Jihad Akl talks about his musical passion
The word inheritance means different things to different people. Whether it’s sparkling diamonds, a treasure chest of gold, a mansion complete with a collection of classic cars or simply big ears, we all stand to inherit something from our parents.
But for Lebanese-born Jihad Akl, his father has already passed on his inheritance and according to him, couldn’t have made him any richer.
Akl is fast becoming recognised as one of the best violinists in the world and says he owes everything he has achieved to his father.
His teacher, mentor, hero and inspiration all rolled into one, Akl picked up his first violin aged 5 after months of being mesmerised by his father playing the stringed-instrument.
He said: “I cannot explain what my father has done for me and I am so proud to have achieved so much – for him. He was my biggest inspiration and my passion until I really discovered the music behind the technique.
“When I was learning it was all about the strokes, plucking, strings, the instrument and how to play it, but now it is about the music which is something which comes from within. I would practise for anything up to 16 hours each day.”
Born in Beirut, Akl studied classical music for 12 years and was the youngest musician to ever play on a Lebanese Radio station at the age of 8.
Nicknamed The Magician of Violin by the chief editor of the Al Chabaka magazine in Lebanon, Akl slowly started his career and has now performed numerous Arabic recitals including the Egyptian Dar El Opera and was a special guest at the opening ceremony of the Arabic Summit in Lebanon.
He added: “I play my music all over the world and it always amazes me how it makes people feel. When I play in Europe I think the audience appreciate the skill and precision I have.
“But when I play in the Arabic world it becomes so much more than that. The people of this region feel the music from the heart because it’s part of who they are.”
According to Anthony Maarraoui, Akl’s pianist and co-composer, Akl has taken classical music to the next level and created something unique for the Arab world to be proud of.
He said: “This music is like nothing you’ve ever heard before. To me it’s his way of saying I understand your culture but now I’m going to teach you mine.”
Akl’s latest album, Shiraz – A Violin Affair, which has just been released, takes the listener through a timeless journey of tranquillity, peace and harmony.
The music, which is a blend of Persian and oriental, is perfectly composed with incredible attention to detail.
And take my word for it, the passion is clear as he stands and plays the instrument which many only associate with the painful racket created by young girls and boys in a school music room.
Quite the contrary – it’s amazing, breathtaking and soothing all at once.
Picking up his custom-made gold violin (one of just 13 he owns), it is literally seconds before Akl is totally consumed by the music he makes. His eyes are closed and his mind, spirit and heart have been transported to another world – one maybe only he can travel to.
And then he was back. Placing the instrument under his arm he didn’t even search for recognition, confident in every sense of his brief performance.
He said: “I understand music. It’s all I have ever truly understood.”
Launched in association with Viva Entertainment, Akl played a number of pieces from his new album at a private event to launch the Al Barari development on Emirates Road, in Dubai.
Recording his second album, Akl’s career is mapped out for success but he explains, it could have been so different. “All I ever wanted to be was a High Court Judge” – well at least the midday adjournments would have been entertaining.
Passing on the gift
With a 6-year-old son who has hopes and dreams of one day being a concert pianist (not a violinist), Jihad Akl says he just wants him to be happy.
He added: “Of course I’d love him to play the violin but he has to be happy and also do well at school.”