New Documentary Film: Song Of Lahore

Music has the power to free the soul so authoritarian regimes across history have often attempted to suppress it.  Such was the case in Pakistan beginning in the 1970’s under a military dictatorship and exacerbated by The Taliban’s influence from the mid 1990’s.  The country’s traditional music made primarily with flutes, tablas, sitar, and the sarangi includes Sufi devotional music qawwalis, rhyming poetry ghazals, and shares common ground with classical Indian ragas.  The music was passed down from older generations to younger ones within families – most often from fathers to sons.  When masters began dying who had not passed down the music, Pakistan was in danger of losing the musical component of its culture.

Now, an inspiring film Song of Lahore shows how a group of artists did not let that happen.  Through their determination, love of the music, and a remarkable example of a video going viral via social media, Sachal Studios has not only preserved Pakistani classical music but created a new form that incorporates jazz into it.  Much of the film is concerned with a Sachal Studios ensemble traveling to New York City to play with Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center and what a profound experience that was for the players.  The musicians returned to New York City this week for a screening of the film and to perform at Django in The Roxy Hotel.  I spoke with co-directors Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who hails from Pakistan and Andy Schoken who lives in Brooklyn.

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