Revenge of the Mozabites (1979 LP reissued in USA on CD 2017)

SpectrumCulture.com (November 2017)
There is “world music” and then there is world music. The former is a lazy catch-all for the myriad genres spread across innumerable cultures – i.e. non-Western music – while the latter is a true cooption of the many disparate styles contained within the “world music” umbrella that, when paired together, result in something truly representative of the world as a whole. Since its inception in the late-1970s, Suns of Arqa has seen some 200 members pass through its ranks, each of whom represent a wholly different and unique cultural contribution to the group’s sound. At the center of it all is Michael Wadada who, in his global travels, collected recordings and performances with scores of musicians that he then fused into his own unique vision of world music. 

Because of the range of sounds and styles found on a Suns of Arqa album, it’s impossible to classify it as anything other than pan-global world music in its purest form. From traditional folk sounds from the British Isles to Eastern melodies to echo-y dub to flamenco and very nearly all points in between (often at the same time!), their debut album Revenge of the Mozabites plays as though the listener were constantly scanning the dial on a giant radio that managed to receive signals from all over the globe. A quick scan of the track list for Revenge gives an idea of the stylistic disparity represented throughout: “Acid Tabla”; “Sully’s Reel”; “Ananta Snake Dance”; “Sanaiscara Saturn.” The unifying thread is Wadada’s rhythmic stitching, used in such a way that these otherwise vastly different – culturally, geographically, politically, philosophically – styles come together to form a gorgeous sonic patchwork quilt. 

Given the sheer stylistic disparity contained on Reven of the Mozabites, it can, at first, be somewhat of a jarring listen; random fragments come together throughout to bridge otherwise vast physical and cultural differences. Taken together as a whole, however, they show the true universality of music as it pertains to the human experience: While the sounds and tonalities might vary greatly, the underlying principle behind each remains the same, namely to elicit some sort of emotional or visceral response from the listener. With each melded together, it becomes almost overwhelming attempting to process the many different elements competing for the same amount of sonic real estate. This wild juxtaposition shows the influence of Suns of Arqa to have spread far and wide, ranging from ambient to dub to electronic to “world music” and how each is perceived. 

Without any sort of stylistic parameters or restrictions in place, Wadada and company manage a truly liberating listening experience, one that constantly defies expectation and opens up a series of otherwise geographically remote musical ideas in a truly global sense, showing not only just how small the world really is, but how inherently similar we all are regardless of our perceived differences. It’s not for nothing that the cover image is merely that of an eye in close up, a distant Earth reflected in the pupil. Despite having been created nearly 40 years ago, Revenge of the Mozabites remains shockingly modern. Forward-thinking and utterly unique, Revenge of the Mozabites – and Suns of Arqa in general – is unlike anything else because it pulls from everything else.

Seven (1987 LP reissued in USA on CD 2017)

Corbett vs Dempsey (October 2017)
Perhaps the greatest record in the Suns of Arqa discography, Seven was released in 1987 and was in fact the band’s fifth LP. With its stunning cover design and outlandishly ambitious sound, steeped in dub but festooned with plainchant and Indian music, it was alone in the market, its closest relatives maybe African Head Charge or New Age Steppers, but with a host of original ideas and musical intersections and an incredible, almost unthinkable cast of participants. Among the singers is the British singer-songwriter Helen Watson, punk poet John Cooper Clarke, talk-over star Prince Hammer, and comedic genius Professor Stanley Unwin, all of whom offer their unique and unconventional words to the dub stew. A powerhouse Jamaican rhythm section is filtered through sitar, shenai, santoor, and tabla, hurdy-gurdy and pennywhistle, strings and saxophone, all orchestrated by the inimitable Michael Wadada, founding father of Suns of Arqa. On this reissue, Seven’s first time available in the U.S., the LP’s cover has been restored to its initial glory for the first time on CD, and the original music is available complete in one package for the first time, adding five extra tracks not included on the LP.

Wadada (2016)

Keys And Chords (January 2016)
Van een verrassing gesproken! Het artistieke collectief rond Michael Wadada verzamelt wereldse instrumenten en brengt een Aziatische spirituele sound met reggae-invloeden. Sedert 1979 hebben een 200-tal muzikanten zich met overgave gestort op herwerken van tribal en folk-songs vanuit elk continent. Laat je wel niet afschrikken door de mantra! 

