Monday, August 8, 2011

Jazz Orchestra in Pakistan?

Pakistan's Sachal Studios Orchestra, named after Sindhi Sufi Saint Sachal Sarmast (1739–1829), has topped iTunes jazz charts in America and Britain with its interpretation of Dave Brubeck's Take Five that blends classical violins with sitars, tablas and other South Asian instruments, according to British media reports.



It's the first time Jazz is being played in Pakistan in a big way since Jazz greats like Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and other jazz legends performed in the country in the 1950s. Brubeck, 90, told reporters that it is "the most interesting" version of Take Five he's ever heard.

Sachal Orchestra's first album, “Sachal Jazz,” with interpretations of tracks like “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Misty,” and of course “Take Five” is available on iTunes. It's been produced, financed and directed by a wealthy British Pakistani Jazz enthusiast Izzat Majeed.

Inspired by the Abbey Road Studios in London, Majeed and his partner Mushtaq Soofi have worked for the last six years with Christoph Bracher, a scion of a German musicians’ family, to design and set up Sachal Studios in Lahore where their albums have been recorded.

In addition to Sachal's jazz interpretation, there are now other signs of revival of uniquely Pakistani music. An example is Coke Studio. Sponsored by Coca Cola Pakistan, Coke Studio is a one-hour show that features musicians playing a distinct blend of fusion music that mixes traditional and modern styles. Helped by the media boom in Pakistan, the show has had dramatic success since it was launched three years ago. The popular show has crossed the border and inspired an Indian version this year.

Here's a brief video clip of Sachal orchestra performance:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Other Story in 2010

Music Drives Coke Sales in Pakistan

History of Pakistani Music

Pakistan's Media Boom

Pakistan's Murree Brewery in KSE-100 Index

Health Risks in Developing Nations Rise With Globalization

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization Versus Talibanization

Life Goes On in Pakistan

15 comments:

Khalid said...

Riaz Bhai:
May Allah bless you a lot. You have given me a beautiful gift in Ramzan. All over, I hear depressing news about Pakistan. Many a times you have come through to elevate my spirit by giving me positive and pleasant side of my homeland.
May Allah give you a long life for helping Pakistan. Ameen

Shams said...

Can't beat good old American. But still, good effort by the Punjabis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-L0NpaErkk

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on Ari Roland Jazz band performing "Dil Dil Pakistan" in Karachi:

KARACHI, Sept 16: An evening of jazz is what one usually gets to enjoy. A jazz morning is an unusual occurrence. But it happened on Friday when the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet from the US visited the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) to perform and conduct a brief workshop for the academy`s students. The morning turned out to be worth skipping one`s breakfast for.

The quarter comprises Ari Roland (double bass), Chris Byars (tenor saxophone), Zaid Nasser (alto saxophone) and Keith Balla (drums) and is in Pakistan for a five-day workshop. They kicked off their Napa visit with a number demonstrating the basics of the jazz genre. During the performance Keith Balla played on just one head of the drum because his drum set hadn`t arrived. It was a nice beginning to the (mini) gig as all the four musicians showed their skills during their solo acts in the composition.

Once the band was done with the song, Ari Roland explained how the quarter played jazz. He said while playing, the four musicians stuck to the same structure (chords etc) however, each one improvised a new melody. Replying to a question, Ari Roland said “if we don`t remember the melody, we can`t remember the harmony”. Since it was Zaid Nasser`s birthday, the quarter then presented the traditional happy birthday tune in jazz dedicating it to their saxophonist. They literally and figuratively jazzed up the number which was pleasing to the ear.

The band members told students and journalists that the last time they were in Pakistan they learned a word `jugulbandi`. According to them, the word is now commonly used in New York`s music circles.

Following up on the jugulbandi theme, the quarter played the famous Pakistani national song `Dil Dil Pakistan` (by Vital Signs) imparting it a completely jazzy feel. It was a unique experience listening to the song as Zaid Nasser and Chris Byars played the melody on their saxophones and Ari Roland created the correct rhythmic pattern on his double bass.

Then Ari Roland talked about the quartet`s drummer, Keith Balla, saying he was the youngest of the lot therefore had more energy. This was amply proved when the next song was performed. Keith Balla, who now had received his complete drum set, played with great vigour, control and passion earning a hearty applause from the audience.

Napa student Saima requested to play the guitar with the quarter, which the band gleefully accepted.

They played in B-flat key and despite the student`s nervy performance she was appreciated by her senior colleagues. This encouraged another Napa pupil, singer Nadir Abbas, to join the four American musicians for an improvisation of raag charukeshi.

