A trailer has been released for “Song of Lahore,” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s new documentary. The Oscar-winning co-director of 2012’s “Saving Face,” an account of two Pakistani women attacked with acid and their struggle to find justice, once again finds inspiration in the filmmaker’s home country. This time around, Obaid-Chinoy sets her eyes on the local music scene, specifically the story of Sachal Studios, a group of classically trained musicians who went from working in the Pakistani film industry to being unemployed in the wake of increasingly conservative Muslim laws and social customs in the country.
The trailer for the spot begins with one subject explaining, “For at least a thousand years, Lahore was one of the great art centers. But ever since the Taliban arrived, music has collapsed.”
When instruments started being destroyed and bombings became commonplace, musicians feared that they were losing their culture and resolved to do something about it. They banded together to play music together, and a video they produced became a viral sensation, leading to an invitation to perform at New York’ Lincoln Center. But the group was less concerned with international recognition than with staking their claim in the landscape of their native country, where they remained virtually unknown.
“I grew up listening to my grandfather’s stories of our musical past,” Obaid-Chinoy, who co-directed “Song of Lahore” with Andy Schocken, told Women and Hollywood. She elaborated, “He would often talk about the orchestras that played at concerts and the musicians who played on Sunday evenings on street corners. By the time I grew up in the ’80s, all of this was a thing of the past. I lived vicariously through his stories and often wondered what it would have felt like to have been part of his generation.”
A few years ago, Obaid-Chinoy got a taste of what it would have been like and wanted to share that experience with other people: “In 2012, I came across the story of a group of musicians from Lahore who had come together against all odds to record music using Pakistan’s traditional instruments, and I knew that was a story I wanted to tell. At that time, I had no idea what the group’s journey would be; I just wanted to preserve their voices and their music. And what a journey it turned out to be.”
You can discover what that journey entailed when “Song of Lahore” opens in theaters on November 13.