Pakistani Jazz Music Tops Western Charts

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

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET opinion on the latest season of Pakistani Idol TV show:

The year 2011 marked the discovery of various musical gems through the emergence of Pakistani talent shows like “Uth Records”. The show played a key role in turning raw Pakistani talent into seasoned musicians and singers of today. Every episode had a unique flavour and charm; as it showcased a different musician, singing a different genre, belonging to a different ethnic background and representing a different part of the country. From the catchy tunes of Natasha Ejaz to the folk rock belted out by Yasir & Jawad, every artist created a cult following of their own, becoming a regular feature on the local radio channels. Of course, none of this could have happened without music producers Omran Shafique and Gumby who were integral in the success of the first season of “Uth Records”.

So when 2012 started and the second season of the show was announced, there were even higher expectations from it. However, this time, there was a slight variation in the line-up. Gumby had taken over Shafique’s spot as the solo producer of the show. The fact that Gumby was producing music left many confused as he is better known for his drumming skills than anything else. However, people had been talking about his creative input in producing “Coke Studio” for a long while and this would’ve been a great opportunity for him to put his talent to test.

However, Gumby couldn’t come even close to what was expected from a seasoned musician like him. With artists like Jarar Malik, Affaq Mushtaq, XXI, Sara Haider, Orangenoise and Rahim Saranjam Khan who featured on the show, only two managed to stand out — Khan and Mushtaq. The rest of the artists made no lasting impression and were not extraordinary by any means.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/365571/uth-records-tunes-of-disappointment/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET story of an unlikely success of Pak singer of a fish song:

LONDON: A 31-year-old Pakistani fish seller at a London market seems like an unlikely pop star. But the moment he starts to sing his One Pound Fish Song, he is suddenly surrounded by a sea of fans.

The song goes Come on ladies, come on ladies, have a, have a look, one pound fish. Very very good, very very cheap, one pound fish.

The One Pound Fish Song by Mohammad Shahid Nazir has led him to sign a record deal with Warner Music, The Sun reported.

Nazir was spotted after a YouTube video of him singing at the Queen’s Market, Upton Park, got more than 3.6 million views.

British star Alesha Dixon and US boy band Mindless Behaviour have both recorded versions of the song.

Nazir said the attention is not unusual.

“People have come from Australia, the US, Canada and all over Europe. They don’t come here to work or shop, they come for One Pound Fish Man,” he told the daily.

Shahid moved to Britain just over a year ago with the hope of making enough money to send to his wife and four children in Pakistan.

On his first day at the fish stall, his boss told him to shout to customers to get their attention. He said he did not like shouting, and so made up a song.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/471054/pakistani-fish-sellers-song-gets-record-deal-with-warner-music/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Daily Telegraph story on new "Glee Club" TV serial in Pakistan:

The cast and crew of Taan – "musical note" in Urdu - say they hope it will unite the country in front of the television as families sing along to their favourite hits.

Set in a music academy, the 26-part serial tells the story of the budding singers and musicians as they try to become stars.

Nabeel Sarwar, the show's producer, said it would not shy from tackling Pakistan's big issues but would also offer an upbeat alternative to the despair and misery peddled by most TV channels.

"I thought what are the two things that Pakistanis all unite around – the cricket team that doesn't perform or the music that does perform," he said.

Pakistan's divisions have dominated the headlines so far this year. The country's Shia minority has been targeted in a series of bomb attacks, and Taan is being filmed in Lahore, where a mob torched 100 Christian homes on March 10.



Mr Sarwar said the show would tap into the dreams of Pakistani teenagers and feature some of their parents' favourite songs.

About 100 Pakistani hits have been rerecorded for the series, to be performed in energetic dance routines or as atmospheric ballads. They range from the devotional Sufi songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the soft rock of Junoon, once described as Pakistan's answer to U2.

Filming has already begun and Mr Sarwar is in talks to sell the show to Pakistan's state-run terrestrial channel.