Met ‘All Along The Watchtower’ als opener (in 3 verschillende versies!?) hink je op het verkeerde been wanneer Jimi Hendrickx door je geheugen flitst. En het heeft ook weinig te maken met het boekje ‘De Wachttoren’ van Jehova’s Getuigen. Neen, dit is pure Hare Krishna aanbidding, met alle respect. Je waant je terug in de jaren ’60-70 waarbij kaalhoofdige vegetariërs in roze gewaden door de stad trokken. Of zitten we in het Andesgebergte met een panfluit? Er schuilt wel enige variatie in dit zilveren verzamelplaatje. Het belerende ‘Maybe You’re A Rich Man’ drijft op sitar-sound. En in ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ kunnen ze de Beatles niet verbloemen. Ganesha, de diva met olifantenslurf, ontbreekt eveneens en voert je met lyrics naar hogere regionen. Er wordt nogal gedubt en gemixt met de stijl van Wadada. Luister maar eens naar ‘Jagnath Nhairavi’: dans ze alle 16 minuten, met of zonder hasj. Michael Wadada’s indische roots op een bedje van reggae.
 
Sjamaan Wadada verzamelt hier een aantal live-gigs. Glastonbury, Phoenix Festival, Womad Festival heeft er in het verleden kunnen van genieten. Peter Gabriel droeg ze op handen, Paul McCartney vindt het ‘cool’ en nu is het jullie beurt om vanaf vandaag dit kleinood in huis te halen. Vergeet de wierookstokjes niet!  Ook wordt dit de afsluiter van zijn spiritueel project dat 4 decennia vele harten heeft verblijdt. Wie er echter niet genoeg van heeft, kan altijd naar zijn Sonic Vipasana Centre in Andalucia (Spain), opgestart in 2014, voor een leerrijke muzikale meditatie.

Front View Magazine (December 2015)
Sinds het debuut van Suns of Arqa in 1979 heeft deze Briste cult band een baanbrekende catalogus opgebouwd met meer dan 35 albums, talrijke singles en remixes. Hieraan werkte heel wat vooraanstaande en vernieuwende artiesten mee uit de Britse muziek scene zoals o.m. Adrian Sherwood, Raja Ram, John Leckie, Youth, Alex Patterson, The Orb, Zion Train, John Cooper-Clarke, Guy Called Gerald, Gaudi, 808 State, Prince Far-I, Muslim Gauze, Professor Stanley Unwin en vele anderen. 

De muzikale Shaman MICHAEL WADADA kondigt met pijn in het hart maar met erg veel dankbaarheid na bijna 4 decennia dat de ongelofelijke reis van Suns of Arqa haar einde nadert. Wat startte als een muzikaal visioen tijdens een roadtrip naar Kingston, Jamaica om de legendarische reggae artist Prince Far-I te bezoeken, resulteert nu in een concrete solo reis met de release van het nieuwe album “Wadada” op het Belgische label Tracks and Traces. 

Opener van het album is de stomende, radio-vriendelijke mix van ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER van de hand van de legendarische producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Paul Simon, Muse, Radiohead), terwijl de live versie een sterk voorsmaakje geeft van wat men tijdens live shows mag verwachten. Wadada neemt de luisteraar mee op een cosmische reis featuring Indische artiesten RAGHUNA SETH op bansuri en KADIR DURVESH op shenai, met de typische, pulserende dub bass grooves die niemand onberoerd laten. The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows” krijgt, met veel respect voor het origineel, een magische Wadada injectie van jagende drones en electronica. 

Eerste single van het album is MAYBE YOU’RE A RICH MAN featuring George Harrison’s Shenai maestro,Kadir Durvesh. Wadada moest het nummer persoonlijk voorzingen aan Sir Paul McCartney om toestemming te verkrijgen om het te ogen opnemen. Paul zei:”Cool” ! 

WADADA nodigt iedereen die in is voor een muzikale trip uit op een fascinerende reis. Het album is tevens een eerbetoon aan alle muzikanten die in het verleden deel uitmaakten van Suns of Arqa !

