With its ancient palaces and stately gardens, the Lahore of Pakistan’s 1947 independence was a haven and a muse for musicians, artists, and poets. The city came alive to the beat of a tabla drum; with a musical culture passed down over centuries and a thriving film industry, opportunities were great for the legion of musicians that called Lahore home. Today, this vision of Lahore exists only in myth. Islamization, ethnic divisions, war and corruption have torn apart the cultural fabric of Pakistan, and the sounds of the tabla no longer drift through the old city’s bazaar.
In 2004, Izzat Majeed founded Sachal Studios to create a space for traditional music in a nation that had rejected its musical roots. After convincing a number of master musicians to pick up their instruments again, they quietly released some classical and folk albums. But it is an experimental album fusing jazz and South Asian instruments that brings Sachal Studios worldwide acclaim. Their rendition of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five becomes a sensation, and Wynton Marsalis invites them to New York to perform with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. After a groundbreaking week of rehearsals fusing the orchestras from Lahore and New York, the musicians take to the stage for a remarkable concert.
Despite their rising international acclaim, Sachal Studios remains virtually unknown in Pakistan. The ensemble is faced with a daunting task; to reclaim and reinvigorate an art that has lost its space in Pakistan’s narrowing cultural sphere.
"Tthe moment when we hear a sitar move seamlessly from an Eastern melody into the opening notes of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five is one of pure symphonic bliss." Chris Knight, National Post 3 stars out of 4.
"Like Buena Vista Social Club set to the beat of traditional Pakistani music, Song of Lahore is a feel-good exploration of making music as an act of defiance and the unifying property of love of the arts. Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won her second Oscar this year for the short doc A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, directs with Andy Schocken." Linda Barnard, Toronto Star