He played the Blues that would bring a tear to B.B. King’s journeyed eyes. He played it on a sitar.
A sitar is a large plucked string instrument originating from India and used in classical Indian music. But to see the seemingly emotionless man sit in historic Jazz at Lincoln Center among a jazz ensemble that was comprised of Pakistani and American musicians, including the iconic global superstar Wynton Marsalis, was unexpected to say the least.
These musicians sat together and played songs like Sweet Georgia Brown, Limbo Jazz and Blues Walk in harmony, though half their instruments existed centuries before “America” was born. They played together beautifully, on beat with each other while bringing their own unique sound to the collective soul. At first glance it would seem these two cultures are worlds apart- and in many respects they are. There are stereotypes both ways that cloud truth. However stepping through their respective differences in politics, religion, history and language there is music. There is deep rooted, centuries old, soul driven cultural appreciation and love for music.
The documentary Songs of Lahore places the viewer alongside a journey taken by a group of classically trained Pakistani musicians as they travel to New York to perform with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra for a very special set of performances. The film, by the two-time Academy Award winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy gives background into the city of Lahore which was at the time of Pakistan’s independence in 1947 a place where artist, musicians, and poets gathered to openly share their art. However, today Lahore is besieged with terrorists, corruption, and religious extremist who have silenced the once vibrant sounds of culture.
In 2004, U.K. businessman Izzat Majeed took it upon himself to try and revitalize music in his native Pakistan. He founded an underground space called Sachal Studios, wrangled up master musicians, and convinced them to start jamming in an effort to not let music die in Lahore. The men started jamming and experimenting with sounds. One such experiment landed Sachal Studios global acclaim – the reimagination of David Brubeck’s classic Take Five played on traditional South Asian instruments. Wynton Marsalis caught wind of this and invited the group to play at Jazz at Lincoln Center with him. The rest is history that’s still unfolding today as the film was recently released on iTunes.
This documentary shows how music can be an equalizer and foundation for understanding and opening each culture to learn more about the other.
While watching this documentary drink a wine from a winemaker who was described as having high-standards, being a risk-taker with impeccable attention to detail. and who had zealous allegiance to his land (terroir). Didier Dagueneau is legendary French winemaker who died in a plane crash in 2008. He was a winemaker who went against the proverbial grain and traditional conventions while achieving greatness with grapes. Try the 2009 Domaine Didier Dagueneau Pouilly Fume.
Learn more about this documentary at http://www.songoflahoremovie.com/
Listen to Sachal Studios album on iTunes