Meet Ghazi Al Balushi, Omani musician and founder of Just Jam Sessions
August 9, 2017 | 6:58 PM
by Salim Al Afifi
Ghazi Al Balushi

On a fine Saturday morning, I went to Souq es Sabt, my favourite farmer’s market at the InterContinental garden. Food was on my mind, so I got few sandwiches and a soft drink and strutted up and down the garden in search for a perfect spot to savour my grilled cheese goodness. Finally I decided to do it the Omani way and sat on the grass. Soon beautiful, raspy vocals floating through the dry air of the garden graced my ears. I was so mesmerised that I got up and walked closer to the mini stage to get a glimpse of what was going on, only to find a young man strumming away on his guitar. There was something so magical in his rendition that I remained spellbound for the next few hours. Meet Ghazi Al Balushi, the man with the guitar.

Filled with curiosity I went home and started stalking the Instagram account of Ghazi Al Balushi and learnt about Just Jam Session, a musical community formed by the artist with a hope to get local musicians together. Ghazi is a 24-year-old musician who has taken the Gulf’s social media by storm after posting short clips of him singing acoustic covers in English and a bunch of original numbers. Having studied drama and theatre, he is now an advocate for supporting local musicians.

This Omani singer-songwriter’s journey began at the age of 11 when he developed a passion for words and rhythms. He dived into poetry and moulded his raw talent. At the age of 13, Ghazi picked up a guitar and had his first strumming session. By 15 he was singing and experimenting, turning his poetic art into notes that he sang along while jamming with his guitar. He continued with his practice till his confidence to perform before an audience became a reality.

Soon his singing ability flourished, and with his poetry writing skills, he learnt how to structure the songs.

“I always loved music but was always attached to lyrics,” said Ghazi when asked on what inspired him to be his own lyricist. “I always thought I could sing but I couldn’t. But I believed in it hard enough and now I’m slowly getting better and having control over my voice,” he added.

Putting bathroom acoustics to good use, Ghazi would sing for hours, giving his vocal chords some workout. In 2014, his singing-in-the-shower evolved into performing live when he was hired to perform at venues for store openings and restaurant launches.

At that point and time, his dream of becoming a successful local musician seemed within reach, but the void surrounding the music scene in Oman was de-motivating. So he had to find a way to bring musicians together, and the answer lied in founding Just Jam music community.

Today, his fans learn and sing along to his every line, and he is grateful to be a powerful household name in town. He also has a massive Gulf following, with the largest fanbase being from Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE and Oman.

Ghazi’s family played a vital role in his life, but for cultural reasons, they weren’t as enthusiastic as he was towards music, but that didn’t stop him from chasing his dreams. “My family always looked upon music as a phase that I will grow out of. I’m 24 years now and my mother looks at me and asks ‘so when are you gonna get over this music thing?’ But now she is slowly realising that it is something that I do now, and appreciates it,” he said.

“So how do you write your music?,” I asked as I listened to his inspiring story. “I just grab a guitar, listen to some tunes and write,” he answered. “I write based on what I’m feeling. If I’m in a bad mood, the song will come out sad,” he added.

This raw method of writing is what makes his music personal, memorable, and relatable as he mostly writes about his life experiences and expresses himself through stories that we listeners identify with. From friendship, love and breakup to makeup, struggles, anger, and family-inspired tales, every emotion can be found in his music. It is a platform for him to let it out, especially anger, as he expresses his rage through words and alter it into melodic rhythms.

Ghazi has always been influenced by rock and all its sub-categories, from heavy metal to classic rock. His appreciation for the genre stems out of the deep stories that rockers write. One of his role models was the late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington whom he admired for years for his signature scream.

Like any other form of art, singing comes with a pocketful of challenges, and in Oman the game can be a bit misunderstood, and sometimes cruel, as many folks in this part of town are not accustomed to the whole singer-songwriter acoustic vibe, especially if it is in English. “They need to learn more about musical taste, and respect different genres,” said Ghazi adding that “it’s a shame because we have a lot of talented young Omani musicians who get criticised before they get a chance to grow, and they’re only being criticised because people don’t understand or know the genre, which is really unfair.”

The biggest challenge that he is facing is true support from his people. While he has got a huge following from neighbouring countries, Ghazi feels that people here should be more supportive.

Ghazi is still determined to put his mark in his home-country where it all started rather than seeking acceptance and success elsewhere.

“Here is where I want recognition, here is where I want people to say I’m amazing,” he said.

One of his most memorable events is being invited to be part of the Redbull Music Academy in Dubai, which was a great adventure full of music and a lot of networking, which got him a step closer into transition to a professional environment, which involves music videos, and recording studios.

For the time being, Ghazi is focusing on getting his degree in marketing, as well as running the Just Jams Sessions. This exceptional soul doesn’t ride trends, which makes him an absolute favourite to many who admire his raw, intimate performances. And what’s our job you ask? Support and more support. It doesn’t matter if you pay it by liking and commenting on social media or by attending his shows, to him, all forms of support are valid and can make a difference. — [email protected]

The Just Jam Sessions

When Ghazi decided to start performing live, he realised that there was no place for him and his fellow musicians to hangout, practice, and play. He didn’t have a venue or a platform to jam, it was only restaurant openings and events.

“The only place you’d see locals jamming is at the beach with their Ouds and traditional drums,” said Ghazi. So a platform where he could jam and meet others who didn’t get the chance to perform live was needed. He founded Just Jam Sessions, a music community that sings live, plans events, manages talent, and offers sound and music equipment for rental, with him being the creative lead, and Mohamed Al Battashi, Jaifar Al Aghbari, and Ahmed Al Busaidi as the management team.

Ever since this project launched last year, there has been an increase in the number of singers. Each session brings 15 to 20 local musicians singing to a mix of popular and original songs. Attending their show will leave your jaw dropped to the floor; there are some hidden talent that you’d be surprised to know that they existed in town. Thanks to this project, we get to appreciate what music is all about.

“We never knew we had so many female singers as it was earlier considered inappropriate , but now they are performing live,” said Ghazi adding that, “we’re not the first to provide live music, but what we provide is an atmosphere that is supportive, comfortable, and safe where musicians can thrive.”

The team is planning to establish their brand as a one-stop-shop for everything music, where you’ll get your latest buzz on local musicians and their achievements. This is mainly to raise awareness on the music culture and scene in Oman.

The Just Jam Sessions is a living, breathing proof that we have plenty of quality musicians in town who bring the party wherever they go. We just have to open up, give chance, and listen.

Spending the whole night with musicians and poets

+968 9507 1519

Instagram: @justjamsessions

Entry fee: OMR 6-8 (food included)

*Note that musicians do not pay entry fee. Follow their Instagram for latest updates on live sessions.

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