Sachal Ensemble Paves Way For Art To Triumph Over Terror
Editor’s Note: A complete preview (with videos) of Sachal Ensemble’s appearance at the Spa Little Theater on Monday, October 30; as well as the film they were profiled in (‘Song of Lahore’) at Bowtie Criterion Cinemas 11 + BTX, 19 Railroad Place, on Sunday, October 29, appears here. Today we go a little deeper into why these are very important perofmances that should not be missed – AG
SARATOGA SPRINGS – First comes the moment of bravery.
The bravery to renounce what ‘is,’ as the way things ‘must be.’
Then comes the acting upon bravery. Visualizing and navigating nuances, taking little victories along the way. Little victories that hopefully add up to great triumphs.
Bravery is behaving, every day, in a manner that you wish things to be. Triumph comes when, waking up one day, you discover that all those days ‘being,’ have added up to: You have ‘become.’
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy elaborates on her, as well as others’ bravery:
“In 2011, I came across the story of a group of musicians from Lahore (in Pakistan) who had come together against all odds to record music using Pakistan’s traditional instruments led by Izzat Majeed, a Pakistani businessman with panache for music” she wrote. “I knew that was a story I wanted to tell so I went online and did more research on the Sachal orchestra. Despite their talent, they weren’t very well known in Pakistan. I started filming them on my own soon after.
“But since the film was being shot in two continents, I felt it would be better as a collaboration. Andy (Schocken) is a very talented filmmaker and was perfect for the collaboration.”
On Song of Lahore’s unique challenges:
“There were a lot of unique challenges in producing the film, such as the logistical issues inherent in producing a long-term verite film in Pakistan, dealing with Urdu and Punjabi dialogue with an English-speaking editor and all the difficulties in recording, editing and clearing so many music tracks. (A very big) challenge overall was narrowing down the complex narrative elements, into a clean and straightforward story, while maintaining a sense of the cultural context that makes the film special.
“The biggest issue, however, was that I was a woman working with all men and with all male subjects. These men didn’t want to show me their struggles.” Sharmeen wrote.
What do you think in the film resonates strongest with Western audiences?
“The personalities of the musicians really come alive when they touch down in New York. You see them feeling much more relaxed, you see them in Times Square interacting with people. One of the things people who watch this film tell me is the musicians have personalities — they make you laugh; their observations are quirky. People connect with them. But throughout the rehearsal period, the tensions that were there, the fact that these musicians can’t read music, they don’t speak the same language as Wynton Marsalis’s band — all of that came to a head. There was a time in the rehearsal when we didn’t know how the concert was going to turn out.
I have to ask: How did you feel at the Oscars, and what it was like hearing your name called?
“Winning the Oscar was an indescribable moment in my career. It was the stuff that dreams are made of. The day of the award ceremony itself was a complete blur; I was running on adrenaline and excitement,” Sharmeen writes. “It was a testament to my long-held belief that if you work hard and strive for excellence, the world will appreciate your product and your efforts will be recognized.
“It sunk in when I came back home, and was met with an overwhelming response from family, friends and fellow Pakistanis.”
It was bravery that impressed SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol, when, at the same position at Universal Music Classics, she encountered Sharmeen and a link to a trailer for Song of Lahore and it made a profound impact on her — as did the musicians it chronicled.
That bravery can be capsulized in one of the most poignant moments of the film. Nijat Ali, conductor of the Sachal Ensemble says, “we want to show the world that Pakistanis are artists, not terrorists.”
With all of that said, it takes a different sort of bravery to bring this type of programming into our market. It’s an offshoot of the same type of bravery that has launched other collaborate programming with external partners; to launch a series called ‘SPAC on Stage,’ to revive a once underutilized facility (SPAC Jazz Bar) and other innovations. Let us recall that this is Ms. Sobol’s first year here, although with programming like this, she has seen to it that her year is extended well beyond the Wine and Food Festival – in years past, the traditional ending.
It is relevant to acknowledge at this point too, that entertainment at the SPAC level also must be a business and be run that way – lest our favorite venue turn into an abandoned shell like the Starlite Theater. So, bravery extends to innovative programming outside the norm such as the Sachal Ensemble’s appearance.
It also means that there can be no sacred cows. Programming in the long run must pull it’s weight or it needs to be gone. I believe my readers are arts “biz savvy” so you can read between the lines as to what I am saying…SPAC will break even this year, which is quite an accomplishment, but in so doing, hard choices have to be made.
Brave choices. Sometimes unpopular ones. But necessary ones nonetheless.
But ultimately, the SPAC entertainment you get is up to you, the ticket-buying public. If you like traditional programming – then support it. If you like innovative programming, you must support it too.
It says here that this programming is worthy of your support. Oscar-worthy, in fact.
The appearances locally by Sachal Ensemble and the film Song of Lahore is a collaboration between the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Universal Preservation Hall, and Proctors. For more information, and to purchase tickets click here.
October 17, 2017