Norman Records (January 2016)
Suns of Arqa are serious veterans of the UK’s underground, having turned out as many as 35 records over the years. This, however, will be their final album. Wadada contains collaborations with Indian classical musical legends Raghunath Seth and Kadir Durvesh, who they use to help them cover The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. CD on Tracks & Traces.

Cargo Records (January 2016)
MICHAEL WADADA has announced with deep regret, after nearly four decades of surviving the dark forces of the music business that the SUNS OF ARQA mission is now complete and has now blossomed into his solo voyage, establishing a spiritual-political movement in Scotland, and releasing this new album. 

It kicks off with a storming mix of ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER by legendary producer John Leckie.  While a live version of ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER captures the spirit in full force and promises a show not to be missed! WADADA takes you on a cosmic journey featuring great classical Indian artists RAGHUNATH SETH on bansuri and KADIR DURVESH on shenai, laced with his signature dub bass grooves massaging the senses. 

The Beatles 'Tomorrow Never Knows' is beautifully re-worked remaining true to the original but infused with the WADADA magic of haunting drones and electronica. 

MAYBE YOU'RE A RICH MAN features ,Kadir Durvesh. WADADA is paving the way to higher ground and open to all those who want to come along for the ride. 

The album is a tribute to all the musicians who have been part of SUNS OF ARQA and features several classic tunes from their past catalogue, along with the new!

RootsTime.be (January 2016)

Suns of Arqa mag dan niet meteen de naam zijn, die bij de doorsnee muziekluisteraar een boel belletjes doet rinkelen, in het wereldje van de dub en de ambient en enkele cross-over subgenres, is deze band rond muzikale sjamaan Michael Wadada noch min noch meer een instituut. De band werd in 1979 opgericht en is vandaag al meer dan 35 platen ver in haar oeuvre. Ik gebruik dat woord opzettelijk, omdat het reminiscenties oproept aan literatuur en beeldende kunsten: schilders en schrijvers werken aan een oeuvre en dat doet ook Wadada, die met deze plaat min of meer afscheid komt nemen van datgene waar hij bijna veertig jaar lang mee bezig geweest is: een belangrijke rol spelen in de muziekscene van de UK, maar dan wel een rol, die een beetje “achter de schermen” speelt. 

Wadada is door zowat elke muzikant geliefd en de lijst van mensen, die in de loop der jaren aan zijn platen meewerkten, is nogal imposant: van Adrian Sherwood tot Alex Patterson, van The Orb tot Zion Train, van 808 State tot Prince Far-I, allemaal deden ze op één of ander moment wel iets op één van Wadada's platen. Nu is er dus “Wadada”, die de man met die naam zelf aankondigt als een soloreis, die refereert aan datgene waar het heel lang geleden allemaal mee begon, met name een muzikaal visioen tijdens een roadtrip naar Kingston, om er Prince Far-I te gaan opzoeken. 

Op die jongste reis neemt Wadada wel enkele vriendenbijdragen mee: John Leckie geeft aan de openende remix van “All Along The Watchtower”, inclusief “Govinda”-kreten,die meteen de link naar Vishnu leggen, meteen de groove mee, die bepalend zal blijken voor de hele plaat; Indiërs Raghuna Seth (bansuri) en Kadir Durvesh (shenai) bouwens de kosmische sfeer mee uit, terwijl Becky Taylor een flinke dosis Uillean Pipes aanlevert. Er is nog meer schoon volk op de plaat aanwezig, maar dat moet u zelf maar allemaal uitvissen, wanneer u de plaat gaat beluisteren, wat ik u zeer mag aanbevelen. Dan kan u bij voorbeeld niet één, maar drie bewerkingen van “All Along The Watchtower” meepikken: de al genoemde van John Leckie, de “Raw Sun”-remix, die er, bij wijze van contrast, vlak achteraan komt en een live-versie, in Manchester opgenomen. 

Ook Lennon & McCartney worden onder handen genomen: hun “Tomorrow Never Knows” wordt in een bad van electronica gegooid en het resultaat werd, zo verneem ik, door Sir Paul zeer gepruimd, net als de single uit de plaat, “Maybe You're a Rich man”, dat Wadada persoonlijk aan de Beatle moest voorzingen met een opgestoken duim en een “Cool!” tot gevolg. Hoofdbrok van de plaat en voor mij ook hoogtepunt, is het 16 minuten lange “Jagnath Bhairavi”, een nummer dat al een paar jaar oud is, maar hier een heel knappe “Young & Wadada”-mix meekrijgt. Ik denk dat dit de ideale kennismaking is met deze band en met het soort muziek dat zij maken en dat door Wadada op de hoestekst aangeboden wordt aan elkeen, die er zijn eigen versie van wil maken. Het hierboven al vermelde “Maybe You're a Rich Man” is een uitgewerkt voorbeeld van het resultaat dat zoiets kan hebben. 

