When Bruce Springsteen heard his I’m on Fire classic played by Harry Manx at the International Guitar Festival in New York City, The Boss was impressed.
“Watching Harry play tonight, I feel like I learned something new,” admitted Springsteen.
That Manx mesmerizing blend of east-meets-west is coming to the Waverley Hotel May 19, part of a tour that includes numerous dates in Australia, Germany, the U.S. and across Canada.
That’s appropriate, because Manx’ style is international, a subtle interplay between the haunting notes of the sitar and the gentle, rhythmic groove of the blues, giving his songs a beautiful sensuality that defies comparison.
“We’re really excited to have him come here,” says Ben Howells of Mt. Eliah Productions. “This man is a national musical treasure. Presenting Harry Manx is my greatest honour.”
Manx has been called an “essential link” between the music of east and west, creating musical short stories that wed the tradition of the blues with the depth of classical Indian ragas. His unique sound is both bewitching and deliciously addictive.
Born on the Isle of Man, Manx spent his childhood in Canada and left in his teens to live in Europe, Japan, India and Brazil. He honed his hypnotic live show on street corners, in cafes, bars and at festivals.
But it was Indian music that captured his attention. In the mid 1980s, he began a five-year tutelage with Rajasthani Indian musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Grammy winner with Ry Cooder for A Meeting by the River).
Bhatt was so impressed with his student that he gave Manx his custom-made, self-designed Mohan veena (a 20-stringed sitar/guitar hybrid) to send Manx on his path to his unique east-west style of music.
Manx has appeared at many prestigious festivals, world-class theatres, concert halls and infamous blues clubs around the globe. Playing the Mohan veena, lap-steel, harmonica, stomp box, and banjo, Manx quickly envelops the audience into what has been dubbed “the Harry zone” with his warm vocals and the hauntingly beautiful melodies of his original songs.
He says that in the live setting, Manx says, the bridge between “heavenly” India and “earthy” American blues is most effectively built.
“Indian music moves inward,” he says. “It’s traditionally used in religious ceremonies and meditation, because it puts you into this whole other place. But Western music has the ability to move out, into celebration and dance.
“So, when we play the Indian stuff on stage, it has the tendency to draw people into something really deep; they’ll get kind of quiet and spacey. Then we’ll play some more Western music, and it grounds them once more, they sort of come out of the mood the Indian music had put them in and get into the performance.
“I love to see that working — that effect on the audience. My goal has always been to draw the audience as deep as possible into the music.”
Releasing nine albums in a eight years, Manx is a man of musical energy. His work has brought five Juno nominations and seven Maple Blues Awards, as well as honours from the Canadian Folk Music Awards, Georgia Straight magazine, the South Australia Blues Society and a CBC Radio Great Canadian Blues Award.
The blending of Indian folk melodies with slide-guitar blues, a sprinkle of gospel and some compelling grooves cook up the Manx “mysticssippi” flavour – nothing short of compelling.
The show at the Waverley is festival-style seating; some tables will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, but they don’t all have a perfect view of the stage.
Tickets are available at mteliah.tikit.ca.