music
The Pakistani Buena Vista Social Club

Sachal Jazz Ensemble  returns to London at the Barbican Centre on November 8, 2014

Posted: 07.11.14

After topping the world music charts and selling out their performances at the Marciac Jazz Festival; Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York and playing alongside Wynton Marsalis, the Sachal Jazz Ensemble, is back at London’s Barbican Centre, this weekend to present an exclusive concert before beginning a debut tour of India. Performed by virtuosos who cut their teeth in Pakistan’s once-flourishing Lollywood film industry, the Sachal Jazz Ensemble brings together some of the most accomplished classical musicians of the subcontinent to play raga, bossa nova classics and jazz standards.

This group of veteran musicians have captured the imaginations of a musical loving public judging from the responses of their last two albums and a flood of internet hits. It is their ability to use Eastern instruments such as sitar, sarod, dholak and tabla to create new interpretations of jazz and bossa nova classics that has endeared their sound to the public.

Sachal Jazz Ensemble burst onto the scene five years ago with their fresh re-working of Dave Brubeck’s iconic Take Five, that prompted the jazz legend to exclaim that “this is the most interesting and different recording of Take Five that I have ever heard.” Other innovative interpretations include Stevie Wonder’s ‘You’ve Got it bad girl’ and Henry Mancini’s ‘The Pink Panther’, the latter highlighting some fantastic sitar and flute playing. In the reworked ‘Blue Rondo a la turk’, composed by Dave Brubeck, the sitar, flute and sarod supply the melody lines layered on a lush rhythmic foundation provided by the traditional clay pot, dholak (drum) and tabla.

Blended with these south Asian instruments are sweeping classical violins and bursts of western drum, piano and contra bass to create a scintillating hybrid, a reminder that the boundaries of jazz remain hard to define. The group has pulled off the impossible: topping charts around the globe as a world-class jazz ensemble, while braving threats and intimidation to breathe new life into the dying cultural traditions of Pakistan.
 
Hand-picked from a lost generation of classical musicians who used to play in Lahore’s once-flourishing ‘Lollywood’ film industry, the Sachal Studios Orchestra has made its name with innovative and irresistible interpretations of well-loved jazz standards. Little wonder they’ve been called Pakistan’s Buena Vista Social Club, and Lahore’s answer to the Blues Brothers.

Brainchild of London-based Pakistani businessman Izzat Majeed, the Sachal Jazz project arose after Majeed tracked down the best musicians from the heyday of Pakistan’s film industry. Once revered, but from the eighties their instruments gathering dust in a more conservative Pakistan, Majeed encouraged them into the studio again to revitalize Pakistan’s rich musical traditions. Majeed rebuilt the dismal recording facilities, helped give encouragement to Pakistan’s disheartened musicians, and used jazz to breathe new life into country’s classical music scene. His efforts led to threats and rewards: the musicianshave removed their purdah and are now being seen and heard across the globe, prompting comparisons with the Buena Vista Social Club. Says Majeed: “I’m not a crusader. I just want to listen to music that really moves my soul and is great fun. Hopefully, other people will like it too.”

SACHAL JAZZ ENSEMBLE & STRINGS FROMTHE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (LSO)
LIVE IN CONCERT SATURDAY 8 NOVEMBER 2014 / 7:30PM
Barbican Box Office 020 7638 8891
www.barbican.org.uk
TICKETS: £15, £20, £25, £30,£35

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