Category Archives: Music

Song Of Lahore: Pakistan’s Musicians Affirm Their Place In A Country That Threatens To Forget Them

By Akbar Shahid Ahmed

Asad Ali, the guitarist in the Sachal Jazz Ensemble, is one of the musicians featured in "Song of Lahore." | Mobeen Ansari

Asad Ali, the guitarist in the Sachal Jazz Ensemble, is one of the musicians featured in “Song of Lahore.” | Mobeen Ansari

The value of one’s soul is hard to measure, but Baqir Abbas, a musician in the Pakistani city of Lahore, has it worked out for himself. Abbas’ soul is slightly less precious to him than the delicately designed bamboo flutes he carves. “All the stories of the world will play from it, God willing,” he says, before kissing his latest instrument and touching it twice to its forehead.

Abbas explains his philosophy in “Song of Lahore,” a new documentary about an intergenerational community of musicians skilled in their own mix of traditional Pakistani music and the Western orchestral scores demanded by Lahore’s once-booming film industry. He and his fellow musicians “find God in music,” Abbas says.

Their critics do not, and the very act of practicing their craft now makes them targets in a more conservative Pakistan. Followers of the increasingly influential, hardline Deobandi school of thought in Sunni Islam consider music to be sinful and musicians to be apostates who have no place in an avowedly Muslim nation.

“Song of Lahore” is powerful because it shows these musicians do have a place in Pakistan.

Last week, the 82-minute documentary won multiple standing ovations and a joint second place in the Documentary Audience Award category at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival. But the feature’s greatest triumph is that it proves the Deobandis wrong: These musicians are quintessentially Pakistani and essential to the nation’s cultural identity, Islam and all.

Worshippers gather at Lahore's historic Badshahi Mosque on April 25, 2015.

Worshippers gather at Lahore’s historic Badshahi Mosque on April 25, 2015.

Progressive Pakistanis who value their country’s musical heritage have been making that case for decades. Continue reading

Lahori Jazz takes the world by storm

by Raza Rumi
Sachal Studios, a brainchild of Izzat Majeed and supported by an immensely talented poet and music producer, Mushtaq Soofi has now gained international attention. Here is an Al-Jazeera report from Lahore.Please also read my earlier post on this group by clicking here .

 

Welcome to the guitar school

Courtesy: Daily Times

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: At a time when fear and insecurity have put an end to most cultural activities, one art form, speaking the universal language of notes and harmonies, is still very much alive and kicking. One of the places still keeping musical traditions alive while promoting more contemporary forms, is The Guitar School. The brainchild of seasoned guitarist Hamza Jafri, the school, located in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), has already had 55 students since it opened its door in June this year.

Ravail Sattar, one of the teachers at the school, believes in the undying power of music. “It is like a flowing stream that is unstoppable. You cannot hold it back forever, it will break through,” he says. He insists that neither extremists’ threats nor criticism from the government could deter artists from their calling. Many artists have recently been criticised for including anti-US rhetoric in their lyrics. Continue reading

A tale of two cities

By Sonya Rehman & Khaver Siddiqi 

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ Charles Dickens’ literary masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, begins with these words. Though the novel has a theme of self-sacrifice and resurrection, the starting line of the novel can be applied here in Pakistan to two of its largest and most prominent cities — namely Karachi and Lahore.

 Indeed both cities have seen the best and the worst of times as far as the music industry’s concerned. But how do these cities relate to one another? How does their music combine and form the modern music scene as we know it?

 The music that originates from the Punjab is as intricate as its historic architecture. Lahore, the ‘garden of the Mughals’, has seen a myriad of melodies, genres, and vocals alongside a variety of musical instruments (both new and old) over the past few decades. Continue reading

Mela Chiraghan begins with traditional fervour

mela-chiraghan

Shah Hussain (1538-1599) was a Punjabi poet and a saint. He was the pioneer of the Kafi form of Punjabi poetry.

By: Rana Latif | Published in The Nation March 29, 2009

LAHORE – Mela Chiraghan, festival of light marking the 421st annual Urs of Hazrat Shah Hussain (RA), a saint with a different trait and a mystic poet of Punjabi with distinction, commonly known as Madhu Lal Hussain who lived in Lahore in 16th century (1538-1599), began with traditional fervour at Shalimar, Saturday evening.
It is perhaps the biggest festival of Punjab after the Urs of Data Ganj Bakhsh (RA) and Baba Farid (RA) of Pakpattan. Mela Chiraghan has many distinctions particularly the singing of ‘kafi’ of Shah Hussain in Punjab, who was perhaps the pioneer of Kafi that carried rich intellectual and spiritual values.
He himself sang his own kafis before the people bringing big applause. His kafis reflect the defiant attitude and independence of thought, away from the contemporary thoughts of religious and social hierarchy. The whirling dervishes on the tunes of drums sing kafis at the Mela. It is a rare event of whirling and dancing on the beats of drum. Its rhythm is a heart catching as Shah Hussain’s Kafis carry rich musical values and element of entertainment, liked by folk of Punjab.