Een aardigheidje: deze CD is uit op Tracks & Traces, in Belgisch label, dat verkrijgbaar gemaakt wordt door Starman Records. Da's een kwaliteitslabel, toch? Komaan, het nieuwe jaar is maar net begonnen en maakte u niet het goede voornemen uw leven wat avontuurlijker te maken? Hier ligt uw kans om alle platgetreden paden te vermijden. 

(Dani Heyvaert)

WhisperinAndHollerin.com (Jan 2016)
Suns of Arqa may be the musical project of Michael Wadada which began in 1979, but it’s more of a state of mind than a fixed entity. The roll-call of contributors and collaborators over the years is nothing short of staggering, and now that Michael has declared the collective mission is complete and that he’ll be operating as a solo artist from hereon in, the album ‘Suns of Arqa’ released under the Wadada moniker and featuring remixes and live cuts, stands as both a bookend and a statement heralding a new dawn. 

The first thing that hits you is the big, dubby strolling bass. The fact it’s a cover of Dylan’s ‘All Along the watchtower’ is about the third or fourth thing that hits you, after the sinewy uilleann pipes. That there are three versions feels a bit like overkill, though. 

Combining an array of exotic instrumentation and reverb of a truly cosmic depth, ‘Shambo Shanka’ flies into a colossal and thoroughly unexpected guitar solo. The Rick the Switch mix of their take on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is a magickal, mystical swirl, and ‘All You Need is Dub’ is as spaced-out as you can reasonably get while keeping your mind connected to your body. The sitar-soaked ‘Shri Gashana’ isn’t so much world music as other-worldly music, a far out dubscape which meanders to the outer extremities of inner space. 

It all pales beside the vast sonic expanse of ‘Misro Bilawal’, mixed by Youth & Wadada. Stretching out over a full sixteen minutes, it drones and spirals, twists and turns through deserts of the mind, the colours rasterised to surreal acid-tones. 

It’s all about the deep grooves, unhurried, sedate. Meditative – or perhaps medicative – it’s big on the mellow vibes. Open your mind.

All Is Not Lost, But Where Is It? (2015)

Sun Is Shining (April 2015)
Suns of Arqa have been producing their blend of Indian classical instrumentation and Rastafarian Niyabinghi drumming under mainstay Michael Wadada and a prolific number of guest artists from around the diaspora since 1979. 

This latest offering produced by Youth who has also roped in Raja Ram on flute and the Orb to step behind the mixing desk and add their years of production experience to enhance the release. 

The opening track 'Mother Tongue' begins slowly with a mish-mash of chopped up SOA clips and samples which are soon accompanied by a powerful rolling beat providing a whirling dervish of psychedelic dub. This is followed by 'Sadrayama' which for the first couple of minutes is a more laid back affair. However, once the drums kick so does the squelch which works in perfect balance with the sitar sounds. 

Bird song and spoken samples are the introduction to 'Erasmus Dub' a laid back piece of dub jam-packed with reverb, samples and scratches. Soft female vocal samples and fx are blended with bamboo flutes and song in 'The Fool Ascends' which although still dub ditches the reggae elements in favour of a more ambient chill feel. 

'Discordian Dawn' begins with a cello like intro integrated with sequenced synths before bamboo flutes and tribal drumming which are dubbed out in appropriate places stream through the main body of the track. There's an elongated piece of poetic dialogue nestled over distorted and dubbed out SOA with 'The Truth Lies Therein' before the vocal song and rolling drums are implemented along with trance like synth's. 

The closing track is Youth's Dub mix of 'Pablos Lament' plucked from SOA's last e.p. and for me it's a gem. Traditional reggae vibes and harmonica are fused with SOA vocal hooks and reggae vocal samples in this dub-fest. There's also plenty of twists, turns brakes and turns of speed within the piece to maintain your interest. 

