It is rare that Pakistan makes news around the world for reasons other than terrorism or terrible national catastrophe. The fact that the jazz album released by a group of musicians from Lahore called the Sachal Orchestra has risen to the top of the iTunes jazz charts in both the UK and the US has brought a different kind of gaze Pakistan’s way. The achievement of the musicians is also beginning to be recognised at home.
The remarkable series of events begins in Lahore, where UK-based businessman and millionaire Izzat Majeed, disturbed by the rapid decline of classical music in society and the desperate struggle of talented musicians to survive either within the fading film industry or through tuitions, set up a state-of-art studio for them eight years ago. After some initial hitches, the musicians began to produce some remarkable jazz music which combined violin riffs with the typically eastern strains of the sitar and the characteristic beat of the tabla, as well as other classical instruments.
Top American jazz artist Dave Brubeck, now 90, has described Sachal’s rendition of his jazz piece “Take 5” as the most innovative he has ever heard. Obviously, global audiences agree. The story underlines the talents we possess within our country in so many areas. People like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have demonstrated this before. Now Sachal Orchestra is doing the same and has lifted from despondency its member’s hopes to rise to still greater heights. We are certain they will succeed. But we must also hope that their effort can act as a means to inspire other philanthropists to restore the patronage of classical music which was delivered a terrible blow under the Zia era and is today still struggling to revive itself. The Sachal example shows just how possible this is, given the right support and encouragement.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.