"I want a hit show that the whole country loves, that they bop along to, that they buy the soundtrack to, that they feel united behind, so that they feel at one with everyone when they watch this because there's something for everyone," said Mr Sarwar.

The show revolves around the fictional Hayaat Haveli musical academy in Lahore.

At its heart is a tension between a traditional music teacher and his younger rival, who trains budding pop stars, representing different faces of Pakistan.

Among their pupils are the offspring of well-heeled bureaucrats and a talentless wannabe who dreams of becoming a Bollywood actress.

But some of Taan's plotlines differ from the coming-of-age tales and happy endings of Glee or Fame. Instead they attempt to engage with the darker side of Pakistan.

One of the characters, Annie Masih is described as losing all her family in the 2009 attack on a Christian enclave in the town on Gojra, a real episode in which seven people were burned alive.

Another storyline involves Fariduddin, a member of the Pakistan Taliban intent on blowing up the academy before he is eventually seduced by music.

Hassan Niazi, who plays Zaki, the pop music teacher, said those issues would not distract from the main attraction of the show – the songs.

"Music is the only thing that can unite this country," he said during a break in filming.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9935957/Pakistan-television-joins-the-Glee-club.html
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 a story about Karachi's vibrant indie music scene:

The disconnect is emblematic of a new cultural era for the world’s seventh largest city, characterized by variety. Outsiders are noticing, from Rolling Stone to Pakistan's neighbors in India. A writer for the Delhi-based magazine Caravan recently dove into the city’s secret clubs and concluded that a “shift” aided by the internet is producing an unprecedented range of sounds, "reflecting [Karachi's] frenzied character.”

Even the band names seem designed to stir things up, with an almost overwrought indie sensibility: Mole, //orangenoise, Dynoman, Basheer & the Pied Pipers, Alien Panda Jury, and DALT WISNEY are a few of the current hottest indie acts. Because Pakistani hits historically come from the classical world or the movies -- meaning Bollywood, or the Lahore analog, Lollywood -- these independent artists are forming collectives that act as labels, helping bands put out albums and promoting each other.

As in any good music scene, there are turf wars. In an interview last fall with Vice Magazine's electronic music spinoff THUMP, the rising Islamabad-based producer Talal Qureshi distanced himself from “that word ‘trippy.’” According to Qureshi, his peers in Karachi are limiting themselves by sticking to “music which is good to dance and be on drugs to.”

The comments rippled through the Pakistani music scene. In a counter interview with THUMP, FXS hit back at Qureshi, using their respective cities as ammunition. “Karachi,” said one member, “is a living city.” Meanwhile, “after 8pm Islamabad shuts down. All the house lights are switched off. It’s a town full of retired army uncles.”

There is one meeting point for every young Pakistani hopeful: the internet. Scour YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, and you’ll soon be an expert in subcontinental indie.

But domestically, traditional venues still count. The Caravan article names a trigger for the "shift," when the band Mole performed on the popular Pakistani concert series, Coke Studio, in 2011. Sponsored by Coca Cola, the televised series tends to launch the careers of mainstream acts, as it did for the Pakistani pop star Atif Aslam.

The Mole appearance jumpstarted what the cautious are calling an “overly experimental approach” at Coke Studio HQ. (Notably, one of Mole’s members is the son of a Coke Studio founder.)

Hearing "drone beeps" of electronica mixed in with otherwise standard fare, a journalist at The Friday Times, an independent weekly in Pakistan, praised the new era at Coke Studio, marked by "the humility of the old learning from the new."

It’s not all revolution. Drinking alcohol is still illegal in Pakistan, a rule that ghettoizes the music scene into underground house parties.

But limitations bring their own opportunities. In the THUMP interview, DALT WISNEY compared Karachi to "a prison." As a kid, he wasn't allowed to roam due to threats of violence and kidnappings. It was on his daily circuit, from home to school to a pirated music store and then back home, that he found a CD of music-making software. "That's how I started making music," he told THUMP. "So I think I mean prison in a positive sense, maybe like being stuck in a library. You make the most of it."