If hearing the Suns of Arqa put through the array of fx and reverb and echo chambers of the dub laboratory appeals to you, then you can't really go wrong with the men behind the desk on this release.

Kymatix (2015)

“Father of the Suns Collaborates with Downbeat Heavyweights to bring Life”. 

Suns of Arqa have been hailed at times as one of the greatest pioneers of downbeat and world fusion in the modern era. Coming together in the late 70’s under the watchful eye of Michael Wadada, the collective has since ushered through over 200 artists, let fly around 60 releases, been recording for over three decades and have just released their latest full length album on Liquid Sound Design, All Is Not Lost But Where Is It? Featuring The Orb, Youth and Raja Ram. 

Wadada formed SOA in 1979 after receiving higher guidance during a trip to Kingston, Jamaica whilst working with Prince Far-I, the traditional roots reggae chanter of legendry status. Invited by Peter Gabriel to play at the first WOMAD festival The Suns have released on Virgin, EMI and their own label Arqa Sound, played Boom, Roskilde, Glastonbury and Big Chill and have been credited with prolific and seminal influence on the World Beat sound. Finley Quaye, Zion Train and Steve Hopkins are amongst a hefty list of collaborators with Alex Patterson from The Orb, UK producer Youth and Raja Ram of Shpongle featuring on the latest release. Featuring the spoken words of John Cooper Clarke, produced by Martin ‘Youth’ Glover (as his first release since Pink Floyd’s The Endless River) the album is under distribution from Arabesque Digital with the release being directed by Triskele Management. 

 Over the years The Suns have worked across the realms of World Music to combine the Piobaireachd music of the Scottish Highlands with Hindustani raga systems and Nyabinghi roots drumming of the Rastafari. The result is a deeply spiritual vibration that merges cultures, faiths and musical genres. 

Erasmus Dub begins with a haunting wood flute from Raja Ram before dropping heavily into a Shpongle-esque dub flavoured beat. Several different male voices for the sampling and some deep driving bass lines fleshing out the halting rhythm make for a track that quenches any Shpongle-lovers thirst. The video is worth a quick look on Liquid Sound Design’s Facebook page. 

The Fool Ascends is a progressive electro downbeat masterpiece. Dipping and rolling through waves of synth-washed, deep, bassy beats the acoustically instrumental flute floating over the top contrast beautifully to keep the listener locked in and flying high. Strangely enough the beat count comes in at around 120 but feels a lot slower. Perhaps there’s even a Terence McKenna sample in there to keep us on our toes. Either him or John Cooper Clarke. 

Pablo’s Lament runs over the eight minute mark and begins innocently enough in a reggae flavoured track complemented by harmonica. The oscillators begin working themselves in after about a minute and double time the background to create a marvellous composition of true downbeat textbook definition. Textured with many different samples and sounds one can only wonder why Pablo was lamenting so, and wether this track cheered him up or not. 

The background of the band is impressive, the album itself delivers an electro downbeat sound worthy in any afficionado’s collection and is obviously the tip of the iceberg in a career spanning millennia, several major changes in popular music formats and an impressive release list. The spirituality of Wadada is evident in the progression of the band. He sums it thus; “It is the ultimate sound to take us through the changes to come. Where sound is not just a backdrop to life but ultimately is life itself”.

Ancient Temples In The Southern Cape (2013)

Sun Is Shining Dub n Chill (2013)
I first came across the Suns of Arqa on a free cassette from a magazine I’d brought to pass the time on a train journey in the early 90’s. It was one of those tracks I played over and over and not long after I came across “Kokoromochi” on vinyl which proved to contain some perfect openers to a set. After that somehow they dropped off the radar for me for many years until I picked up a compilation of their tracks over the years “Through The Gates We Go” mixed by Tom Fu. 

Through the internet I discovered there was a vast back catalogue of Michael Wadada & Co’s fusion of Indian Raga’s and Rastafarian Niyabinghi drumming dating back to 1980. I still have some way to go to fulfill this collection and was very impressed with Youth’s mix of “Jagnath Bhairavi” that Matthew Foord played on House of the Flying Eyeball’s “My Favourite Things” radio show recently (which sparked an interest in obtaining the Interchill album). 