Responding to one question about eminent Hollywood director and actor Woody Allen`s ability as a jazz player, Chris Byars said it was neither good nor bad. He also narrated a couple of amusing incidents related to Bill Clinton`s go at the genre.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/17/dil-dil-pakistan-jazz-style.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP story about a Pakistani rapper Adil Omar:

...That was four years ago, and Omar has now recorded songs with several other American rappers, including Everlast from House of Pain, Xzibit and one of the members of Limp Bizkit.

He plans to release his first album next year and has established himself as Pakistan's biggest - and perhaps only - rap star. His rise illustrates a side of Pakistan that is often obscured by the steady stream of news about the Taliban and Al Qaida that comes out of the country.

Many Pakistani cities have thriving subcultures that get little attention in the West. Pakistan has a rich musical tradition, including the performance of Urdu-language love poems called ghazals and mystical Sufi music called Qawwali.

Pakistani rock bands have long been popular, as have songs from Bollywood movies. But hard-core rap like Omar's laced with profanity and sexual innuendo is almost unheard of, and could even be dangerous in a society plagued by militants.

"Violence seems to be totally acceptable in this culture, but sex and bad language in music and art seems to be totally unacceptable," said Omar, a clean-cut looking 20-year-old with short black hair who favors black sunglasses and T-shirts with half-naked women.

Omar, who sings in English, insists he is not a political rapper, but his latest song, Paki Rambo, is about a vigilante who hunts the Taliban. "Ambush your camp, my inglorious crew. Straight bastards, brawny and stronger than you," sang Omar. "Take classes, learn how we got em on wax. Hit the base with a bag full of Taliban scalps."
-----------
"It's the P to the A to the K to the I. Armed to the teeth till the day that I die," sang Omar. "R to the A to the M B O. Paki Rambo in the place." The song is part of the soundtrack for an upcoming Pakistani movie, Gol Chakkar, and the directors helped Omar produce a slick music video that has been released on YouTube.
----------
A young boy walks around with a mink stole around his neck. The market for Omar's music in Pakistan is small, limited mainly to elite Pakistani kids like himself who speak English and live lifestyles closer to their Western counterparts than the country's conservative majority.

Extremists who believe music is a violation of Islamic law have bombed CD shops in some parts of Pakistan. The upmarket crowd was on display at a rare concert Omar held this past weekend at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.

Well-coiffed women in tight jeans and young hipsters in velour jackets held up iPhones and Blackberries to record the show. "We really enjoy Adil's music because it represents the young generation," said Faizaan Bomassy, a 23-year engineer wearing a white Playboy hoody.

Even among Omar's friends and fans, some were surprised by the swearing and sexual references that flow through his music. "I think it's a little explicit sometimes, but I think it's good music," said Waleed Ali Khan, a 20-year-old student. "I think he is breaking new ground and paving the way for new artists."

Omar was born in London but moved to Islamabad when he was very young. He began writing lyrics at the age of 10 when his father died and his mother was bedridden for several years with a serious illness.
---------
Paki Rambo and Omar's collaborations with American rap stars will appear on the album he plans to release next year, The Mushroom Cloud Effect. About a third of the songs were recorded in Los Angeles, and the rest in Omar's bedroom in his mother's house in Islamabad...........


http://gulfnews.com/arts-entertainment/music/rapper-breaks-new-ground-in-conservative-pakistan-1.921804

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjlYGzVk-6o&feature=related

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India story on "Aalu Anday", a satirical music video gone viral on Youtube:

NEW DELHI: When the music video of "Aalu Anday", an unsparing song that lampoons Pakistan's top politicians and generals from Ashfaq Kayani to Zia-ul-Haq, from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan, was released last month, it immediately became an internet sensation.

But the bitingly satirical number was merely the latest in a long chain of similar popular anti-establishment tracks by other well-known Pakistan singers and groups such as Shehzad Roy, Junoon and Laal who have laughed at and lambasted the high and mighty across the border.

"We are the silent majority of Pakistan who are speaking up now. We are not trying to give solutions, but only trying to create an environment where things can be discussed openly," says 27-year-old Ali Aftab Saeed, a band member of Beygairat Brigade, the Lahore-based 'political rock' band who created Aalu Anday. Incidentally, the three band members (Daniyal Malik and 15-year-old guitarist Hamza Malik being the other two) are self-confessedly 'hardcore' RD Burman fans and Anurag Kashyap admirers.

