On Stage: Maneli Jamal wins 2014 SoundClash Award


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Image: Maneli Jamal's Facebook

When played well, guitar sometimes doesn't even sound like the guitar. There’s a collision of sounds, the characteristics of various instruments dissolving together with a punch, creating a different, bigger feel. Don’t think about a sizzling lick running up and down the fretboard of a Stratocaster. Think of the fullness of a drum kit, the presence of a piano, and the texture of a chorus all in one, all played with one instrument. Even that’s just skimming the surface. 

To be fair, this author is writing with the preference for the acoustic sound in mind. No disrespect to the six-string, amped-up gunslingers of the world, but there’s something so human, so organic about the acoustic when it's played well. It’s rhythm and the articulation of individual notes at once, and it’s impossible to resist.

Into that description steps the music of Maneli Jamal. 

According to his bio on the Harbourfront Centre website, Jamal has lived in five different countries during his lifetime. Along with Canada, Iran, Belarus, Germany and the United States have all been home to this insanely talented guitarist, a personal history that's strikingly evident from his textured style. It’s not that there’s a world music element to it, but a fine-tuned discipline that only those with a near-monastic commitment to their craft can boast. There are also the experiences that result from a lifetime spent around the world, translated into music. Listening to Jamal talk about his own work is like listening to the work itself: there’s a story going on, intimately shaping the sound of every individual note. There’s real substance. 

“The way I like to describe my sound,” he says in a video (see below), “is it's very visual. What I mean by that is I like to use the acoustic guitar to its fullest potential. Basically using all kinds of percussive elements, tapping elements. When you’re seeing it live, it often sounds like there are multiple instruments.” 

Jamal was one of several shortlisted performers in this year’s SoundClash, Harbourfront Centre’s annual live music competition for independent artists from across the Greater Toronto Area. The competition focuses on those with a diverse, contemporary, cutting-edge dynamic, something that Jamal’s story-telling approach to six strings definitely involves. “This becomes evident with wins at countless music competitions around the world,” reads his bio on the Harbourfront site, “including placing in the top three at Guitar Idol, a worldwide guitar competition held in London, UK.”

By winning the 2014 SoundClash Music Award, he can definitely add another feather to his cap. Or his fretboard. 

Fresh from today’s win, Jamal takes the stage this Friday at Harbourfront’s WestJet stage, 235 Queen’s Quay West. It’s a free show, running from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Do yourself a favour and check out this  musical wunderkind in his own back yard—one of several back yards he’s called home, it seems.

Maneli Jamal plays the WestJet Stage at Harbourfront Centre on Friday, August 15, from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm. 

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