Aural Intifada: Exploring the Legacy of Muslimgauze
By Logan McRay
“The occupation of Palestine by Zionist terrorists is a strong influence. All the trouble in the Middle-East is down to Israel.” – Muslimgauze interview with Chain D.L.K
In 1982, British musician Bryn Jones started a percussive electronic musical project named Muslimgauze in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. During his brief life (he died in 1999 of a blood infection at the age of 37), Jones was able to amass a staggering discography that is still growing. As of this writing, Muslimgauze has over 200 releases on various formats and record labels. The music of Muslimgauze draws from Arabic influences in its sound and artwork. Pieces are mostly instrumental and at times play for 20 minutes or more. Jones uses an array of effects and editing for texture, though to unaccustomed ears, it is difficult to distinguish songs from one another. The appeal of the project is more an aesthetic one. Cover artwork frequently displays armed fighters in opposition to Israeli forces. The enduring subject of his releases is the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Album titles such as “Fuck Israel” and "The Rape of Palestine” are par for the course. This is clearly an inseparable mix of ideology and art.
Combing through various interviews conducted with Bryn Jones, it’s hard to pinpoint why Israel’s conflicts with its Arab neighbors resonated so deeply with him. He never traveled to the Middle East and was not Muslim himself. He was a White, British man fully ensconced artistically and emotionally in the struggle of a foreign people. He essentially made it his life’s work to ally himself with a cause many still find controversial based on feelings of an inherent injustice. As ubiquitous as the entertainment industries’ monolithic push to end apartheid in South Africa was in the 1980’s (“Sun City”), the cause of the Palestinians persists much to the consternation of the powerful contingent of pro-Israel voices in Western entertainment and government.
Of the other artists that have taken up the cause of Palestinian struggle for sovereignty, most notably is Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame. It is not uncommon for Waters to refer to the “fascism” of Israel and equate its treatment of Palestinians to Germany’s National Socialist policies towards Jews. This has caused many in the Jewish community to label Waters a “Jew hater.” For his part, Waters denies anti-Semitism and purports to have Jewish friends and relatives. However, to this day Waters calls for boycotts of Israel and many musicians and artists follow suit. The potential of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement opposed to Israeli policies is seen as such a threat to government policy that in the United States, legislation has been passed to essentially outlaw criticism of Israel on college campuses. (Editor’s Note: The Trump administration supports this law and even the LA Times thinks it’s dangerous. That should tell you everything you need to know about President Trump’s stance on the JQ. ~JW)
The consistent focus that Muslimgauze honed keeps these issues in the public consciousness even years after the death of its originator. Limited record pressings list at over $1,000 from private sellers and boutique labels (such as Staalplaat) exist mainly as a vehicle to keep the discography intact and growing. Modern acts like Dominick Fernow’s Vatican Shadow exist in direct aesthetic lineage; though criticisms of Israel specifically are lacking in this case. It is not uncommon to hear Muslimgauze played on any random college radio station. (Editor's Note: This is fascinating and I had never heard of Muslimgauze before this article. Unfortunately, I suspect that Bryn Jones took up the Palestinian cause as a White, British man because he was filling a void of meaning and identity he had in his own life. We see artists and the public at large doing this more and more frequently which is why we need to continue encouraging our people to take up their own cause and embrace the identity which was gifted to them by our ancestors via thousands of years of pain and struggle. ~JW)
For a modern right-wing example of an instrumental musician using unique sounds and visuals to promote a message, look no further than synth-wave artist Xurious. Using a mixture of 80’s nostalgic synthesizer nods and modern production and composition expertise, Xurious has become a fixture of podcasts, videos and playlists. The message is a reaffirmation of the European soul and consciousness. Despite the avoidance of “hateful” content, the powers that be deemed this a problem. In 2018 his YouTube channel was removed after tens of thousands of views due to inappropriate content; for instrumental music!
Therein lies the challenge for right wing or Identitarian artists. Devoid of overt statements such as “Fuck Israel” there is still something inherently more dangerous about them to the orthodoxy. Bryn Jones was able to cultivate a staggering amount of material, take a controversial stance on a sensitive topic, and still remain a respected artist in most circles. But the cause he was advocating for existed in a distant land and absent from most headlines. If he was alive today and explored the dispossession of native Britons by a never-ending influx of migrants and the intentional destruction of those people by global interests, would he soon become a pariah? If the problem is in your own backyard, is it impolite to call attention to it?
If nothing else, Muslimgauze is a tribute to work ethic. Through sheer force of will, artists can be heard on their own terms. There are audiences willing to search for “dangerous” or “dissident” material. The music industry model has changed dramatically in just the last 20 years (compact discs! what?) and new methods of distribution allow for circumvention of traditional suppliers. Forward thinking artists should not be dismayed by those that censor and slander them. The courage of their convictions will be the measure of their worth.