A little courage in the heart and a guitar in hand go a long way in expressing notes of dissent across the border. The Beygairat Brigade's act is the latest in a tradition where singers and satirists have routinely ridiculed and castigated politicians in their music and lyrics. In 2008, singer Shehzad Roy courted controversy with Laga Reh, a hard-hitting track attacking the establishment.

Earlier Sufi-rock band Junoon faced censorship for songs like Ehtesaab, which hit out at political corruption and was banned by the Pakistani state TV. Now, bands such as Laal have joined the party providing music to the fiery protest poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, known for producing art out of defiance. TV channels refused to play their song, Jhooth ka uncha sar, said to be "too anti-army" in sentiment.

"In the beginning Pakistani bands used music to express dissent because other avenues of communication were closed to them. When you are in a repressive environment you naturally find other ways to communicate and music became that outlet. Nowadays things are much more open, but I think the association between music and free speech remains," says satirist and stand-up comic Saad Haroon.

In a country racked by terrorist violence and extreme disillusionment with the state, humour not only works as a form of subversion but also as relief and release.

The identity of Beygairat Brigade is constructed as an antithesis to what they call the "ghairat brigade" (honor brigade): political analysts and TV show hosts who have taken it upon themselves to uphold the honor of the Pakistani state as they understand it.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-Pakistan-protest-music-is-a-tradition/articleshow/10562389.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Indian writer Aakar Patel in FirstPost on Indian version of Coke Studio:

Why did Pakistan produce the lovely Coke Studio music series and not India? Why is Pakistan’s Coke Studio more popular with many Indians over the new Indian version? Is it because Pakistan’s musicians are better or more creative than India’s?
----------
One evening Ifti, who is sadly no longer with us, took me to the Waris Road residence of Masood Hasan, later to become a fellow columnist of mine at The News. We had a few glasses of the good stuff with some other guests, and then Hasan took us to a part of the property where his son Mekaal had built a studio and was playing with his band.

This was when I first heard the music that is now so distinctively the sound of Coke Studio. I would define it as a folk song or raag-based melody, layered with western orchestration. This included a synthesizer wash, guitars, a drummer, a bass punctuating the chord changes, and backing vocals and harmony. Essentially it was traditional Hindustani music made palatable for ears accustomed to listening to more popular music.

Mekaal did this very well and his band’s first album, Sampooran, is as good as anything produced by Rohail Hyatt at Coke Studio later.

Indeed, many of the musicians Mekaal worked with, eventually ended up at Coke Studio. Gumby, the Karachi drummer on Coke Studio’s first four seasons, played on Sampooran. Zeb and Haniya, the stars of Coke Studio 2, were originally produced by Mekaal.

The first-rate Hindustani singer Javed Bashir who adds depth to the singers who are not classically trained, used to be lead singer with Mekaal’s band. The great Ghulam Ali was on a flight with me from Ahmedabad to Bombay once and I told him I was friends with Javed. “Mera hi bachcha hai,” he said with great pride.

Lahore’s Pappu, Pakistan’s best flutist, has played flute for Mekaal’s records.

Gumby and I went to a concert next to my house where guitarists Frank Gambale and Maurizio Colonna played. Gumby says Colonna’s playing brought tears to his eyes. Javed and I have drunk a few places dry, and been banned from one. Mekaal is of course a dear friend, as are Zeb and Haniya.
--------
Now to understand why India did not produce Coke Studio but Pakistan did. The reason is linked to what I said earlier – that Coke Studio is a popular interpretation of India’s traditional music.

India’s talented musicians and producers have a commercial outlet:Bollywood. This is where money is made and this is where Pakistan’s singers who want commercial success must also come.

Their talent, however, is spent on making music that is purely popular, because that is what they are paid big money for. Indian musicians like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Kailash Kher can make
Coke Studio’s sort of classical-popular mix of music easily if they set aside a couple of months for it. They choose not to however, because their working day is spent making music
that makes them rich (Kailash, whom I’ve known since before he sang for Bollywood, today charges Rs 20 lakh for a two hour concert).

In Pakistan there is no commerce in music, and even the most talented musicians must do something other than sing or play to get by. Mekaal for instance, rents out his studio. The disadvantages of not having a commercial outlet for your talent are many. The only advantage of this is that musicians are free to make popular music that is still non-commercial.

Fortunately for all of us, whether Indian or Pakistani, Rohail Hyatt and his team have used this space to produce the music that we love so much. The reason why Coca Cola produces it is that the Pakistani public will not directly pay for it, unlike Indians and Bollywood.

