An ensemble that rarely performs in Pakistan, Sachal Music played for eager audiences in Lahore last weekend. Music aficionados made their way to the venue in throngs. The band’s default setting is jazz, hybridised with an Rastern classical influence, a style that makes Western audiences naturally inclined towards their music. However, they neither want foreign listeners to leave their comfort zone nor do they want fellow Pakistanis to be deprived of the true essence of what they do best: fusion music. Sachal Music has announced the first jazz festival in the history of Pakistan set to take place in 2017. The founder of the ensemble, Izzat Majeed, announced the festival at the end of their concert.
From the virility of their tabla-racing rendition of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five to Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Song of Lahore that details their lives — the group has quickly shot to global recognition. They have performed sold-out shows, featured at various jazz festivals and even captivated audiences at Tribeca Film Festival, via the documentary, yet they find little recognition at home. “Our musicians get deeply disturbed when they return from abroad and find out that no one knows them in Pakistan,” says Nur Fatima, Majeed’s wife, who along with her husband feels obligated to get these musicians recognised in their own country. “Even after the documentary they didn’t get the same kind of appreciation that they get abroad.”
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This is also why they plan to do as many live shows as possible until the Lahore Jazz Festival in February 2017. Majeed ensures the band does not compromise on their sound and venue. Besides, the ensemble is largely a self-financed project. “We were waiting for someone to come forward and sponsor us but that didn’t happen so we decided to take the initiative ourselves,” Fatima holds.
Meanwhile, Majeed has been working on the studio’s infrastructure to make the project more viable for those associated with it. Fatima adds, “Majeed has put in eight years into this and when you create something so beautiful, you want it to be self-sustaining. We want it to reach greater heights, even when we are not around.”
At the concert, the orchestra played some of their classics like Pink Panther, Taxali Gate and Take Five. They also played new unreleased songs titled Shalamar and Some Enchanted Evening — both of which are Majeed’s compositions. “In the 60s we had ‘jazz ambassadors’ including Brubeck come and perform in our country. It was widely appreciated till the 80s came and then people stopped listening to music,” he claims. For the festival, Majeed hopes to invite musicians from as far as Rio and Tokyo.
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“We haven’t approached any brands for sponsorship yet but we would be open to working with them for the music,” shares Fatima. Perhaps the reason why there aren’t beverage and ice-cream brands lining up outside Sachal Studio on Waris Road is because formulaic music carries the day in Pakistan and jazz is still looking for an audience here.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2016.
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