MORRISBURG – In January of 2014, internationally acclaimed guitarist Maneli Jamal walked out on the St. Lawrence Stage, having literally driven through an eight hour snow storm to get to South Dundas. Yet within minutes, this artist had astounded and thrilled the waiting audience with his musicianship. His performance was memorable.
On November 2, 2019, at 7 p.m., (this time hopefully without any blizzard!) the award-winning finger-style guitarist is returning to the Stage for another concert, one which promises to be just as memorable.
Born in Iran, having lived in five different countries, now calling Canada home, Maneli Jamal is the winner of numerous musical honours both nationally and internationally, including a first place finish at Canada’s Soundclash Music Awards.
Sandra Whitworth, president of the SLAS, describes Maneli Jamal as “an astounding guitarist”, a “phenomenal guitarist,” whose skills and reputation attract millions on social media.
He is also passionate about his music and about the power of music.
Five years ago, Maneli said that his music “reflects the themes of the nomad, the wanderer, trying to find his identity.” In 2019, there are still elements of those themes in his compositions, but he is now, he says, a man who has found a home he loves in Canada.
“You become wiser as time goes on,” he laughed. “I spend more time at home now than I did when I was performing some 60 concerts a year on the road. I find that I can actually be more creative, even more prolific. To perform is now a choice.”
However he continues to treasure that special connection he makes with every audience.
“The reality is that you are often travelling all day to play for just one hour. You have to realize why you do this. For me, it is to share the music and the joy of music with other people. It all makes sense when you are on stage, focussed on that music and the warmth of an audience.”
Maneli has also begun exploring new themes in his works.
“I want to bring awareness to issues now, particularly what it can be like to be a refugee. I look at other people’s journeys and struggles and I want to empower people through music. I was a refugee once. I appreciate how important it is to have a home.”
Inspiration for his music is visually driven, he explained. “I don’t hear music in my head. I think about memories, and what they might sound like. An experience can transmute into a song.”
He has a new album coming out in January 2020 called Tranquil Strings, which he feels is a bit of a change from his more acoustically driven albums. He describes it as “more melodic” allowing the listener to relax “and not spend so much time thinking ‘what style is he using?’”
Maneli Jamal’s finger style technique is, nonetheless, musically exceptional.
Critics and fans have called it unique, a mixture of classical, flamenco and percussive, with overtones of blues and rock. Without question, his style is passionate and exciting.
“Yet I feel my music is more melodic now, more mature. It is perhaps less focussed on just the technical aspects. Other guitarists will appreciate the techniques, but I think that non-guitarists will find something to love in my concerts.”
His concerts are always about story telling. Each piece he performs carries a story behind it.
“An audience can be intrigued, amused, comforted. I think music relates to the realities of everyone’s life, coping with loss, love and anger. The most important emotion is perseverance, pushing through the challenges of life.
A piece of music for me is like a seed. You plant it, and before you know it you have a garden of songs that an audience can pick.”
Maneli Jamal is delighted to be returning to Morrisburg for this concert, recalling his 2014 concert as a great experience. A gifted teacher for many years, he is also offering a workshop for guitarists from 2-4 p.m. on November 2 at the Playhouse, and welcomes people to register.
This November 2 concert at Upper Canada Playhouse has one further delight in store for music lovers.
Opening for Maneli Jamal will be outstanding indigenous artist, G. R. Gritt, “a folk rock-lovin’ blues musician,” a member of the JUNO award-winning group Quantum Tangle, and a nominee for the Best Blues Album at the 2017 Indigenous Music Awards. “This is going to be a very powerful opening act,” president Sandra Whitworth said.
G.R. Gritt says that “I don’t really think of myself as a blues artist. But after I started playing guitar, I was encouraged to take singing lessons. Having music as a creative outlet at a young age really helped to ease the pain and loneliness of growing up as a queer kid in rural, northern Ontario.
I started writing my own songs. I have always heard and felt music. It’s how I understand and process the world around me. And I think my music creation and performances start from there.”
Creativity is definitely a powerful factor in the life of this artist.
With an Ojibway and Metis background, and as a transgender, two-spirit, and non-binary person, Gritt has always faced challenges. “I try to find ways to push against societal norms of gender and identity, and I’m interested to find different ways of doing this through music.”
Performing with Quantum Tangle allowed Gritt to explore new ways of song writing and to experience new sounds. Extensive touring, critically acclaimed performances and meeting new audiences have lately become part of the musician’s life. “I love life on the road. I love being able to meet new people and see new places and I love performing. It’s where I feel the best.”
Gritt’s music reflects themes the artist considers key. “I think as humans we have a lot in common. We have all experienced loss, we’ve all loved and we all hope for a better future. Wrap it up with some humourous banter and you’ve got a good recipe for connection. With music and humour you can bypass the parts of people’s brains that put up a defensive shield and speak directly to them. It’s powerful stuff.”
G.R. Gritt is very excited about a new solo album coming out in 2020. “For my new album you can expect new sounds with elegantly weaving melodies using vocals, guitar and new electronic elements and themes that pull from the past then create soulful futurisms. (The music will) fit in a folk club, a dance club and anywhere in between.”