It is cruel to say this, but it is true.


http://www.firstpost.com/living/why-pakistans-coke-studio-beats-indias-hollow-338177.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Newseeek Pakistan story on Shazia Sikandar:

Her works are part of the permanent collections of some of the world’s most famous museums—the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Guggenheim. In 2005, The New York Times called her an “an artist on the verge of shaking things up.” The year before that, Newsweek counted her among the clutch of overachieving South Asians “transforming America’s cultural landscape.” Shahzia Sikander, arguably Pakistan’s most famous living modern artist, has been wowing the international art world with her multidisciplinary works inspired from Mughal-era miniature painting techniques and tropes. She’s been scoring accolades since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. Last year, the U.S. secretary of State awarded her the Inaugural Medal of Art. She’s previously won a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” While Pakistan hasn’t entirely ignored Sikander—she won the President’s National Pride of Honor award in 2005—she’s hardly a household name in her home country, and viewed by Pakistani critics as an outlier. We spoke with Sikander recently about her art and life. Excerpts:

From the National College of Arts in Lahore to the pinnacle of the global art scene, what’s the journey been like for you?

Complex, the way life is. It’s hard to summarize more than two decades in a single answer—besides, the journey is still unfolding. In retrospect I would have, perhaps, made some different decisions, but I’m appreciative of all the opportunities and detours I experienced that helped me develop my ability to think and express.

You’ve rarely held any shows in Pakistan, why?

Not being invited in any serious manner to exhibit works in Pakistan is an issue. Compounding the situation is also the fact that almost all of my work got collected rapidly by international museums in the late 1990s and early 2000s. To show the work, it has to be loaned directly from the [collecting] institutions. It was never as simple as putting the work in a suitcase to be brought over to Pakistan to exhibit.

Do you think your work has helped change how women artists from the Muslim world are viewed abroad, judged on the basis of the work rather than the baggage of biography?

Our actions speak for ourselves. If anything my choices in life do not fit into any stereotypes. I am a strong advocate for women’s education. The support I received from my family and mentors in Pakistan was instrumental in allowing me to think for myself, take responsibility for my actions, and develop a healthy sense of independence and self-worth. Unfortunately, stereotypes get resurrected often around the world for all sorts of people. Muslim women are subjected to this much more frequently. Over the years there have been numerous opportunities to debunk or challenge these stereotypes, and I have been there many times through my work and through my life.

How much of your work is informed by your heritage, your Pakistani identity?

My identity is very much about my being from the subcontinent. It is not as if I left my roots and have to find ways to engage with them. I came of age in Pakistan. My engagement with Indo-Persian miniature painting started in the mid to late-’80s when I was studying at the NCA........


http://newsweekpakistan.com/the-forgotten-daughter/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ blog post on Izzat Majeed, a British-Pakistani music philanthropist:

The millionaire-investor-turned-philanthropist and music mogul will mark a milestone when his Sachal Studios Orchestra of Lahore releases its second jazz album later this year. The first, Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards and Bossa Nova, went on sale in 2011. It shot to the top of iTunes rankings in both the U.S. and U.K. and drew comparisons to Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club album, done with Cuban’s biggest traditional musical legends, some of whom had been out of the limelight for decades.

The first Sachal album featured a version of “Take Five” that even Brubeck is said to have liked. Brubeck died late last year. The tribute to his quartet was played on both Western stringed instruments and traditional Eastern instruments, like the sitar, and was also done as a slickly cut, but somehow still-quaint music video.

The orchestra’s second album, Jazz and All That, has a decidedly different feel, Majeed said.

“For the second album, I’ve done two things. The entire structure of rhythm has changed. Also, I have brought in Western instruments that would create enthusiasm, rather than in the previous album, when the contribution of Western instruments was minimal,” he said. “That gels well with the sitar, the sarangi (a fiddle-like instrument)…It gives it a sound I really like.”

Sachal Studios, which also has produced several dozen albums from individual artists since opening, released a teaser video of the orchestra playing an East-West fusion version of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”

Majeed, by the way, hesitates to call the sound of the orchestra he built “fusion,” though it blends elements and instruments of both.

“I shy away from Western or Eastern,” Majeed said. “I don’t understand ‘fusion.’ For example, I made two or three new tracks totally on our classical music, on the ragas. When you hear them, the raga is not disturbed at all…Whenever I make a composition and bring in an instrument from the West and our own instrument, ultimately, the impact, the sound that you hear, is your own music. It’s not fusion. It’s the world coming into musical harmony.”

Majeed, who is 63 and considers himself retired, splits time between London and Lahore, and does some of his album-tracking with musicians in Europe. He said he just likes the sound of the instruments coming together, and that part of his mission is to bring music back to Pakistan, even if it’s a different kind than what many of his countrymen expect.

