Jasper Folk Music Festival headliner melds two hemispheres of sound
Harry Manx will headline this year’s Jasper Folk Music Festival on
Saturday, September 12.
Manx, whose distinct sounds blend the groove of blues with the spiritual sounds of Indian classical music, is currently riding the dharma of his latest album, 20 Strings From the Truth. The record, the title of which references the 20-stringed guitar Manx has helped introduce to blues fans, is a departure from his usual sound in that it is highly instrumental. Speaking from his home on Salt Spring Island, B.C., the 60-year-old talked to The Jasper Local about his creative process, his 12-year tutelage in India and the genesis of his unique “roots-raga” sound.
The Jasper Local: I’ve been enjoying listening to your new album, I was wondering if it was also a joy to create?
Harry Manx: It was wonderful to make it because it’s a little different than all my other records. I wanted to see if I could create some soundtracks for people to enjoy while they’re doing other things in life.
JL: Your catalogue is very deep, with more than 12 albums in as many years. Did you ever think you’d be such a prolific recording artist when you were busking in Japan and Europe all those years ago?
HM: I had no idea that was even a goal of mine then, to make all of these CDs. When I came back to Canada from India I found the studios to be very expensive! I made that first album (Dog My Cat, 2001) in 11 hours but you know at the Canadian Independent Blues Awards that became Blues Album of the Year!. That was a great inspiration for me.
JL: Your fusion of two hemispheres of music is very unique, but you have said that your teacher, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, opened your eyes after his collaboration with Ry Cooder. Tell me about that moment.
HM: I loved blues as a kid, I worked in blues clubs and learned to play blues… I went to India in 1986 and stayed there until ’98. During that time, [Bhatt] went to America and made a record with Ry Cooder (Meeting By the River, 1993). That was the first time that I encountered blues and Indian music being mixed together. That was a big epiphany for me. All of my records are a result of wanting to explore that.
JL: Tell me about your creative space now at your home on Salt Spring Island.
HM: I’ve lived in Tokyo and New Delhi and all these crazy, populated places. I love the peace and quite around me now. In fact I’m probably the only one making noise out here.
JL: A lot of people describe your music as spiritual. How do you define spiritual?
HM: I like that description because ultimately I think my purpose is to inspire people. I try to do it in a very subtle way, I don’t do much openly. You have to listen into the music to feel that. I have my own spiritual journey, and it’s strong, but I don’t share it with the public much.
JL: What’s next for you? What’s exciting you these days personally or creatively?
HM: I keep practicing. I’m enjoying the practice. My music goes further and further exploring the connection between blues and Indian music. New music comes out of that. I’m staying on that path. I’m still a young guy at 60 so I’m moving forward.
Harry Manx plays The Jasper Folk Music Festival Saturday, September 12. Go to jasperfolkmusicfestival.ca for tickets.