Pakistani capital bops to American jazz beat

American jazz comes to Pakistan
American jazz comes to Pakistan

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    American jazz comes to Pakistan

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American jazz comes to Pakistan 02:24

Story highlights

  • Three New Yorkers and a Texan make up the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet
  • They are part of a cultural exchange program designed to win Pakistani hearts and minds
  • Relations between the U.S. and Pakistani governments are particularly strained
  • U.S. officials accuse Pakistan's top spy agency of harboring extremists
A head-bopping, hip-shaking flurry of drum beats.
The soulful screams of a saxophone.
The gut-thumping strums of a double bass.
And the silky smooth lyrics of Summertime -- the lullaby classic made famous by Ella Fitzgerald -- all under a starlit night.
The scene could be straight from an outdoor Jazz festival in New York City.
But this is Pakistan -- a country plagued by its reputation for Islamist militancy, corruption and poverty -- and the jazz is courtesy of three New Yorkers and a Texan who make up the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet.
The four performed at a 500-seat amphitheater on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, in a country American musicians almost never visit because of security concerns and widespread anti-Americanism.
The U.S. State Department helped organize the band's visit as part of a cultural exchange program designed to win Pakistani hearts and minds.
"We don't feel like we're in danger," said the band's creator and bassist Ari Roland. "We're thrilled to be here. We feel welcome, so at home."
The band's visit comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and Pakistani governments are strained.
The partnership hit a new low when U.S. officials accused Pakistan's top spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, of harboring extremists and helping insurgents in Afghanistan.
Islamabad hit back with it's own tough talk, accusing Washington of using Pakistan as a scapegoat for its failed policy in the region and warning the U.S. might lose Pakistan as an ally if it continues with the public accusations.
The Ari Roland Quartet is under no illusion that it can solve the U.S.-Pakistani rift but jazz can help, they said.
"Music has a history of bringing people together from across the world," said Roland.
But the band acknowledged the hearts and minds America needs to win were probably not among their audience. The concert was invite only, not open to the public. The guests were mostly foreign diplomats, Pakistani politicians and their families -- many educated in the west, people who probably already like America.
Even so, the quartet said this was a start.
They drew loud cheers when they performed their jazzed up rendition of Dil Dil Pakistan, the country's most patriotic song.
More applause came when they joined Pakistani rock band Fuzon for a song called Friendship is Life. Within seconds American and Pakistani musicians were in soulful synchrony.
If only U.S.-Pakistani relations were that easy.