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Song of Lahore
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Language English, Urdu, Punjabi

Fundamentalist terrorism is affecting everywhere these days, but what is often forgotten is how the Islamic world suffers, too. The documentary “Song of Lahore” takes us to Pakistan’s cultural hub, a home to the arts since the Mughal empire, yet a city where musicians now live in fear of Taliban violence. (Their intolerant interpretation of the Quran forbids music, and they have assassinated many musicians.)

Filmmakers Andy Schocken and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy focus on the Sachal music studio in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, where a small band of classical musicians — who perform on sitar, tabla, bansuri flute, violin and harmonium — hold on to their tradition in the face of dwindling audiences and intimidation. Izzat Majeed, Sachal’s founder, comes up with the bright idea of recording a few jazz classics (including “Take Five”) done in their own style; one viral video later, they’re invited to New York to perform with Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center.

It all follows the “Buena Vista Social Club” pattern a bit too closely, but you have to admire the musicians’ tenacity and chops. The filmmakers are so focused on the triumphant ending though, they fail to note the obvious: The cultural communication here is strictly one way, as Marsalis drills the Pakistanis to get their jazz right, but the Americans make no stab at attempting a raga. One misses the humility of John Coltrane, who sought to learn from the East.

“Song of Lahore” opens at Eurospace on Aug. 13. and at selected cinemas from Aug. 27.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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