Reclaiming melody – Sachal Studios of Lahore

Labourers of love: Mushtaq Soofi, Izzat Majeed & Christoph Bracher

Mian Yusaf Salahuddin’s Haveli, where Tarang was launched

Revival of the orchestra by Sachal Studios is a landmark in Pakistan’s music industry

Izzat Majeed: patron of music

Singers and musicians showcasing their skills at Sachal Studios

Raza Rumi (writing for The Friday Times)

It was a mellow, moonlit evening of Lahore’s glorious spring when Sachal Studios released their album ‘Tarang’. It could not have been at a more fitting venue. Amid the decaying environs of Old Lahore stands the Haveli of Mian Yusaf Salahuddin, refurbished into a little planet of conservation as a courageous effort to protect and rejuvenate Lahore’s cultural soul. Mian Yusuf is the one denizen who has done this good deed for posterity, along with Syed Babar Ali who has conserved his ancestral Mubarak Begum Haveli in Bhaati Gate. Of course, the state has been abject in its failure to conserve Lahore’s majestic heritage.Sachal Studios is the brainchild of international businessman Izzat Majeed and man of letters Mushtaq Soofi, an exceptionally motivated duo. Sachal has infused the local music scene with innovation and energy. It is promoting a hybrid orchestra – once an integral part of the subcontinent’s film music tradition. Since 2003, Majeed, an activist and radical intellectual in a previous avatar, has devoted his time and money to this passion – to create Pakistani melodies in sync with the imperatives of contemporary musical sensibilities.

Started as a labour of love, Sachal Studios has released ‘Tarang,’ a collection of music that brings together the best musicians from all over Pakistan, and Humaira Channa’s competent voice. Of late, Channa has been a victim of commercial success and the quality compromises that define Pakistan’s derelict film music. Sachal’s production is a relief; a fresh departure from the usual, and the melodic results are impressive.

At the Old Lahore Haveli, Channa with her family and associates were accorded the respect they deserve. In a similar vein, immensely talented artists, such as the tabla maestro Billoo Khan and Pakistan’s leading sitar player, Ustad Nafees Ahmed Khan also attracted the attention of the star-studded guest list and Lahore’s usual chatterati. It was on a dimly lit terrace of the Haveli that I was introduced to Izzat Majeed, who looked pleased with himself and his Sachal partners as notes from the latest album mixed with the spring air.

Inspired by the Abbey Road Studios in London, Majeed and Soofi have been working for the last six years with Christoph Bracher, a scion of a German musicians’ family, to design and set up Sachal Studios. A state of the art music studio in Lahore is a landmark, for it heralds a new trend of post-production finesse Continue reading

Great music lives on in Lahore

by Raza Rumi

This is the magic of Lahore and its deep-rooted cultural mores. No other city can boast of such individuals, movements and trends. Hopefully, the music will live on. The interest of younger generations and their experiments with various forms of music hold great promise

Last week the breezy environs of the majestic Lawrence Gardens once again swayed to the tunes of Hindustani classical music. A week long music festival organised by the All Pakistan Music Conference attracted musicians, vocalists and enthusiasts from all parts the country, as well as from the imagined “enemy” India. How could it not be the case when musical traditions emerged out of a cultural synthesis of 700 years or more?

The leading light of APMC was Hayat Ahmad Khan, whose sad demise in 2005 was interpreted as an end to the glorious tradition of subcontinental streams of music in Pakistan. However, 83 years of hard work and philanthropic contributions was not in vain. He left behind a powerful institution and a network of committed individuals and aesthetes who have kept the torch ablaze. Not a small feat in the troubled waters of a Pakistani cultural landscape constantly under attack by nation-state ideology and extremism that consider music to be too “Indian” or, even worse, un-Islamic.

This is the greatest irony of our existence: the Muslims in India contributed to what is known today as Indian classical music and innovations such as the sitar and the tabla. The Qawwal bache trained at the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi under the tutelage of Amir Khusrau became the founders of what was to later evolve as the sophisticated Khayal style of music. In dire times of the Sultanate and Mughal periods, these musicians had to take refuge in the princely states, and this is how the various gharanas, or schools of music, originated. This loose network of musicians organised along the lines of kinship or teacher-pupil bonds, sustained by court patronage and eclectic and secular in appeal, led to some fine moments. Tansen at Akbar’s court, Mohammad Shah Rangeela’s patronage and later the Kingdom of Oudh defined the high-points of this fused and seamless culture beyond religion, communal and sectarian divides.

To keep this tradition alive in post-independence Pakistan was a Herculean task. Pakistan was a moth-eaten and truncated country in the words of its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The psychological trauma and barbarity of the Partition had jolted everyone and the traditional patronage of the state was missing. It was under these circumstances that on September 15 1959, music-inspired citizens met at the famous Coffee House of Lahore and launched a voluntary organization called The All Pakistan Music Conference. Eminent personas such as Roshan Ara Begum were among the illustrious list of its founders.

It should be noted that this was also the age when the maestro Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan migrated to India and Roshan Ara Begum was almost about to give up the passion of her life. Thus Continue reading

Rhythm, dhol, base

LAHORE: A view of Government College University campus from the music room of Nazir Ahmad Music Society. The society has produced many renowned musicians and singers including the likes of Khawaja Khursheed Anwar, Jawad Ahmad and Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan.

The photo was taken by Abid Nawaz for the Daily Times.

Sufi music festival to hit the city on 25th

From the Daily Times

LAHORE: The 5th International Mystic Music Sufi Festival (IMMSF) will be held in the city from April 25 to 27.

Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop (RPTW) in collaboration with Telenor Pakistan launched the annual music festival at Peeru’s Café.

This time, the event is being taken to small cities. The festival began on April 21 at the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Islamabad, and would move on to Multan on April 24. From April 25 to 27, the performances will be presented in Lahore. The festival will conclude on April 30 at the Beach View Garden, Karachi. Continue reading

JULES MASSENET “KING OF LAHORE” – ORIENTALISM IN WESTERN MUSIC

Read about this Le roi de Lahore (”The king of Lahore“) is an opera in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet.

It was first performed at the Palais Garnier in Paris on April 27, 1877.