A journey in melody


PUBLISHED on November 07, 2021


Jamal Yousuf was completely immersed as he played the short and romantic composition of Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne. From his fingers on the keys, a powerful current flows over the room where he normally spends hours playing the piano daily.

When he stopped, I realized that the effect of the music is so powerful that without any words it can make you cry.

Jamal Yousuf is a musician who experiments with music through the fundamentals of his instruments and has created a signature collection. From there he dove deep into the forefront of his own, where Jamal tests new ideas and methods in the art of music.

Jamal is a music graduate, trained Western classical pianist, saxophonist and music educator from Karachi Pakistan, who has spread the love of music through teaching and performing over the past two decades.

Jamal’s journey as a pianist was the opposite of the conventional path. He learns to play the piano on his own before starting lessons. At the same time, he was experimenting with the saxophone.

Having performed and worked with many influential national and international artists and groups, Jamal has composed, arranged, conducted, performed and sang a lot of original music for children, theater, ghazals and piano solos.

Music is at the heart of Jamal’s life, but he is also interested in choreography.

“Piano music has fascinated me ever since my brother bought Elton John’s greatest hits on CD! ”Jamal said.

Curious to learn the pleasure of a pianistic exercise with his instrument and how he demonstrates it on the piano, I organized a session with Jamal Yousuf and I tried to understand his relationship to music and how he structures the chords in his compositions.

STF: How would you describe your career in this musical world?

JY: Initially, I was kind of doing my own thing. I only played the stuff I liked. Then I started to realize that notes and dynamics weren’t the only things that mattered. What really turns the music on a page into real music is the personal touch of the performer. I wanted my ideas and feelings to show through. This is something that I will never stop trying to achieve.

STF: Do you have a university degree or training in music?

JY: I have had a keen interest in music since I was a child. During my studies, I did some choir performances (choir) with piano and full orchestra. I graduated from the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in music. I also studied music at the Sarah and Earnest Butler School of music in Austin, TX, USA and at the Dave School of Music in Karachi.

STF: Who is your favorite Western classical composer and what composition of him do you like the most?

JY: Although there are a lot of great composers like JS Bach, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Amadeus Mozart, but I’m really inspired by Fredric Chopin, who is considered one of the best composers of the romantic era. Although I love most of his work, my favorite pieces are Nocturne in E flat and Waltz or Waltz. I am these two compositions and I have composed too. Here I would like to mention that there are two terms in the music notation system, flat and sharp. The flat corresponds to the bass scale, while the sharp refers to the treble.

STF: What are your other areas of interest?

JY: I have a keen interest in choreography. I often play for children and have devised ways to involve children through music and promote unity and love in society. Dance has a significant influence in the theater. This is not a new method. The purpose of introducing dance is to express emotions and communicate physically. Choreography is all about moving emotions and I’m happy to learn this art.

STF: How many memorable performances have you had?

JY: All my performances are memorable for me because I have played with great composers. Among these are Arshad Mahmood, Ashraf Mehboob, Ustad Nafees Ahmed, Ustad Bashir Khan, flute player, Salamat Khan and Ghulam Abbas. There is also a long list of internationally renowned big names from USA, Germany, Austria, Indonesia, Japan and UK including Dr Sonia Seeman (music teacher, conductor and clarinetist in the United States), Franklin Pilland, Chris Ozley, Julian Dixon, Laura Jorgensen, Mike Del Ferro and many more. I have also performed with the international group SANGAT composed of musicians from the University of Texas at Austin in the United States and NAPA, Signum in Germany) and Fuzon Band. I have also participated in Alliance Française events and the NAPA International Theater and Music Festival 2013 and 2017.

STF: How do you structure the chords and scales to compose music?

JY: To build music, I first have to mix notes to create a melody. It also depends on the mood and the environment of the creators to choose the melody from a random thought. This is called the composition or the melody. There are many scales to choose from in the rating. Like the great composer Chopin, who composed Nocturne, which is serious evening music. For this, he used the E flat scale. He composed volumes of Nocturne on this scale. Now everyone is following that ladder to play Nocturne. Once the air is created, a composer will decide whether to use lyrics or whether it should be played as an instrumental composition. At this stage of creation, there is an arrangement of instruments. It is a matter of deciding which instruments to use such as flutes, violin, piano or whatever. After all this comes the decoration of the chords. The harmony is enriched as the piece unfolds until finally the music is composed. I learned a few compositions from Chopin and really liked it.

STF: How do you see the future of music in Pakistan?

JY: Since I have been a music teacher for a long time and have worked in many schools, I have never seen people here regard music as subjects like English, Urdu, Math, etc. It is necessary to design a complete plan to include the music. in the regular school curriculum. Although music is called a universal language and plays an important role in the development of the brain or mental health. Many brain-related problems are treated with music therapy. Music gives you stronger memory and listening ability. It has a calming effect on the stressed human mechanism. Many countries have successfully tested music to calm crying babies. Gradually people get music education and I started working on a program for school students. Numerous studies have proven that musical training can improve attention and working memory in children.

STF: Have you ever thought about creating a music academy?

JY: Yes, I run a small music school. I have a team of teachers and classes are given to teach piano, keyboard, guitar, vocals, violin, saxophone and many other instruments.

STF: What is the most important thing you would say to a young pianist who wants to become a performer?

JY: I see composition not as a process but as a space. A convergence of creativity and craftsmanship in a perfect harmony that we know as a source of inspiration and which is best found in everyone’s work, not without. While tips and techniques can be learned, I think the ability to convey emotions through music is more innate, more personal. Therefore, young composers need to maintain some kind of open channel between feeling and fingers, a channel for moving a complex, wordless inner experience to outer expression. The brain must come in front of the fingers. The approach of a pianist should be like the approach of a conductor where anticipation is fundamental and physical gesture is also important to harmonize musical intention.


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