The Sachal Ensemble performing at a jazz festival © Sachal Studios
Globalization has produced many stories —not all inspiring. But having a Pakistani ensemble become a worldwide sensation by playing Paul Desmond’s immortal “Take Five,” which pianist Dave Brubeck turned into a hit nearly 50 years ago, has to be one of the most delightful — and improbable.
The 10-piece Sachal Ensemble, a group from Lahore, Pakistan, became an unlikely global sensation when the video of their performance of “Take Five,” a peculiar, swinging blend of South Asian classical music and jazz, got a million hits on YouTube. In a letter quoted in a story in Esquire Middle East, Brubeck, who got to hear it before his passing in 2012, wrote to producer Izzat Majeed: “This is the most interesting and different recording of ‘Take Five’ that I’ve ever heard. … Listening to this exotic version brings back wonderful memories of Pakistan where my Quartet played in 1958. East is East, and West is West, but through music the twain meet. Congratulations!”
The album that followed it, Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bossa Nova, became a best seller that topped the iTunes jazz charts. That led to world tours, appearances at jazz festivals and a celebrated performance with Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center in 2013, captured in Song of Lahore, a from-Lahore-to-New York documentary film by two-time Academy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken.
The Sachal Ensemble is appearing at the Olympia Theater in downtown Miami, Saturday. The concert opens MDC Live’s 2017-2018 season under the banner “Ojala/ Inshallah: Wishes from the Muslim World. ”