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/pakistan-indie-music-karachi_n_5020947.html

http://www.caravanmagazine.in/
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…
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…

#Pakistani-#Canadian female punk rocker Urva Khan to perform in #Karachi #Pakistan this month

https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/lifestyle/mark-the-day-pakistani-canadian-rocker-will-be-performing-in-karachi-this-january/

Urvah Khan is ready to take over Karachi’s rock and roll scene with her music and her unique appearance!

Bearing a look which is very unconventional for a Pakistani woman, she dons a mohawk, tattoos and piercings effortlessly.

Urvah’s music style is inspired by the East and West both, according to the band.

According to latest news, Urvah is all set to take over Karachi with her band.

Khan has been trying to re-discover Pakistan and get in touch with her roots since she came here, as she had moved to Canada at a very young age. Gathering like-minded musicians to start a band in the country, she secured three musicians for her debut performance in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
Home-grown #streaming app helps #Pakistan's musicians find voice. #music #talent http://reut.rs/2k1ibmZ via @Reuters

For years, violence kept most of Pakistan's aspiring young musicians from following their dreams, whether the threat of Taliban militant attacks or gang wars in the crowded southern port city of Karachi.

Now, as law enforcement crackdowns slowly improve the security situation across the nation, some musicians are getting help from two-year old Pakistani start-up Patari, a music streaming and production company.

Both the startup and the musicians' efforts are helping to carve out a new creative space for young people in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where those below 30 make up 60 percent of a population of almost 200 million.

Karachi rap ensemble Lyari Underground was once afraid of putting its music on Facebook, deterred by episodes of bloody gang war in the precinct of the same name that many Pakistanis consider the most dangerous in their largest city.

But the same violence has inspired many of the group's songs, taking cues from the music of U.S. rapper Tupac Shakur, said its founder, who uses the name AnXiously.

"In a ghetto, rap exists naturally," he added. "If there is no rap, then it is not a ghetto. Rap is a product of this reality and these surroundings."

Band members said when they first heard the music of Tupac, although half a world away, it reminded them of their own experiences living with violence and poverty.

Lyari remains one of Karachi's poorest areas and financial limitations often force its young people to forego creative pursuits.

FROM STREAMING TO PRODUCING

Launched in February 2015, Patari now boasts a library of 40,000 Pakistani songs and podcasts, and subscribers exceed half a million, said Chief Executive Khalid Bajwa.

Nearly 30 million of Pakistan's people use the internet, mainly on mobile telephones, says digital rights organization Bytes for All.

Bajwa declined to discuss revenue, apart from saying the company was "self-sustaining", mostly by producing events for established firms such as drinks company Pepsi, consumer goods giant Unilever and Pakistani clothing brand Khaadi.

The company's latest initiative, Tabeer, or 'Dream Come True', pairs established artists with unknown musicians to produce six songs and music videos, completed on a budget of $15,000, and features on its app.

Patari exploited the fact that Pakistan's tiny pop music scene comprised a couple of "corporate branded shows" featuring the same artists every year, but excluded amateur musicians.

"We saw an inefficiency in the market, where you have all this talent, all this interest, but there is nothing bridging the two," said Chief Operating Officer Ahmer Naqvi.

The first two videos, featuring Abid Brohi, a rapper from remote Sibbi in southwestern Balochistan province, and 13-year-old tea vendor Jahangir Saleem, have drawn more than a million views, matching Coke Studio, Pakistan's premier music programme.

Another video features Nazar Gill, from the capital, Islamabad, who was one of the cleaning staff at an apartment building where Naqvi once lived.

One day, Gill knocked on Naqvi's door and asked to sing a song he had written.

"I sang my song for him and he liked it," recalled Gill, a member of the country's tiny Christian minority that prides itself on its musical tradition.

"He said, 'Nazar, I will not let your voice go to waste.'"

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