“Everyone tells us, ‘you rock the boat all the time when you’re in Lahore, because I don’t know the music.’ We all just get together and say, ‘here is the sound. Do you like it?’ We bypass the classical structures,” he said.

Playing music that’s pleasant and interesting, as he discovered with the orchestra’s first album, attracts listeners from all over, like Japan and Brazil, as well as in Pakistan. Majeed said he started to compose the outlines of the second album as the first album began resonating with listeners around the world. It has come together at a comfortable pace and in a way where the whole orchestra is now onboard with the sound.

----

The new album features 13 tracks, including Henry Mancini’s “The PInk Panther,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens, “the Maquis Tepat,” and a jazz-based classical interpretation of a Monsoon raga.

Beyond the orchestra’s music, the tale of how and why Majeed built the studio and founded Sachal is worth telling for music aficionados.

After his initial exposure to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s so-called “Jambassadors,” in 1958, Majeed, kept music close, despite a winding career.


http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/09/11/philanthropist-bringing-jazz-back-to-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of an NPR story on Sachal Jazz Orchestra in Lahore:

It recently released its second album, Jazz and All That. There's more Brubeck, among other Western classics by The Beatles, Jacques Brel, Antonio Carlos Jobim, R.E.M. — all with a South Asian flavor.

The weird thing is, Mushtaq Soofi says, while the old Lollywood session men are now winning plaudits abroad, no one back home knows or cares much about them.

"Music has to be recognized, and there is no patronage for music in Pakistan," Soofi says. "That is why people are upset, musicians are upset. If you sing, if you are a singer or a vocalist, you get kind of fame and name and money, but if you are a musician, a pure musician, people don't bother much about you."

The only people who do bother about you tend to be the religious extremists, like the Taliban.

"It is very difficult for musicians, because music is considered forbidden because it is un-Islamic," cellist Ghulam Abbas says. "Yet the same people think it is acceptable to kill people."

Be that as it may, Abbas says he isn't planning to hang up his cello again.
-----------
A few decades back, Lahore had a booming film industry. Inevitably, it was known as Lollywood.

"This was like a magic age that fell apart," says Aqeel Anwar, a violinist in his 70s. He used to play in Lollywood soundtracks. "It was such an excellent time. I never thought it would end."

For many years, South Asian movies kept Lahore's session musicians pretty busy. And the Lollywood musicians were a class apart.

"In Punjab here in Pakistan, music is usually practiced by traditional musicians' families," says Mushtaq Soofi, a music producer. "They inherit it, they learn it from their parents and then transmit to the next generation."

Things started to change in the late '70s. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq seized power in a coup, ushering in a period of religious conservatism in Pakistan that lingers to this day.

Movie theaters began to shut down. Lollywood went into decline.

Ghulam Abbas played cello in the movies. When the work dried up, he packed away his instrument and broke with tradition by deciding not to teach his children how to play. He started up a garment stall, but struggled to get by.

"When I left this work, I was very sad," Abbas says. "I thought about how I'd worked hard and invested 25 to 30 years in my music."

Now, Abbas is sawing away at the cello again — though some of the music isn't exactly what he's used to.


http://www.npr.org/2014/04/26/306874889/a-millionaire-saves-the-silenced-symphonies-of-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani Indie Rock Band to Perform at Lincoln Center

Poor Rich Boy Brings its Pakistani Indie Rock to the Lincoln Center Atrium on June 19th

By Rich Monetti

Singer, songwriter keyboard player Shehzad Noor of the Pakistani Indie Rock Band Poor Rich Boy grew up a middle class life - son and grandson of English Literature professors. His introduction to music began with classical music from the subcontinent before American masters like Tom Waits and Bob Dylan took hold. The Indie Rock sound that generally tags the six member band would follow, but there was definitely a gap between the start of his contemporary evolution and taking up music as a professional pursuit.

Shehzad Noor(SN): When I was 15 I knew I wanted to pursue music, but it wasn’t until maybe a year ago that I actually had the balls to pursue it fulltime.

Times Square(TS): How old are you?

SN: 28

TS: What else do you do?

SN: I teach music and drama to kids in school.

TS: I guess by the area code, you are in D.C. now?

SN: Yes, our first show is at the Kennedy Center. Then we play in Rhode Island, New York and at a couple of universities.

TS: Is this your first time here?

SN: Yes.

TS: Well, how does it look?

SN: DC looks beautiful. The people are really warm. We went to a bar the other night where they had live music – very, very welcoming.

