And all that (Pakistani) jazz ...

This Kat has been busily keeping pace with the numerous copyright judgments handed down by the English courts in recent days and she has learnt an awful lot about the finer points of Star Wars helmets, media monitoring services and blocking illegal file sharing websites. This post comes then by way of some lighter relief.

Readers will no doubt be familiar with 'Take Five', a jazz piece written by Paul Desmond and performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet on their 1959 album Time Out. It has been included in a number of movie and television soundtracks, and even today, some 52 years later, is still played on the radio. Upon his death in 1977, Desmond left the royalty rights to the American Red Cross.

Readers will no doubt be less familiar with classical music in Pakistan. The Pakistani movie industry all but died and the fate of classical music went into rapid decline. Until now. The Sachal Studios Orchestra in Lahore is making a comeback. Their first jazz album Sachal Jazz was released recently and the group's interpretation of 'Take Five' has received considerable attention. Indeed Dave Brubeck, original performer of 'Take Five', described The Sachal Studios Orchestra interpretation as 'the most interesting recording of it he has ever heard'.

The IPKat thinks that, so long as appropriate permissions have been obtained and the necessary attributions made, adaptations such as this one can only be a good thing for the creative process.

Merpel wonders what interpretation the Sachal Studios Orchestra might put on some Lady Gaga tunes ...

'Take Five', Dave Brubek style, below

The Sachal Studios Orchestra's interpretation, below

And all that (Pakistani) jazz ... And all that (Pakistani) jazz ... Reviewed by Catherine Lee on Sunday, July 31, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. It all hinges on those three little words 'so long as'.
    There are of course several other unusual renditions of the tune: New York Ska Jazz Ensemble

  2. What a pleasant surprise for a Sunday morning. I really enjoyed listening to it. Thanks, Cat the Kat.

  3. I've always found the compulsory licencing of cover versions an interesting part of the law. It's one of those areas where there is a balance between the original artist losing control over what happens to their work, in return for the benefit to culture gained from having the cover version exist, and the benefit to the cover version artist of having the (free speech) right to sing a song if they want to.

    Recently Prince has argued that he should have a moral right to prohibit cover versions. I would argue that the requirement for licences should be lifted for private individuals who are not generating revenue.

    Attribution is an interesting area too, I'm in favour of making it a moral right for the author to be credited, but what about iTunes, which prohibits attaching text files to songs? What about unwarranted writing credits (some stars demand a writing credit even if they contributed nothing to the writing), and what about insipration... if I pick up a sitar and perform take five, what should the Sachal Studios Orchestra be entitled to as a credit?

    Parody cover versions are protected by law in the US's draconian regime, but actionable here in the UK. Is the UK's culture really benefitted by banning works of Weird Al Yankovich that Americans are free to buy and hear? Should YouTube block access to those parts of his work that are forbidden to us Brits, and if so, for who? How much of an obligation to should there be on YouTube to determine the physical location of it's users?

    Another interesting point is the exemption for gender changing - Artists gain a legal right to amend a cover so that the lyrics suit the gender of the singer, at the expense of a legal right to have their lyrics kept intact. I found a great example of this while researching for a recent discussion over on the 1709 blog. Lee Fox is an artist who performs (very good) rock cover versions alongside his original work (a very wise strategy for a lesser known artist, as fans of a more popular artist being covered will pay attention to them). His cover of Goldfrapp's "Strict Machine" is gender changed, but also role-reversed. In the original the vocalist is female, and proclaims "I'm in love with a strict machine". Reviewers have interpreted this as a song sung from the point of view of a submissive person in a sadomasochistic context. Lee Fox arguably oversteps the bounds of legally allowed gender changing by singing "don't you know I'm a strict machine", thereby (arguably) taking on the dominant role in the sadomasochistic context. I'd strongly defend this as a perfectly reasonable thing for Lee Fox to do, but I wonder if as the laws stands, he might be on slightly shaky ground?

  4. It’s interesting that the USA, which goes to great lengths to discourage compulsory copyright licenses in the rest of the world, still retains the compulsory mechanical license. It arguably has been the mainstay of the American music industry - and has contributed greatly to the evolution of jazz and popular music, which both depend to a huge extent on “cover” versions.

    In terms of American IP policy on the world stage, it’s a classic example of “Do as we say, not as we do...”

    It provides an almost friction free and costless system that enables competition in performances - while ensuring that composers and publishers get paid every time. There is a rate adjustment mechanism that works. Bad performances are simply ignored by the market. Good ones and especially great ones can can hugely enhance the success of a good song - since consumers will tend to buy several versions of the same song- think “Summertime”,“White Christmas”, “Yesterday”, and indeed “Take Five”, etc. In fact, a great cover version - especially by a top performer - can turn even a so-so song into a great hit. It’s a win-win proposition that the American music industry seems to want to try its best to keep to itself and stop elsewhere.

    It’s interesting that Canadian music industry, which successful lobbied to abolish the compulsory mechanical licenses in1988, has effectively reinvented the concept through a rather unusual class action lawsuit settlement for unpaid royalties involving some 300,000 songs on industry “pending lists”.

  5. The UK Group "The Barron Knights" issued a number of successful parody singles in the 1960's and 70's, but I understand that they did have to get permission from the rights owners. I recall a radio interview where a group member said that, in "Call up the Groups", they had been refused permission to use a few bars of "Anchors Aweigh" for the transition between Freddy and the Dreamers and The Rolling Stones [it would only have been for "Freddy has gone away, hip, hip, hooray!"], so they had had to compose something themselves.


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