or what music he liked to listen to. He would respond: “I don’t listen to the music of other groups or individuals; perhaps I’ll overhear something on the radio. I’m most influenced by occupied Palestine, Hamas, Hisbollah, Iran…”
Disinterest or Fear?
In 1995, Bryn Jones was invited to Prague to present his work. He replied: “Thanks for the interest and time on Radio 1. I don’t think that there are many people in Prague who would like to see Muslimgauze live. Sorry to say this, but I think that it doesn’t make any sense for me to travel that far. If you can’t find a CD, let me know. Soon I’m releasing the CDs Gun Aramaic and Izlamaphobiq, as well as the vinyl made in Bohemia.”
The Dutch label Staalplaat, which put out much of his work, warned me that it was almost impossible to communicate with Muslimgauze. They got everything from Jones on DAT tapes mailed to their address without ever meeting the musician. Still, I addressed Jones once again and asked whether he had previously had a bad experience with Bohemia because he had rejected the performance in such an abrupt manner. “No, I’m neither disappointed nor am I angry with the Czechs. There is very little interest in Muslimgauze in any country; I’m sorry but that’s the way it is. It’s up to people to buy my CDs. I’m glad you can get copies published by Staalplaat, even in your country. Staalplaat will soon release a new vinyl made there.” Quite brief, wouldn’t you say? Brevity and clarity of expression were typical of Jones’s work. If you wrote a two-page letter, he would respond with three sentences.
I Don’t Pack My Opinions in Silk!
From his first CD Iran, Jones’s approach to work did not change. “The CD Iran was released years ago; it’s the first CD, I think I made it in 1981. It’s a very good CD compared to other musical trash.” In this letter, he also wrote: “I hope that everything is good in Havel’s Bohemia.” He also responded to the fact that an Israeli politician was awarded the White Lion award. “Let’s hope that Yasser Arafat will also get a White Lion soon. This is another example of the one-sided attitude the West is assuming.” In another letter, he expressed joy over the fact that I liked his album Zul’m and hoped that more people would be touched by his music. At the same time he clarified the uncertainty regarding the number of people working on the Muslimgauze project: “Yes, I am Muslimgauze, it is all my work, my ideas. I am inspired by Arabic culture and politics.” This was immediately followed by this sentence: “I hope that Zionism will die under Arabic culture. The vile Israeli regime will die a painful death at the hands of Palestine youth. Israeli occupied Palestine must be returned to the Arabs whether it’s through dialogue, bombings or war.”
An Oasis in Prague
“It’s standard that almost nobody likes Muslimgauze. You can’t follow everything that is written about you—connections between music and the political content. I don’t mind what is written on the Internet. I’m pleased never to have used a computer.” This was the answer to a question on whether Jones knew about his interview on the Internet. In the same letter he wrote: “There will be more and more music released—this is good—and I hope that people will be taken back by this. I hope that a few people will start to think.” This skeptical tone was typical for Jones. Yet he did not give up hoping. He still believed his activities were correct but it was hard to find moments of enthusiasm or joy. He didn’t show the slightest sign of excitement when an evening of his music was in preperation. He responded: “From day one, Muslimgauze got 99% bad press, which is all right; that’s not important. Muslimgauze considers using a computer a failure. I’ve never used and never will use a computer. I make my music for political reasons, not for money as everybody else is doing. Concerning the evening, it will be empty. It’s actually great to play music to an empty auditorium… or if music reaches the deaf, like all the years with Staalplaat… Try it! OK, all the best to good king Wenceslas!” Jones then received a ticket for the Muslimgauze evening and a message that fliers had been distributed and that a poster was pasted up in the theater’s cafe. “It’s a great idea to get high on caffeine! Perhaps it’s the only way to wake up the mind. The poster will come in handy too—great! It seems that the theater will suffer after this evening.” The Muslimgauze evening was attended by 180 people and for the first time Jones showed a little of the vain artist: “Many more people than I expected! I hope they discovered something. Thank you for the time and effort. Excellent. Most of the regions of this world are a desert for Muslimgauze. The Prague oasis is most welcome.”
