Artist Profiles: Sachal Ensemble

Sachal Ensemble

The Sachal Ensemble was formed by Izzat Majeed, a Pakistani investor and hedge fund manager who became a philanthropist and music producer. Born in Lahore in 1950, Majeed’s dream was to recreate the soundtrack of his childhood. His hometown, the second largest city in Pakistan, was once a cultural and artistic center in the region.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Lahore was at a peak as the home of “Lollywood,” the Pakistani equivalent of India’s Bollywood. Movies featured between 10 to 15 songs and the industry employed a considerable number of musicians, composers and arrangers. Music was fundamental to the life of the city.

Izzat’s father, Abdul Majeed, was the chairman of the film producers association of Pakistan and a music lover who would take his son to hear all the touring American jazz musicians passing through Lahore. That’s how an 8-year-old Majeed got to hear pianist Dave Brubeck at a venue near his family home. Brubeck was still a year away from recording “Take Five,” which would become the biggest selling jazz single ever. For the young Izzat, the concert had a profound effect. “That’s where I got hooked on jazz,” says Majeed.

But following a military coup in July 1977, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became president and his dictatorship set out to “cleanse” Pakistan’s cultural landscape. Most non-religious music was declared sinful and the film industry, severely limited by religious bans, fell to pieces. In Lahore, even virtuoso musicians had to become taxi drivers or shopkeepers just to make a living.

Despite his success in finance, Majeed’s true passions “have always been and will always be about art and music,” he affirms. And so, he decided to do something about it.

These great musicians – from both folk and classical schools – were left hungry and jobless,” said Majeed in a recent interview. “We were losing our instruments, losing our musicians, losing our culture; something had to be done about it.”

Long a patron of the arts and a lover of poetry (he is a published poet himself), Majeed founded Sachal Studios, named after the Sufi poet Saeein Sachal Sarmast, in 2003, on Waris Road, once the center of Lahore’s film studios. He then looked for the city’s great musicians, many of whom had put away their instruments. What’s more, Majeed had to buy instruments for several players.

Initially, Majeed and the Sachal Ensemble focused on the region’s classical and folk music. But then, he started to dream about the possibility of jazz being played on local instruments, and once he introduced the sounds and concepts of jazz, the musicians “took to it very naturally.” As they searched for a broader audience and looked outside Pakistan, they began to explore cross-cultural versions of Western jazz standards, pop and film classics.

Unexpectedly, Sachal Ensemble had a breakthrough when a video of their version of Brubeck’s Paul Desmond classic “Take Five” went viral. Brubeck, who died in December, 2012, in reality got a chance to listen to it, calling it “the most interesting recording of it I have ever heard.”

Discography:

Song of Lahore (Universal Music Classics, 2016)

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Sitar Maestro Nishat Khan to Perform in New York City

Nishat Khan – Photo by Bharat Tiwari

Ustad Nishat Khan, one of India’s finest sitar players, is set to perform on Sunday, October 8, 2017 at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. He will be joined by Nitin Mitta on tabla.

Nishat is the son and disciple of Ustad Imrat Khan, and nephew of the late Ustad Vilayat Khan and a member of one of the oldest and most prestigious musical families and schools in India – the Imdadkani Ganara of Etawah.

Nishat has mastered not only the North Indian classical form, but has also worked with music as diverse as Gregorian chant, Western classical music, jazz and flamenco. He has collaborated with some of the world’s leading performers and composers such as Philip Glass, John McLaughlin, Paco Peña and Evelyn Glennie. Nishat Khan’s discography includes Meeting of Angels, Heart of Fire, Rag Bhimpalasi / Rag Tilak Kamod, and Raga Miyan Ki Malhar / Raga Dhanasri.

Nitin Mitta is one of the most sought after tabla players in the music world and has quickly established a reputation as an artist with technical virtuosity. He is an acclaimed accompanist who has performed with some of India’s most celebrated musicians including Pandit Jasraj, Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Nishat Khan, Ustad Shahid Parvez and Pandit Nayan Ghosh.

Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center
129 West 67 Street, New York, New York 10023
Box office: (212) 501-3330
Tickets at www.worldmusicinstitute.org

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Pakistan’s Sachal Ensemble Announces First North American Tour

Sachal Ensemble

Pakistani 10-piece Sachal Ensemble will be touring the United States for the first time during October and November 2017. The group, formed by philanthropist and music producer Izzat Majeed, mixes typical Western instruments like piano, bass and drums with traditional South Asian ones, such as tabla, dholak and sarangi.

The Sachal Ensemble’s repertoire on this 2017 tour will combine traditional Sufi music, ragas and treasured Pakistani cinema songs (like “Ranjha Ranjha,” from the movie Raavan) with distinctively South Asian versions of Western classics, including The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind,” and, their unique recreation of Dave Brubeck’s hit “Take Five” that became a YouTube sensation with over 1 million views.

The international phenomenon created by the “Take Five” video led to an invitation in 2013 for the Sachal Ensemble to collaborate with trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The musicians’ remarkable journey from Lahore to Lincoln Center was captured in Song of Lahore, a documentary film by Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken.

An album released in the United States soon followed, Song of Lahore (Universal Music Classics, 2016), featuring the Sachal Ensemble collaborating with Wynton Marsalis, Meryl Streep, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Nels Cline of Wilco, Madeleine Peyroux and Sean Lennon.

A recent Pakistan-only release, titled Jazz and All That, includes Sachal Ensemble ‘s versions of Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk,” and songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl”, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave” and Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther.”

