Acoustic guitarist Maneli Jamal has lived in five different countries (Iran, Belarus, Germany, USA, Canada) and moved twenty times by the time he was 18. This is somewhat evident in his music, which is powerful, expressive and intimate. Maneli shares with the Acoustic Uprising some of his approach to life and musicianship.
AU: What are the challengers for a solo instrumental guitarist?
MJ: The biggest thing for me is emotionally trying to understand yourself. Sometimes you can be so cut off. I think most FingerStyle players are introverts. From my experience most of us are pretty introspective and really keep tp themselves, kinda like lone wolves. That's probably why we are solo acoustic guitar players.
It's like a journal. Think of the guitar like a journal. A lot of people will write when they have something hard happen - they want to write and let it out and it's very gratifying. I used to do that a lot too but now my journal is the instrument. I write the words with every note, with every phrase - this is my form of expression and in a way it is a secret journal that no one knows except for me right. And in a way people are listening to it and translating it in their own way, and making their own journal out of it. That's why instrumental music is so powerful because you don't have the guidance of those words to say oh I'm feeling this right now. Emotions are much deeper than just words... much deeper, much more profound and we have only understood just maybe a glimpse of what our human emotions really are and to be able to achieve that to a deeper level through music the most gratifying thing.
“Powerful music with a personal narrative that is compelling and meaningful.” Andrew York, Grammy Award Winning Guitarist
AU: Can you talk about getting up on stage with instrument by yourself? It's a bit crazy right?
MJ: Some people are born performers, some people are not. I sure as hell am not a born performer. I was really shy at first but now when I've go get up on stage and talk to the people, it's so comfortable for me because I've done it so many times. I can kinda predict what I can expect.
But that's the joy, it's just you and one guitar...it's your chance to show the audience - Can I have a command with one instrument and one song you know...Can I get them to feel something? A lot of people are skeptical... They think you need a full band, you need lyrics but those lyrics can be your imagination, it can be that note, can be that melody. It can be whatever you want to see as you hear the instrumental music and in a way the vacancy of those lyrics creates a much bigger space for the imagination and creativity of the audience.
AU: How hard is it to be unique in the solo acoustic instrumental scene?
VG: It's an important thing for me to have my own voice. If I were to incorporate a band I probably would sound a bit more generic in a way. My parents really taught me the importance of finding your own voice...making sure that you have that voice and that it's different from everyone else. As an artist it's so important to stand out somehow and with this percussive style, very easily can you get lumped in into one 'oh you sound like him' and when someone can say you sound like 'I don't know, It's hard to say'. That is the biggest compliment when they can't quite put their finger on what you sound like. For me that's so important, finding that unique voice with the instrument.