March 10th, 2024

Music Spot: Maneli Jamal - The Traveller

Music Spot: Maneli Jamal - The Traveller
From time to time, we shine the spotlight on a SoundGym member by reviewing one of their releases for our Music Spot feature. This time around we are taking an in-depth look at Maneli Jamal’s new album The Traveller.
Jamal is an exceptional fingerstyle guitarist who has amassed a large following on social media due to his visually stunning approach to solo guitar work. His playing is supremely dextrous and intricate, while he maintains with both hands, giving you the impression that you are listening to multiple players when he is in fact doing everything on his own. 
While his playing is a captivating visual spectacle (and you really should go and check out his Instagram and YouTube), listening to The Traveller reassures you that the performative aspect of what he does is no gimmick. The music itself has remarkable substance and works incredibly well away from the live arena.
Jamal has a fascinating backstory, that is worth recounting here due to its continuing relevance on his work as a guitarist. He has lived in five different countries - Iran, Belarus, Germany, USA and Canada, where he is now based - and he moved twenty times before he turned 18.
Travel is a constant theme in his work, born out not just by the title of this album but also by several of the song titles; ‘Nomad’s Tale’, ‘River Road’, ‘Home’. His style also bears the influence of his nomadic life. This album features everything from blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan cover, ‘Scuttle Buttin’’) to Persian melodies (‘Transcend’) – all filtered through Jamal’s unique approach to solo acoustic guitar work.
Album opener, ‘Innate Rhythm’ is an excellent introduction to Jamal’s style; intricate, precise and of course rhythmic. The unabashed delight in melody at play here along with the pounding foreground-rhythm conjured from the body of the guitar recalls Paul Simon’s Graceland, while the sections that break out into more straight-ahead strumming bring Led Zeppelin’s softer, more pastoral side to mind.
Like Zeppelin, Jamal is clearly unafraid of a ‘drum solo’ – this track breaks out into one towards its climax – but of course it is provided entirely through rapid-fire fingerwork on the guitar. 
‘River Road’ explores a slower pace, and is therefore a chance for Jamal to show off a more lyrical playing style; a demonstration that he is able to wring emotion from his guitar as well as rhythm and melody. 
‘Waves of Orta’ ups the complexity again; the capacity for this guitarist to provide his own countermelodies as he plays is as bewildering as it is impressive! This song also surprises with structural left turns; sudden changes of rhythm and left-turns into walls of harmonics. 
By the time we reach ‘Transcend’, Jamal’s versatility as a player is no longer in doubt, but here we are offered yet another facet of what he can do. The song is a nod to the Persian melodies he grew up with – his father is a Persian violinist. The use of drones here, and the melodic language employed, push this track into a tonally distinct place on this album – and yet the playing retains its distinctive flavour, ensuring that the shift in styles always feels cohesive. 
The Traveller is not just a showcase of virtuosic fingerstyle guitar playing; it's a sonic journey that reflects the artist's rich life experiences and diverse cultural influences. From the mesmerising patterns of ‘Innate Rhythm’ to the introspective melodies of ‘River Road,’ Jamal's music captivates with its depth and emotion.
Each track on the album offers a glimpse into Jamal's nomadic soul, weaving together disparate elements into a cohesive collage of cultural influences. 
You can listen to more of Maneli Jamal’s back catalogue on Spotify and Apple Music. I also highly recommend checking out some of his videos on YouTube and Instagram


Maneli Jamal
Mar 14
Thanks so much for the music spot! 🙏🏼

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