Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pakistan's Take on Brubeck's "Take Five" - Second Take: The Man Behind the Music

(photo used with permission)

In my previous posting, I included excerpts of an interview with Izzat Majeed, who was responsible for the Pakistani version of Dave Brubeck's Take Five (which was recorded by the Sachal Orchestra and became an iTunes Number One hit in the last week of July), about aspects of his founding of Sachal Studios and the recording of the video itself.

In this second portion of the interview, we return to the subject of jazz itself. In addition to his exposure to traditional Hindustani music in his childhood, Majeed spoke of the regular visits, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, of such American "Cultural Ambassadors" as Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington (see my previous posts earlier this month), Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis, among others, who performed in the auditorium of the Nido Hotel (also a residence for government officers) next to his house in Lahore, in on a location where now stands the Avari Hotel:

But up till now, I've said nothing about the circumstances which enabled Izzat Sahib to undertake the construction of the multimillion dollar Sachal Music studios, as well as the Sachal Orchestra project. In the flood of publicity following the release of "Take Five", in articles in such newspapers as Britain's august Guardian and the business publication Blue Chip, which notes in and extensive and illuminating interview that Majeed "is famed for his landmark investments in Pakistan, most notably the purchase of Union Bank which was transformed into one of the top seven banks of the country. After establishing Union Bank as a leading player in Pakistan’s banking sector, Izzat Majeed sold the bank to Standard Chartered." In that article, Majeed, with his typical modesty, attributes much of the success of that venture to his colleague, Shaukat Tarin, Similarly, as noted before, a question about Izzat himself leads back to his father, who was clearly a decisive role model. Speaking of his businessman father's ventures into music, he says:

And while (again modestly) making no claims about his own musical pedigree, nor mentions of eminent teachers with whom he might of studied, he admits that he played a central role in the production and arrangements of many of the Sachal Orchestra recordings, though again, crediting his collaborator, Riaz Hussain:

(One can discover much more about this remarkable man in the aforementioned Blue Chip article, e.g., "As an advisor to leading Saudi entrepreneurs on energy, he gained renown for his honesty, reliability and trustworthiness." Majeed has also shown an indefatigable dedication to furthering the visions of moderate Islam--when I was scheduling my interview with him, he explained that at the time I had requested, he was scheduled to give a public lecture on the subject. And Blue Chip also reveals that Majeed is a poet as well, with his third volume, "Random Prose", has received high acclaim in both Britain and the U.S. (yours truly, an incorrigible bibliophile and occasional poet himself, is already lusting after a copy . . . .) When I asked him about the book, his answer was perhaps the most understated and self-deprecating example of self-promotion I have ever experienced from a writer:

"Allegedly", indeed!

And what of the future? Several of the articles mentioned a documentary film in the works, about which Majeed spoke with cautious non-commitment. When I asked about future plans, he said that he'd like to see a U.K. and American tour of the Orchestras at some point in the spring of 2012, but that planning was only at the exploratory stage, and which would of course have to take into account the increasing difficulty for musicians to obtain visas to perform in the U.S.

But in the meantime, the viral popularity of the Sachal Orchestra's Take Five continues to soar, as evident in the daily increase of views on the YouTube video above. In due course, I hope to write further on the Sachal Music Projects adaptation of my own particular interest--the traditional ragas and talas of South Asian music. "

No comments: