To possibly describe the 48 hours I experienced following the concert at The Barbican. My command of the English language is nowhere near sophisticated enough to put readers of these words into the remote vicinity of emotion I experienced. Therefore, I'll just have to spit it out.
Via Twitter I have had direct communication with Sachal without ever seeing the face behind it. They have contacted me before to say thanks for all my social advocacy and they are aware I have been to all their concerts outside of Pakistan.
During the interval at The Barbican I DM Sachal on Twitter asking if I could meet the musicians. They responded to me the following morning on Tuesday and asked me to call them. So I did.
Their Press Manager informed me that the concert with Wynton the night before on Monday was their only 'official' concert in London. That Tuesday evening they were doing another concert for the press, media and guests of Mr Majeed behind closed doors at Kings Place in North London. It was going to be around 50 people tops and as a thank you to me they wanted me to attend as their guest............You're right, I was left speechless!
I began calling everyone I could get hold of or see online just to express my euphoria in this moment. I've never done cocaine but I'm sure its impact could not match my energy levels following this phone call. It really was a dream coming true.
So that afternoon I make my way down and get their early. In typical Pakistani fashion the concert start time was delayed due to more rehearsal time needed. I met the Press Manager outside the theatre and he said go on through even whilst they were performing. So I did.
The venue was perfect. A full on stage for the entire ensemble supported by a strings section and a seating area for no more than 50 people. Whilst they were rehearsing one could tell the acoustics and sound was going to be out of the top draw.
I stood quietly as they were rehearsing. Ustad Ballu Khan during this time came down from the stage for a moment whilst the other sections were fine tuning. I grabbed him and introduced myself and gave him the 30 second version of my love affair with Sachal; where it started and where it had taken me to. He hugged me and immediately forgot what he was about to do and grabbed my hand and walked back towards the stage. Even though all other members of Sachal were rehearsing he interrupts them and ask them all to come down off the stage which they do and introduces me to them all. They hear the 30 second version of my affair and likewise all hug and embrace me. In that moment I was officially crowned as the Number 1 fanatical fan of Sachal!
They then took a break and went outside for some air. I didn't just follow I surgically attached myself to them. We sat outside and they enquired about my devotion and I explained that it all started when I was 15....(as per my first entry on this blog). The warmth and open hearts they immediately reciprocated with was truly overwhelming. I expected them to appreciate and acknowledge of course; anything less would have been rude, but this was off the charts. Exchanging phone numbers with me and requesting that I stay by their side until they perform and when they do take the front row seat
The performance I then witnessed was truly my musical everest moment in life irrespective of the fact it was Sachal. I defy any 'music lover' to not be moved emotionally and wowed by this performance.
Amongst others there were several Radio DJ's and producers etc in the room. Regardless of whether they were sceptical prior to the performance commencing or even similar to me, pro the concept and music....it didn't matter. By the end of the night it was a monumental 'home run'.
As I was parked in the front row, with their permission I was allowed to film the concert. You can appreciate my excitement hence the videos maybe a little shaky. There are other videos on YouTube of this performance but the sound is not as good as my films. Take a deep breath and enjoy this musical sensation!
What amazing musical talents and imagination to have come up with this version of Imagine. Wow!
Tuxalee Gate was put together by Mr Majeed himself and is truly 'classical'.
Now who in their right mind would have the vision to imagine a Jazz version of The Pink Panther theme?
An indescribable tribute to Take 5!
Continually left speechless....Stevie Wonder's 'You got it bad girl'.
Duke Ellingtons 'Limbo Jazz' without Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Centre Orchestra.....They totally made it their own in this version.
I didn't catch the name of the piece below. However I call it the 'Sitar' piece as the emphasis is on Nafees Khan and his beautiful display of the Sitar.
Below is the same old Pakistani track they performed live on The BBC a couple of days prior.
Now we get to the climax of the evening. It wasn't the last piece they performed but its the one more so than others that I have listened to relentlessly since.
Its called 'Shalimar' after the gardens with the same name in Lahore. Its a majestic place that graced Lahore during the time of the Mughals. In his introduction of it, Mr Majeed made a connection with Greek Goddesses. I don't precisely recall the conceptual connection but the sound is authentically of the Levant! This blew me away and I feel so immensely blessed and honoured that I saw it first hand. If one of the earlier pieces was very 'Sitar' focussed, well this is all about Baqir Abbass and the magic he breathes via his flutes. A true masterpiece!
Kindly heed my advice with Shalimar. The first time you listen to it, make sure you do so on the loudest speakers possible. Let its magic enter your soul and you will go on an amazing 8 minute journey!
If there is one piece of music that I can take to a dessert Island, it is officially this one; 'Shalimar'.
The following day the whole Ensemble were hanging out at their Hotel prior to flying back on Thursday. I went down and hung out with them. They were so happy and appreciative to see me and kept thanking me for my effort...although there was none!
We ate, talked and discussed their music and the sentiment its generating around the world. Perhaps up until then they had not sat with someone that could cross both worlds and translate it. I relayed to them what the NY Times had written, The Guardian and many others. I asked if they understood this comparison of The Buena Vista Club and they didn't. I then went online to show them the scale of this comparison. If in some way I could help increase their understanding of what they are achieving then I'm happy. The day after when they left I really missed them all as I'd had 3 days of The Sachal Ensemble back to back.
Now, its off to India in November where they have 5 dates almost confirmed. Prior to meeting them I had made a pact with myself that wherever they perform I will turn up. I have to support them as much as I can given they are in many respects the musical expression of me. British Pakistani with a strong sense of identity and patriotism on both sides, yet feeling neither are in conflict. The West and East reside peacefully within me and it is these very notes that Sachal are expressing.