The current lineup includes:

Baqar Abbas – bansuri
Nadeem Abbas – bass
Rafiq Ahmad – daff
Asad Ali – guitar
Danish Ali – piano
Najaf Ali – dholak
Zohaib Hassan – sarangi
Ijaz Hussain – tabla
Ali Shaiba – drums
Nijat Ali – conductor

Sachal Ensemble 2017 North American Tour

Friday, Oct. 27 – Vienna, VA at The Barns at Wolf Trap
Sat, Oct. 28 – Schenectady, NY at PrOct.or’s Theatre
Sun, Oct. 29 – Cambridge, MA at Berklee Performance Center
Mon, Oct. 30 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Thu, Nov. 2 – Easton, PA at Lafayette College / Williams Center
Sat, Nov. 4 – Miami, FL at Miami Dade College / Olympia Theater
Sun, Nov. 5 – New York, NY at NYU Skirball Center
Tue, Nov. 7 – Calgary, AB, Canada, Arts Commons / Jack Singer Concert Hall
Thu, Nov. 9 – Markham (Toronto), ON, Canada at Flato Markham Theatre
Sun, Nov. 12, Phoenix, AZ at, Musical Instrument Museum
Tue, Nov. 14, Northridge, CA at CSU Northridge / VPAC
Wed, Nov. 15, Stanford, CA at Stanford University / Bing Concert Hall
Sat, Nov. 18, Folsom, CA at Harris Center / Stage 1

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Rare 1976 Album by Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice Versa Reissued

Hermeto Pascoal – Viajando Com O Som

Viajando Com O Som, The Lost ’76 Vice-Versa Studio Session by groundbreaking Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and composer Hermeto Pascoal will be available later this year.

Viajando Com O was recorded in just two days at Vice Versa Studios in Sao Paulo in 1976. The band included Zé Eduardo Nazario, Zeca Assumpção, Lelo Nazario, Mauro Senise, Raul Mascarenhas, Nivaldo Ornelas, Toninho Horta and Aleuda Chaves.

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Azymuth Announce European Tour 2017

Brazilian jazz-funk band Azymuth will be touring Europe in October. Ivan, Alex and Kiko will be presenting material from their latest album Fênix, along with many of their classics.

Tour Dates:

Oct 13 – Fasching (Stockholm Jazz Festival), Stockholm
Oct 14 – The Hideaway, London
Oct 15 – The Hideaway, London
Oct 17 – Gretchen, Berlin
Oct 18 – Bravo Caffè, Bologna
Oct 19 – Auditorium Fausto Melotti, Rovereto tbc
Oct 20 – Santeria Social Club, Milan
Oct 21 – La Bellevilloise, Paris tbc
Oct 23 – Band On The Wall, Manchester
Oct 24 – Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle tbc
Oct 25 – Neimënster, Luxembourg tbc
Oct 26 – Jazz & The City (Festival), Salzburg
Oct 27 – Jazz & The City (Festival), Salzburg
Oct 28 – Jazz & The City (Festival), Salzburg

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Fairport Convention Releases 35th Anniversary Live Set

Fairport Convention – 35th Anniversary Concert

Legendary English Folk music band Fairport Convention has released a 2CD+DVD set titled 35th Anniversary Concert.

The audio and video were recorded during Fairport Convention’s 35th Anniversary Tour at The Anvil Theatre, Basingstoke in England on February 23, 2002.

The lineup includes Simon Nicol on acoustic guitar, electric guitar and vocals; Dave Pegg on bass and vocals; Gerry Conway on drums and percussion; Chris Leslie on mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki and vocals; and Ric Sanders on violin.

Buy 35th Anniversary Concert in Europe

Buy 35th Anniversary Concert in the rest of the world

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Acclaimed Sitarist Roopa Panesar to Perform Today in New Jersey

Roopa Panesar

Roopa Panesar, one of the rising sitar players in the classical Indian music world is set to perform Saturday September 16, 2017 at Sharp Theater in New Jersey. Her lineup for this concert includes Pirashanna Thevaraiah on percussion and Nitin Mitta on tabla.

Sharp Theater
505 Ramapo Valley Road – Mahwah, NJ 07430
Phone: (201) 684-7844

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Entrancing Chadenn

Le Bour – Bodros – Chadenn

Le Bour – Bodros – Chadenn (Paker Productions, 2016)

Timothée Le Bour and Youen Bodros is a duo that performs contemporary acoustic music inspired by Breton folk music traditions, jazz and even bits of trance-like sounds. While Bodros plays the accordion, which is frequently used in folk music, Le Bour uses saxophones, replacing the traditional folk wind instruments.

The most fascinating part of the album is the accordion and saxophone interplay as well as the use of vocal chants delivered by the two instrumentalists. Equally charming is Rozenn Talec, a guest lead vocalist, who sings in the Breton language.

Percussionist Gaëtan Samson supports the trio on frame drums and various other percussion instruments.

The CD version includes lyrics in Breton and French.

Buy the CD edition of Chadenn or the digital download version

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Southwestern Healing Flute

Jonah Littlesunday – Gratitude – Native American Flute Healing

Jonah Littlesunday – Gratitude – Native American Flute Healing (Canyon Records, 2017)

Gratitude – Native American Flute Healing is an album of meditative flute music performed by Navajo (Diné) artist Jonah Littlesunday. It’s instrumental, evocative reverb-fueled solo flute accompanied by subtle hand percussion that brings forward colorful images of the southwest.

Jonah Littlesunday uses his flute as a healing tool. He uses it to pray for children, elders, hospital patients and injured animals.

Guests include Stephen Butler on percussion and Roman Orona on vocals.

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