Considering the above I was eager to hear this E.P. (a precursor for a new album to be released in 2014) from the word go. The release opens with a re-mix of “Ancient Temples in the Southern Cape” by master of dub and vintage electronics Gaudi and I have to say the dreamy synths and reggae chords grabbed my attention immediately and the spacey vocal I can’t put a name to just adds to the appeal. Next up is a mix of the same track by Astralasia’s Swordfish. This version seems to take a more orchestral stance and although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Gaudi’s, it’s still a nice alternative. 

There’s certainly no lack of talent on this release as next up is Youth dub mix of “Pablo’s Lament” which to me blends soundtrack vocal samples, with Augustus Pablo’esque melodica heavy reggae and psychedelic dub.  The closing track “The Truth Will Set You Free” mixed by Gagarin is the nearest to Indian Classical music on the release and sets me in mind of the vibe of On-U Sounds “Pay It All Back” releases so it’s no great surprise to discover it was recorded in their studio with Skip McDonald on bass and drums. 

To summarise, this E.P.I love it and can only surmise that if you’ve read this far you’re tastes are similar to mine and you’re probably playing it already.

Stranger Music (2011)

IDMMag.com (March 2011)
Some facts you should know. Suns of Arqa have been on the World Beat Music scene since 1979. They played at the very first Womad Music Festival in Shepton Mallet at the personal invitation of Peter Gabriel. Enough said. Having performed over the years at many major European festivals such as Glastonbury, Big Chill, Telerama Dub festival to mention a  few, this intriguing outfit  are best known for their fusion of Indian music and electro dub. They have always had a strong indigenous element to their compositions. So imagine my surprise when I popped this into the CD player to discover an album of Leonard Cohen cover songs. Sound interesting? Or maybe you’re thinking what the heck? Let me tell you Stranger Music is a phenomenal reinterpretation of Leonard Cohen like I’ve never heard before. Fusing their signature world beat elements, tight electronica and dub with some absolutely gorgeous vocal delivery if I had not known that these were Leonard Cohen covers, I may not have guessed it, such is the magnificent reconstruction of his songs. I cannot recommend this enough for any serious world beat fan. Simply superb.

Know Thyself (2010)

Yoga Journal (January 2011)

Monsieur Délire (November 2010)

Kindred Spirit Magazine (February 2011)

Big Shot Magazine (December 2010)

Yoga Chicago (2010)
Suns of Arqa's 'Know Thyself?' features bansuri player Raghunath Seth in four rarely heard ragas. I have enjoyed this CD endlessly, as it plays well in every circumstance. The bansuri flute, made of bamboo, has a melodic, emotive quality. It is said that as Lord Krishna plays this flute, he is filling our bodies with breath, thus giving us life. It is also said while Krishna plays, he draws all the gopis, or milkmaids, from their homes to be with him. Pure seduction! The bansuri has a quality to it that is older than time. Yet the arrangements of these selections are modern and ambient. 

These ragas had me curious. How can the ragas be so beautiful, yet little known, and seldom played or recorded? Even with all my “Google” technology, I was unable to find anything out about these pieces, other than they move from morning to night in mood, and the ragas may come from the South of India. Interesting, since most bansuri music comes from a North Indian tradition. Opening with “Rag Natbhairav,” there is a nice flow through all four pieces. There are traces of electronica as the flute weaves through the ragas. The flute is the sustaining pervasive element, just as Krishna --an incarnation of Vishnu-- is representative of the compassionate Preserver of the Cosmos. 

Michael Wadada, the founder of Suns of Arqa, has been a world music pioneer for more than 30 years. His sensibilities are fine. The flavor and waves of these down-tempo ragas are sublime. “Narayani,” the final raga on Know Thyself? , embodies the essence of the Divine Feminine. The cover photo and dedication are to Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, the stunning Indian founder of Sahaja yoga, also considered to be a “Divine Mother.” With Shri Mataji's passing in February of this year, this recording is quite timely. And purely, simply, beautifully, this music melts the heart.

