A Pakistani orchestra brought together by Lahore’s Sachal Studios (and in collaboration with London’s Abbey Road Studies) has helped to rejuvenate the careers of classically trained musicians who had been all but forgotten. For years, classical musicians in Pakistan have faced tough times – during the era of the late military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, the long-standing system of respected patronage for musicians was destroyed. The increasing influence of religion in society, plus the easy availability of Indian cinema, meant that the Pakistani film industry collapsed, putting an end to the foundations of many musician’s careers. Many were forced to abandon their instruments, becoming vendors to make a living.
This fate has been turned around with the help of Izzat Majeedand Mushtaq Soofi, leaders of the production team at Sachal Studios, which has injected a new lease of life back into the Pakistani music scene with innovative and unlikely orchestral interpretations. Their first jazz album, 'Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bossa Nova' was released in April, and features unique renditions of classics such as Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Girl From Ipanema” and Errol Garner’s“Misty”. It took a while to get noticed, but with the help of a recent BBC report, a healthy internet buzz, and of course simply excellent musicianship, the ensemble’s version of “Take Five” topped the iTunes jazz singles chart last week, while the album reached number one on the iTunes jazz album charts for the US and Britain. This recognition marks a positive turnaround for these musicians, who are currently working on a second album.