SONGS OF LAHORE, a doco by SHARMEEN OBAID-CHONOY and ANDY SCHOCKEN

 |   |  1 min read

SONGS OF LAHORE, a doco by SHARMEEN OBAID-CHONOY and ANDY SCHOCKEN
Every now and again a New Zealand musician will complain how hard it is to make music here.

Well, sometimes it is. Although the problem today is it's never been easier to make it but getting it to people or selling it has rarely been harder.

However these things are relative, as this doco about a group of musicians in Pakistan illustrates.

When their version of Dave Brubeck's Take Five became a minor sensation and they were invited to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall two years ago it seemed like they were an overnight success.

But for two generations some of these musicians were bedeviled by a military coup and the subsequent shutdowns and impositions of sharia law (which closed down cinemas so there was no work for the orchestral players), the death of some members and then more recently younger people embracing Western rock music.

Only after the restrictions were loosened did they manage to come together and – while not denying their heritage – embrace the idea of jazz because, like their own classical music, it was improvised.

The orchestra's leader had also seen Brubeck when he – like Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie – had come to Pakistan in the late Fifties as ambassadors for American culture during the Cold War.

This film – subtitled mostly – is more than just the story of musicians from Pakistan going to New York but about a musical culture besieged on all fronts which, through the dedication and spirit of the musicians, was not allowed to wither.

In its own way this 80 minute film is akin to the Buena Vista Social Club doco, although for many the musicians won't have the approachable charm of the Cubans.

There is humor throughout though, and some pointed comments: "Back home the clerics don't let us breathe in peace," one says after they've sung along to John Denver's Country Road with a barely dressed male busker in Times Square. "Here we are enjoying ourselves". 

But their concerns are human (“Don't freak out when you meet him,” one says to another the way to their first meeting with Wynton Marsalis) and their dedication to bridging the East-West divide is courageous, sometimes troublesome for them and the results often surprising.

Song of Lahore plays in the 11th International Documentary Film Festival

Auckland, Q Theatre Friday May 27, 8.30pm and Sunday May 27, 6.30pm 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

HOOKED: ANTI-DRUG FILMS FROM THE 30'S TO THE 70'S (Rocket/Triton DVD): Marijuana to murder in 15 minutes

HOOKED: ANTI-DRUG FILMS FROM THE 30'S TO THE 70'S (Rocket/Triton DVD): Marijuana to murder in 15 minutes

Every generation thinks it invents the same two things: swearing and sex. Equally, in the Western world at least, for the past century or so every generation gets the soundtrack it needs. And the... > Read more

SAMSON AND DELILAH, a film by WARWICK THORNTON (Madman DVD)

SAMSON AND DELILAH, a film by WARWICK THORNTON (Madman DVD)

Two years ago I was in and around Alice Springs, a town that trades on the idea it is close to Uluru. It isn't. The town has a fascinating, if brief, white-fellah history, the landscape in... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

There's an old joke: if you want to make a million dollars out of jazz, start with two million. Jazz is notoriously unprofitable for its performers and record companies (a decent selling jazz... > Read more

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Ramones; Anthology (Warners)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Ramones; Anthology (Warners)

This is easy: any album which makes it into the Essential Elsewhere list is obviously recommended (for one reason or another, the list is absurdly diverse). But this one gets through on sheer... > Read more