Jamal graduated from ARU in 2011 as the first MA Music Therapist in the world using the steelpan. Here, he looks back on his life before and after qualification.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamal always enjoyed playing and listening to music from all over the world.
Being a native of the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, he gravitated to their national musical instrument, the steelpan (the last musical instrument to be invented in the 20th century), from an early age.
Jamal came from an at-risk community in Trinidad and Tobago and being a part of the steelband community created a level of personal security and development. His passion for this instrument grew throughout his adolescence and well into his mid 20s as he was a member of a few famous steelbands, which afforded him the opportunity to tour places like Japan, USA, France, Netherlands and the UK.
During this time, Jamal gained an insight into other cultures in a hands-on way, and it was while on tour that he saw the impact that musical expression through performance had on audiences. It was during his early 20s, when he was able to perform in the UK for the then Council for Music in Hospitals (CMH) that he decided to learn more about clinical music making. It took ten years to learn about music therapy during his undergraduate course in Musical Arts at the University of the West Indies St Augustine Campus. He then lost two parental figures in his life and wished he had music therapy training to offer them a better quality of life as part of their end-of-life care.
Jamal was granted a Developmental Needs award to enrol on Anglia Ruskin University’s MA Music Therapy training in 2009, which allowed him to become the first MA music therapist to work in the public sector in Trinidad and Tobago, with his primary musical instrument being the steelpan.
Jamal works primarily in a psychiatric setting, where he sees clients from as early as five years old, through to adolescents, adults and the elderly facing a range of mental health challenges.
On 1 March 2023, Trinidad Central Bank Museum opened Panscription, a creative arts installation by Jamal on the bank's ground floor. In a statement, the Central Bank said that through the exhibition, Jamal hopes to raise awareness of the value of the creative arts and creative art therapies in assisting persons to deal with mental health challenges. The opening was scheduled to coincide with World Music Therapy Day.
Jamal has an ongoing clinical supervision with ARU's Professor Helen Odell-Miller OBE from 2011-present and recently attended the 17th World Congress of Music Therapy in Vancouver.