Re-mixs Muslim Gauze (2007)

Gonzo Circus (2007)
Eigenlijk zijn er twee Muslimgauzes. Er is de originele, grimmige en politiek geïnspireerde, versie: etnische ambient met een directe link naar de explosieve situatie in het Midden-Oosten, bij voorkeur te beluisteren terwijl je met een bomauto op weg bent naar een Israëlische grenspost. De tweede variant is opgewekt dansbaar, geïnspireerd door Oosterse rookwaren, en zeker op zijn plaats in de hipste clubs van Beiroet. Uit een ontmoeting met Suns Of Arqua in 1996 bleek een gemeenschappelijke interesse in Oosterse ritmepatronen en mystiek. Tot de dood van Muslimgauze in 1999 werden druk gemixte klanken uitgewisseld tussen Bryn Jones en Michael Wadada. Deze cd bevat de laatste (uiteraard met een dikke korrel zout te nemen, zoals steeds bij Muslimgauze) sessies, die de dub/reggae van Wadada koppelen aan de start/stop geweerschotritmes van Jones. Natuurlijk werd één en ander gerecycleerd uit vorige releases (Arka Sound, 2001), en houden we slechts een twintigtal minuten exclusief materiaal over. De zwoele ritmes en de samples van moslimgezangen vloeien mooi samen, en de dansvloer in Beiroet zal probleemloos vollopen. Maar wij missen het gevaar, en hopen stiekem op de aanwezigheid van een eenzaat met een explosievengordel. Om potentiële kopers toch (een tweede keer) over de streep te trekken, heeft Soleilmoon gezorgd voor een beperkte oplage (500 exemplaren) en een bijzonder smaakvolle verpakking.

Tofaki (2007)
Let’s just for a second forget that Bryn Jones, the man behind Muslimgauze, died of a sudden and extremely rare fungus infection in early 1999. Judging, then, from the current output of releases credited or connected to him as well as from general media attention, would you ever consider it a possibility that he’s left this world forever? 

Quite on the contrary, his music seems to have attained a higher degree of influence and overall presence than ever before, with archival material still surfacing regularly and remix projects being launched on a monthly basis. Following the “Bass Communion vs. Muslimgauze” project from a little while ago, this is already the second major contribution to this legacy and yet another sign of proof that Jones may still not have hit his peak yet. 

The difference between the two, of course, lies in the fact that this musical meeting actually took place during his lifetime. Instigated by Satoshi Morita, owner of the Japanese Gift label, who virtually forced this collaboration upon Jones and Michael Wadada of Suns of Arqa, the album presents a brimful prism of 21 tracks, realised during a three-year long exchange of ideas by mail. Morita loved the individual oeuvres of his prodigees, but his vision was more than a mere crossover between the psychedelic world music sensibility of Wadada and Muslimgauze’s propulsive hybrid between Dub, experimental collage techniques and Oriental scales. Rather, he could hear a sound in his head that was both massive and floating, monolithic and free, minutely minimal and finely forged. 

When Jones passed away, the results lingered in some basement for almost a decade, but their reemergence proves that Morita was completely right in his estimation of this encounter’s potential. Still today, these tracks come across as deliriously intense and mindbogglingly hypnotic, a sort of amphibic accumulation of sound, groove and texture. 

As the title suggests, some of the tunes may actually be new versions of original Muslimgauze or Sun of Arqa material (which, in itself, was already mostly culled from ingeniously reworked samples) rather than full-fledged co-operations. If this be so, then Wadada’s and Jones’ technique simply consisted in destilling their friends’ strongest moments, polishing them with a bloody cloth and then repeating them with minor textural variations until they burnt new pathways into the listener’s cerebral mindscape. The stop- and go-motion of many of these works, as well as several obvious cuts and edits even sound as though singular loops had been pressed to Vinyl and then performed as instant DJ-compositions. 

Seldomly has an album managed to capture the essence of its protagonists so vividly and undividedly as on this occasion. Both styles are fused into a both aggressive and relaxed hybrid, capable of charging from a hissing box of rattlesnakes to the carefree echoes of a Jamaican beach party. Admittedly, this is summer music, but rather the soundtrack to a picnic in the Sahara than to a BBQ in your backyard. 

Of course, we all know that Bryn Jones died of a fungal infection early in 1999. But if you close your eyes, put on your headphones and enter the disc of this album into your CD player, listening and loosing yourself in the heat of “Muslimgauze Re-mixes Suns of Arqa”, you could easily imagine him alive and well, still working like a madman and churning out tracks in a trance in his Manchester apartment.

Live with Prince Far-I (1994)

City Life 251 (April 1994)