Pakistani Orchestra Plays Enchanting Rendition of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”

Last year, we brought you an incred­i­ble cov­er of Dave Brubeck’s clas­sic “Take Five” per­formed by the Pak­istan-based group, the Sachal Stu­dios Orches­tra (also known as the Sachal Jazz Ensem­ble). You can find that song, along with two takes on “The Girl From Ipane­ma,” on their 2011 album Sachal Jazz. You won’t find the Sachal Orchestra’s ver­sion of “Eleanor Rig­by” (above) on that album. This comes to us from Sachal’s 2013 Jazz and All That, a record Guardian crit­ic John Ford­ham calls “smooth-jazz­i­er” than its pre­de­ces­sor and “more impro­vi­sa­tion­al­ly inhib­it­ed.” I must say, if that’s the case, I’ll take my jazz smooth just this once.

“Eleanor Rig­by,” of course, has always been played by an orches­tra, and its mix­ture of modes makes it a par­tic­u­lar­ly good choice for the sitar soloist, who could have sat in com­fort­ably in stu­dio ses­sions for near­ly every song on the East­ern-inflect­ed Revolver. He shares the spot­light with a dyna­mite tablas play­er (watch for his solo at 1:27). It’s no won­der the Sachal play­ers have made such an impres­sion with their unique inter­pre­ta­tions of stan­dards and clas­sics. Drawn from “vir­tu­osos who cut their teeth in Pakistan’s once-flour­ish­ing Lol­ly­wood film indus­try,” their web­site informs us, “the Sachal Jazz Ensem­ble brings togeth­er some of the most accom­plished clas­si­cal musi­cians of the sub­con­ti­nent.” Lol­ly­wood, Lahore’s once-thriv­ing film indus­try, has still bare­ly recov­ered from the repres­sive regime of Gen­er­al Zia-ul-Haq.

The musi­cians of Sachal are refugees of a sort; res­cued from pover­ty, these “vet­er­an ses­sion play­ers [had been] retired since the 1980s due to var­i­ous anti-music zealotries.” Dur­ing those times, writes Yaqoob Khan Ban­gash, tele­vi­sion dra­ma pro­vid­ed “great suc­cor to a fatigued and demor­al­ized soci­ety.” Musi­cals, how­ev­er, were very much frowned on by the regime, which banned most West­ern-influ­enced pro­duc­tions and shut­tered most of the Lahore stu­dios. We should be glad the Sachal Stu­dios Orches­tra can now per­form and tour. They recent­ly appeared with Wyn­ton Marsalis at Lin­coln Cen­ter in an event, Ford­ham writes, sug­gest­ing that “the most cre­ative phase of Sachal Stu­dios’ heart­en­ing sto­ry of renew­al might just be begin­ning.”

For more on Sachal Stu­dios, watch the intro­duc­to­ry video, “Who We Are…,” above—shot at, where else, the stu­dios at Abbey Road.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pak­istani Musi­cians Play Amaz­ing Ver­sion of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Clas­sic, “Take Five”

Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Per­formed on a Gayageum, a Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment

A Mid­dle-East­ern Ver­sion of Radiohead’s 1997 Hit “Kar­ma Police”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.


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