TS: How would you describe the style of music of Poor Rich Boy?

SN: The thing is we’re a six-member band with six different tastes in music, and so it happens when we all come together, it sounds a lot like Indie Rock. But we all still play different kinds of music. We pride ourselves on that.

TS: Where does your band stand in popularity in Pakistan?

SN: Our band happens to be popular among middle class and upper middle class people. That makes us a small part of the country, but that makes up a large percentage of the arts. So to answer your question, compared to what - I think we’re well known in the new wave of art and music.

TS: Your songs are in English, I assume most of your fans are also English speaking?

SN: Yes, they speak and understand English.

TS: Obviously Pakistan has a segments of very religious or overly religious people. How can that be a problem for you?

SN: I haven’t had a very bad experience, but I don’t go around telling people that I’m a musician because we are generally looked down upon. It’s kind of unavoidable. As soon as the security threat goes up, fewer people come out, and we don’t get as many gigs. It affects us no matter how you look at it. We live pretty cushy lives compared to many Pakistani’s. I keep bringing that up because it’s really important – how many different experiences there are in Pakistan. I guess I feel a little self-conscious.

TS: We’ve all heard about the horrible stoning that took place last week. Unfairly, that kind of thing can paint a broad picture of a people. How can you present a more diverse picture for the world?

SN: My wife was at a protest yesterday at the high court. They really didn’t do shit. I can’t even think about it because it’s that upsetting. But to answer how do we show that Pakistan has many more aspects – just by simply being who we are. That’s the best we can do. In terms of Poor Rich Boy, what we’re trying to do is return a more accessible narrative to the American Public.

TS: How about when you hear about some of our crazy stuff – mass shootings for instance?

SN: I understand that bad things happen everywhere, and it’s really important to have a balanced perspective. That’s what I was taught. It’s one event isolated in time. This does not paint a cohesive and detailed picture of what a country is. Unfortunately, what we end up doing is oversimplifying these questions. What are Americans like? What are Pakistanis like? What is Islam like? These are broad questions, and that’s why I love the arts because it allows you to represent variations

- See more at: http://www.timessquare.com/component/k2/item/4270-poor-rich-boy

Riaz Haq said...

In 'Song Of #Lahore,' A Race To Revive Pakistani Classical Music. #Pakistan Documentary at #TribecaFilmFestival

http://n.pr/1zq4OON

The musicians are part of Sachal Studios Orchestra, a group of about 20 Lahore-based artists who fuse traditional Pakistani music with jazz. They work in a small rehearsal room in Sachal Studios, at the heart of the city. There, they create new songs and rehearse for concerts in effort to keep traditional music on the public's radar....Obaid-Chinoy's film follows the musicians on their quest.

The documentary premieres Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City......When they started in the early 2000s, the ensemble went largely unnoticed. Then in 2014, they performed in New York City with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. This appearance earned them recognition in the global jazz scene. Since then, they've been performing around the globe and in Pakistan.

The documentary zooms into each musician's personal life before their success. For example, 39-year-old Nijat Ali is tasked to take over as conductor of the ensemble when his father dies. Saleem Khan, the violinist, struggles to pass on his skills to his grandson before it's too late. And 63-year-old guitarist Asad Ali tries to make ends meet by playing guitar in a local pop band.

The biggest challenge, Obaid-Chinoy says, was getting them to open up. "The musicians are very proud," she tells Goats and Soda. "When I first began filming them, they hid how tough life was for them, and it took me a long time to pry that open."

Riaz Haq said...

Via @nprmusic: A #Pakistan Pop Star Zeb Bangash Draws On #Pashto, #Darri #Music Tradition http://n.pr/1R5ScG7 https://vimeo.com/51609075

Here's a phrase you don't hear a lot in the US: "Pakistani pop music." In fact, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a thriving music industry — and singer Zebunissa Bangash, or Zeb for short, is one of its stars.

There has been violence and threat to Pakistani culture since the country was founded 68 years ago, both for political and religious reasons. Zeb was never subjected to that scrutiny: She studied art history at college in the US before returning home to form a band with her cousin, Haniya. Their accessible pop songs found a devoted following.

"I'm sure there are artists out there who are fighting to do music," she says. "They certainly need recognition for that and they need support for that. But I'm not that artist."

Pakistan has produced generations of musicians like Zeb, who defy easy assumptions about art and Islam — whether they're performing Bollywood soundtracks or spiritual Sufi anthems.

"Artists are supposed to be dark, and they're supposed to be cool, and they're supposed to stay up all night," she says laughing. "A lot of times, I'm taunted by my colleagues and my peers. They're like, 'Oh, there you are, Miss Disney Princess. What's happening in your head?'"

