Arts, Culture & Media

Sachal Orchestra Breathes New Life into Pakistani Jazz

By Aleem Maqbool

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If you, like me, had doubts Pakistan could ever put itself on the map in the jazz world, have a listen to Sachal Orchestra. Based in the Pakistani city of Lahore, Sachal Orchestra is causing some excitement in the world of jazz — and turning around itsr own fortunes at the same time.

For years, classical musicians in Pakistan have faced tough times. In addition to the issues everyone else in the country is facing, their profession all but died.

Most had been making music for the Pakistani film industry, but the increasing influence of religion in Pakistan and the easy availability of Indian movies, meant the industry collapsed.

Izzat Majeed, a UK-based entrepeneur, and jazz-lover, proudly showed us around the state of the art Sachal Studios where Sachal Orchestra records. It was his idea to bring back together Pakistan's master musicians.

"When I started there were very few of them actually practicing, they were devastated and they were eeking out a living," Majeed said.

Now the Sachal Orchestra is sparking something of a revival. Their version of "Take Five," has led the original artist Dave Brubeck to call it "the most interesting rendition of the track he's ever heard."

Sachal Orchestra has released their first album, "Sachal Jazz," with interpretations of tracks like "The Girl from Ipanema" and "Misty," and of course "Take Five." It's causing something of a buzz.

"If we carry on like this we'll achieve more and more," cellist Ghulam Abbas said. "Our situation will just get better and we'll be able attract a new generation to this music."

It's not just livelihoods this project's given but hope for the future and a space for these musicians to express themselves at an otherwise difficult time for them and their country.

Of course it's also provided some great music.