Tag Archives: Pakistani music

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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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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Artist Profiles: Ferhan Qureshi

Ferhan Qureshi

Ferhan Najeeb Qureshi has been a student of tabla and traditional Pakistani/Indian music for many years.

He is a senior disciple of the tabla maestro Ustad Abdul Sattar Tari Khan. Ustad Tari Khan learned tabla from Miyan Shuakat Hussain Khan the most celebrated tabla nawaz (performer) in Pakistan’s musical history.

Prior to studying with Ustad Tari Khan Ferhan took his initial lessons in Hindustani music theory and practice with Surrinder Mann Singh (a senior disciple of the late Ustad Allah Rakha).

Ferhan Qureshi

Ferhan studies the Punjab gharana of classical tabla which both of his teachers represent. Primarily performing the tabla lehara (tabla solo) Ferhan Qureshi has also accompanied numerous distinguished classical artists both in the United States and in Pakistan.

Ferhan has also had the honor of accompanying Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for many years during Khansahib’s vocal and instrumental classes at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael (California).

Although his primary focus is classical and traditional music over the years Ferhan has also collaborated and/or performed with numerous organizations and artists in modern applications of the tabla including the Dhamaal Artist Collective (for which he is a founding member) The Lines Ballet Non-Stop Bhangra and Dj Cheb I Sabaah among others.

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Celebrated Qawwali Singer Amjad Sabri Assassinated in Pakistan

Cover of Amjad Sabri's solo album titled Ecstasy of the Soul
Cover of Amjad Sabri’s solo album titled Ecstasy of the Soul

News reports from Pakistan indicate that renowned Qawwali musician Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most well-known Sufi musicians, was shot and killed on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 in the southern city of Karachi.

Amjad Farid Sabri was born on December 23, 1976 and was a member of one of the most famous Qawwali music ensembles in Pakistan, the Sabri Brothers.

The Sabri Brothers is Pakistan’s best known, extraordinarily successful family of devotional Sufi singers, from Kalyana in the East Punjab and with over 30 years of sung religious poetry behind them.

In 2012, Amjad Sabri released a solo album titled Ecstasy of the Soul.

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Pakistan-Brooklyn Connection

Sandaraa - Sandaraa (independent release, 2016)
Sandaraa – Sandaraa (independent release, 2016)

 

The sounds of various regions of Pakistan and klezmer come together in the new project called Sandaraa. The debut album incorporates the impressive vocals of Pakistani singer-songwriter Zeb Bangash and Brooklyn-based virtuoso clarinetist Michael Winograd.

 

The two musicians first met at the Pakistani Embassy as part of a US tour. They reconnected at NYU in Abu Dhabi. Inspired by Dari, Pashto and Baluchi music, a new band was formed that recreated Pakistani folk music with new arrangements that incorporate klezmer elements.

 

Sandaraa
Sandaraa

 

As a band we’re steeped in Western technique and theory,” says Winograd. “We have thought about the ideal show we’d like to present, about how folk songs can work when we play them as a group.”

 

 

The lineup on the upcoming Sandaraa album includes Zebunnisa Bangash on vocals; Michael Winograd on clarinet; Eylem Basaldi on violin; Patrick Farrell on accordion and Farfisa; Yoshie Fruchter on electric guitar and oud; Richie Barshay on drums and percussion; and David Lizmi on bass. Benjy Fox-Rosen appears as guest bassist on one track.

 

 

Sandaraa showcases the intensive and fascinating alchemy between two musicians from two very distant musical traditions.

Buy the digital version of Sandaraa.

Upcoming concerts:

05/14/2016, Washington, DC, Tropicalia, 8:00 PM

05/13/2016, Baltimore, MD, Creative Alliance, 8:00 PM

05/12/2016, Philadelphia, PA, Johnny Brenda’s, 8:00 PM

05/11/2016, New York, NY, Rockwood Music Hall, 7:00 PM

05/10/2016, Cambridge, MA, ONCE (Cuisine en Locale), 9:00 PM

05/09/2016, Northampton, MA, THE PARLOR ROOM, 7:00 PM

05/08/2016, Album Release, “Sandaraa”

05/08/2016, Hamden, CT, THE OUTER SPACE , 7:00 PM

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Toronto to Host the 14th Annual Asian Music Series in April and May

Small World Music has announced the lineup for the 14th Annual Asian Music Series, a set of concerts that celebrates Asian and South Asian Heritage Month. The series will take place from April 2nd to May 29th, 2016 at several of the finest venues in Toronto.

Highpoints this year include a strong female presence, with two of the most significant artists in South Asian music, Anoushka Shankar and Abida Parveen. Other performers include Indo-Canadian star Kiran Ahluwalia, pipa maestra Wu Man and singer Ramneek Singh, among many others.

Also scheduled is the new Small World Music Explorers Program, a cross-promotional initiative for purchasing tickets in the city.
Asian Music Series Program:

Wednesday, April 6
Anoushka Shankar (India)
Koerner Hall

Thursday, April 7
Tsumugu (Japan)
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre

Saturday, April 9
Wu Man & Shanghai Quartet (China)
Markham Theatre

Thursday, April 28
Kiran Ahluwalia (India / Canada)
Markham Theatre

Friday, April 29
Shuujat Khan / Ramneek Singh (India / Canada)
Aga Khan Museum

Saturday, May 7
Globtrotter – Adham Shaikh (Canada)
Round

Friday, May 13
Tabla Workshop TBA (India)
Small World Music Centre

Sunday, May 15
Abida Parveen (Pakistan)
Roy Thomson Hall

Friday, May 20
Avatar (Canada /India)
Small World Music Centre

Saturday, May 28
Telematic Asia (Canada / China)
Small World Music Centre

Sunday, May 29
Mekaal & Haniya (Pakistan / Canada)
Lula Lounge

More information at www.smallworldmusic.com.

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