More often than not, music and songs are what's happening in her head. But music isn't just for professionals in Pakistan: From lullabies to family gatherings to religion, music is a part of everyday life.

"I used to think that that's what all families have," Zeb explains. "I think even the way you recite the Qur'an itself, there is music embedded in it. You don't call it singing, but it does have music embedded in it."

Several years ago, Zeb appeared on one of the country's most popular TV shows (Coke Studio) and sang a song in Dari and Pashto, regional languages most Pakistanis didn't understand, accompanied by a traditional stringed instrument known as the rabab. The unorthodox performance was a huge success.

https://vimeo.com/51609075

"The song that people have given me the most love for is [that] song," Zeb says. "That's when I started thinking about the beauty that is hidden, or that seems to be erased."

Zeb began studying the history of South Asian music after that. She says Muslim artists have often seen their work as a form of worship, in which creating beauty is about communion with the divine. She's begun working with a classical teacher, Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, to explore the music of the past and the culture that produced it.

"What kind of a world is it where this was not only appreciated but encouraged, and had lots of patrons?" she asks. "I'm interested in really exploring that and learning more about it."

It's a tradition a lot of the country's urban pop stars are losing.

"For some people, especially for the urban youth and for those who feel like globalized citizens, we feel completely disconnected from it," Zeb says. "But the more traditional societies, and especially in places like rural Pakistan, those traditions are still linked to something beautiful and something that was intricate and subtle."

And Zeb is not alone. She's part of a new generation of Muslim musicians that is looking to the past to try to create a more inclusive future.

Riaz Haq said...

‘There is no fear’: how a cold-war tour inspired Pakistan’s progressive jazz scene

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/jul/12/there-is-no-fear-how-a-cold-war-tour-inspired-pakistans-progressive-jazz-scene

One of the countries the US focused on was Pakistan, which had gained its independence from British colonial rule less than a decade earlier, in 1947: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck were among the performers at state-funded gigs during the 1950s and 60s. These concerts wove jazz into Pakistan’s musical fabric and through its traditional instruments, resulting in sounds that remain relatively unheralded yet are still flourishing today.

In attendance at Duke Ellington’s 1963 performance in Karachi was a teenager, Badal Roy. He had grown up in the city and was informally learning the tabla, a twinned set of drums. “At that time of my life I was mainly into Pakistani classical music and rock’n’roll – I loved Elvis Presley,” he tells me over the phone from his apartment in Wilmington, Delaware. “But that concert was my first introduction into jazz music. I had no idea what to expect and it was incredible.”

In attendance at Duke Ellington’s 1963 performance in Karachi was a teenager, Badal Roy. He had grown up in the city and was informally learning the tabla, a twinned set of drums. “At that time of my life I was mainly into Pakistani classical music and rock’n’roll – I loved Elvis Presley,” he tells me over the phone from his apartment in Wilmington, Delaware. “But that concert was my first introduction into jazz music. I had no idea what to expect and it was incredible.”

In 1968, he moved to New York in the hope of studying statistics at university. He struggled financially and worked as a busboy at A Taste of India, a restaurant in Greenwich Village, where he also began performing tabla each week.

Other musicians would sometimes come and jam. One guitarist, John McLaughlin, returned weekly, and asked Roy if he would join him on his album My Goal’s Beyond: Roy’s tabla became a key part of its sound. A few weeks later, McLaughlin returned to the restaurant and told Roy to pack up his tabla and come to the Village Gate club down the road as his friend wanted to hear him play. Upon arriving, Roy learned that this friend was Miles Davis, someone he knew nothing about. He was instructed to play. At the end of the 15-minute freestyle, Davis turned towards him and said: “You’re good.”

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A couple of months after their encounter, Roy was asked to come into the studio and record, and found himself in a room with Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and more. Thankfully for his stress levels, he had very little knowledge of any of them. Davis told Roy: “You start.”

He began with the groove he played most often – TaKaNaTaKaNaTin – and shortly after, Herbie Hancock joined in, followed by the rest. The sessions ended up becoming Davis’s 1972 album On the Corner, and the simultaneous melody and rhythmic depth of Roy’s tabla helped to hold together its wild mix of funk and free jazz. “I was quite confused at first but when they started to play with me and we found the rhythm, I felt better,” Roy says. “I found it difficult to explain this instrument to them: how the tabla is tuned, how the language of the instrument is different, the rhythm pattern, everything. They are very clever, though, and they picked it up very quickly.”

hile Roy was busy working on pioneering albums such as Smith’s Astral Travelling and Sanders’ Wisdom Through Music, Pakistan was experiencing its own golden cultural age: its booming cinema industry was the fourth largest producer of feature films in the world during the early 70s. Almost every experimental, radical-sounding record that came out of mid-century Pakistan – many of them rooted in jazz – was from a film soundtrack. The elaborate acts of choreographed dancing and decadence expressed both organisation and chaos; sentiments that were reflected in the music, yielding a genre-shattering set of sounds.

