Band Of Brothers: Our Review Of ‘Song Of Lahore’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 04, 2016

Music has a unifying effect across boundaries, cultures, and language. This can be seen in the documentary Song of Lahore, a close look at Pakistan’s Sachal Jazz Ensemble.

Directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and tyro filmmaker Andy Schocken, this small group of Pakistani classical musicians are invited to New York to share their artistry, and join Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Under Taliban rule since the 1970’s, musicians have been labelled as belonging to ‘lower castes’ in local society. In 2004, Izzat Majeed founded Sachal Studios to create a space for traditional music in a nation that had rejected its musical roots. After convincing a number of master musicians to pick up their instruments again, they quietly released some classical and folk albums. It was the ensemble’s rendition of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five that made them a YouTube sensation. This lead to Wynton Marsalis’ invitation to New York.

The film introduces us to the ensemble musicians; their personal histories, their families, and their musical aspirations. The musicians view themselves as individuals carrying on for their families and mentors, who have practiced the art of music for centuries. This history includes generations of artists. The first half sets up the musicians’ history and that of Pakistan eloquently, which helps in understanding why the notoriety of this ensemble is important on various levels.

The filmmakers then travel with the ensemble to New York. The impressiveness of this big city may seem daunting, but also quite novel and exciting for the artists. There is a week of rehearsals where the fusing of orchestras from Lahore and New York takes place. Rehearsals do not always go as smoothly as expected. For some reason the sitar player is not working out, but is replaced by another musician from New York. At one point Mr. Marsalis declares, “we need to get on the same page here.”

The smaller ensemble versus the large Jazz orchestra’s sounds vary in size and style, which requires a bit of fine tuning on the part of all musicians. With some careful planning, and a lot of back and forths, the groups find their rhythm. And finally, the musicians take to the stage for a phenomenal concert. The finale is worth every minute. Obaid-Chinoy and Schocken have a well executed musical documentary here; one to experience on a big screen if at all possible.

Song of Lahore screens at the Bloor Cinema until March 10.

  • Release Date: 3/4/2016
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Heidy has a love of fine art history, films, books, world issues, music and science, leading her to share her adventures on her website ( , and as a contributor at other outlets. She loves sharing the many happenings in Toronto and hopes people will go out and support the arts in any fashion possible.
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