“Pro-Arab - Anti-Zionist Europe” (Muslimgauze)
“Sharing the pro-Arab ideas is unusual. Israeli propaganda is everywhere. Damned regime. It’s good if Muslimgauze opens the gate to Arab culture for somebody; it’s much richer than anything Zionist.” Jones saw only bad in everything Israeli and the advantages coming from the Israel - US alliance. “It’s very difficult to find people whose minds are open. The interest in Arabic culture in the eyes of the West equals a disease. Israel must kiss the US’s ass every day and express gratitude for the dollars and weapons they’re using to kill women and children in Lebanon.” Muslimgauze was one way to approach Arabic culture. As Jones says: “Any promotion of Muslimgauze in Bohemia would be good, but it is difficult. Yet everything that enriches the lives of listeners must naturally be good.” Jones even believed that Iran would also influence the Czech Republic. It is however unclear whether he meant the state of Iran or his CD. A pro-Arab—anti-Zionist Europe, this is the future, according to Jones, who also closely watched development in former Yugoslavia and Chechnya.” Both Bosnia and Chechnya need to breathe Islamic freedom; Afghanistan also got rid of Communist invaders. There is great interest in the culture of Iran. All the best in 1996, let’s hope for an Islamic Bosnia.”
Although Jones had never visited any countries in the Near East, his knowledge of its history, culture, and politics was outstanding. People who came from the region confirmed this. When asked whether he had ever visited the Middle East, Jones answered: “I would never visit an occupied country. Nobody should travel there. The mooching off of Arab lands and water by Israel is no tourist attraction. It’s not important to be part of it. I think that criticizing apartheid is possible without living directly in South Africa; I also think that it is possible to criticize Serbs killing Bosnian Muslims without having it all in front of your eyes. Israel controls the media with an iron fist and the help of its friends. It’s necessary to cut through all the crap they’re feeding us and remember that Palestine is occupied by an Israel that loves American dollars.”
A Tragicomic End and All Turns to Dust
The long fingers of censorship even reached CD shops, hitting the British Virgin chain from which Muslimgauze disappeared when Arab - Israeli relations grew intense. Jones wrote: “Fewer and fewer British people listen to Muslimgauze. Everything that said Muslimgauze on it was stripped away following the threats of lobby groups. Freedom of expression for the pro-Israeli and anti-Arab factions, and you keep quiet all pro-Arab and anti-Israeli groups. Muslimgauze always had problems and it seems they will only get bigger.”
Although a (fabricated!?) interview with Muslimgauze appeared on the Internet, Jones denied he would ever give one. Naturally I informed Muslimgauze regularly about developments in the Czech Republic and responded to his questions, such as: “Who is Gerd Albrecht?” or “What the hell is Sudetenland?” The year the Queen of the UK visited the Czech Republic, Jones wrote: “It’s good to see that the Queen made a good performance in Bohemia.” And then he radically changed the topic: “Let’s hope that more Russian soldiers will be killed in Chechnya before they set off on another invasion.” While the following remark would be completely incomprehensible without first mentioning mad cow disease: “Lech Walesa may save Poland, the Czechs may join our Euro club, we will have enough beef for everybody.” And other remarks: “All criminals should be decapitated just like in Saudi Arabia. The world is increasingly more deaf… To hell with it. Iran will expand its sphere of influence and the West will intervene again. Let’s hope that Hamas will continue with its hard strikes.”
Such remarks cannot make anybody happy, and it made perfect sense that Jones asked himself: “Is it such a problem to hear something radical? But it’s good to be separated from the chaff.”
Staalplaat promise that all Muslimgauze will be released. Bryn Jones flooded this Dutch company with a number of DAT tapes, which will be made into CDs over the next five years. After that there won’t be any more material because Bryn Jones died of pneumonia in a Manchester hospital last year. He lost his fight for the liberation of Palestine in a fight with Death.
Thanks to Mr V. Fakher, originally of Syria, for the invaluable advice and help in explaining the images.
Translated by Vladan Šír
Images from booklets and CD’s of Muslimgauze