Riaz Haq said...

‘There is no fear’: how a cold-war tour inspired Pakistan’s progressive jazz scene

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/jul/12/there-is-no-fear-how-a-cold-war-tour-inspired-pakistans-progressive-jazz-scene


A producer such as M Ashraf composed 2,800 film tracks in over 400 films across his 45-year career, aiding the careers of Pakistani singers such as Noor Jehan and Nahid Akhtar who would become some of the country’s most beloved singers. “An independent music space didn’t exist like it does now; radio was sticking to a more patriotic agenda and labels were limited in what they would champion,” explains musician and ethnomusicologist Natasha Noorani. “So, film is what you would rely on to see the deeper side of Pakistan’s culture. You could experiment with film, and that’s where the craziest records would come from” – ones where jazz clashed with pop, psychedelia and more.

The Lahore-based Tafo Brothers brought an entirely fresh dimension to Pakistan’s film music in the 70s, incorporating drum machines, analogue synths and fuzz pedals over the jazz infrastructure, allowing a more electronic, dancefloor-inclined energy to emerge. However, Pakistan’s cultural momentum stagnated in 1977 when military dictator Zia-ul-Haq seized power, and saw cinema, provoking different ideas and thoughts within the population, as a threat. Censorship laws curtailed creative independence. “If you study south Asian culture, the minute film is doing well, then your music industry is doing well too,” Noorani says. “By the late 70s, film began to be doing terribly and that was the moment the music industry collapsed.”

Session musicians and jazz players fell into unemployment and poverty, and gradually lost respect in a society where the creative arts were not a desirable field to work in. This had a damaging impact on the families who had preserved certain instruments for centuries, through a social system called gharānā. Suddenly, the attitudes towards some of the most historically respected figures in Pakistani society had completely shifted, and parents were contemplating whether or not to teach their children the instruments that had been the pillar of their family’s story.


Zohaib Hassan Khan is a member of one of Pakistan’s most esteemed sarangi-playing families from the Amritsar gharānā, which had been passing the instrument down each generation since the early 1700s. Khan is now continuing the tradition in the superb Pakistani jazz quartet Jaubi, part of a tiny yet imaginative new generation that also includes artists such as Red Blood Cat and VIP.

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It was the same in 1956, when Dizzy Gillespie also appreciated the freedom within the rules. He spent afternoons between performances jamming with locals and street performers, trying to understand their musical approach, resulting in the track Rio Pakistan released the following year. It is arguably the first raga to be incorporated into American jazz, unfolding over 11 and a half minutes as Gillespie’s trumpet combines with the violin of Stuff Smith, combusting in a unique track that is noticeably limited in its melodic range.

The fearlessness of Khan, Baqar and Tenderlonious in working with their opposing approaches has resulted in similarly groundbreaking music: merging without ego or hierarchy, aided by the magic of improvisation, appreciating both rules and fluidity. It is the same approach that Gillespie took, and that Davis exemplified so boldly, incorporating Badal Roy’s tabla, an instrument known for its strictness, into an experimental free jazz album. Pakistan’s jazz players show that at a time when so many are conscious of what separates us, music can find a common ground in that very difference. As Roy puts it: “Our musical languages are different, but with patience, we learned to understand each other. That is when the real magic occurred.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani-#American singer Arooj Aftab inspired by Ghalib, Cohen and Rumi to create a unique fusion #music presentation: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/pakistani-musician-arooj-aftabs-neo-sufi-music-blends-rumi-with-reggae-and-more

Arooj Aftab recently debuted work from her latest album at a concert at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works. Her compositions are personal, her performance intimate, but it was far from a solo effort.


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Audio engineering's loss was composing's gain. Where else would we get a song like "Last Night," with lyrics adapted from 13th century Sufi mystic and poet Rumi put to a beat like this one?


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Her loss and her art converge in a composition called "Diya Haiti," its lyrics derived from a poem by the popular 19th century Indian poet Mirza Ghalib.

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Still, she had the self-assurance to take on a poet of more recent vintage, Leonard Cohen, and his celebrated composition "Hallelujah."