My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James is among the many artists to collaborate with the Sachal Ensemble, a group of Pakistani musicians at the center of the 2015 documentary Song of Lahore. On the film’s companion album, James joins the Sachal Ensemble for an uplifting, divine rendition of Stevie Wonder‘s “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”
“I was honored to be asked to sing after being so moved hearing the instrumental Sachal version of one of my favorite songs of all time, ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today,'” James said in a statement. “I feel like it speaks so beautifully to Stevie’s original message of hope, acceptance and love … and keeps it going in a fresh direction … from a completely different background yet still speaking that same message of love that we all need to hear so badly in these confusing times … Yes — love is in need of love today, and luckily there are people on the earth like Stevie Wonder and the Sachal Ensemble here to help spread that love and remind us that we are all united.”
The album, due out May 20th, is available for pre-order now; those who purchase receive an instant download of “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”
The Song of Lahore companion album also features the Sachal Ensemble teaming up with Wilco’s Nils Cline, Sean Lennon, Wynton Marsalis, Bilal, and Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, as well as spoken-word contributions from Meryl Streep reading verses by Pakistani poet laureate Faiz Ahmed Faiz. In addition to Wonder, other artists whose music is covered by the Sachal Ensemble include Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson, George Harrison, Nine Simone and more.
“In seeking out repertoire for the Song of Lahore album, I was looking for songs that expressed the idea and ideal of universal love and hope. Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘Love’s In Need Of Love Today,’ from his opus Songs in the Key of Life, was a perfect vehicle to bridge east and west,” Eli Wolf, the album’s producer, told Rolling Stone. “One of my favorite outcomes in the studio came when, in explaining the lyrics of the song to the Sachal Ensemble (only one of whom speaks some English), we transformed Stevie’s iconic gospel-tinged vocal harmony introduction into an Urdu chant. This was also the first time these musicians sang harmonies on a record. Jim James then came in with his beautiful and sensitive take on the melody, completing this call to love and the best of our shared humanity.”
The film Song of Lahore, co-directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken, focuses on the struggles of the Sachal Ensemble, who perform their music in a conservative part of Pakistan where music is considered “a sin against God.” The members of the Sachal Ensemble have been forced to practice their craft in secret, risking their lives in the process. “We are facing so many problems back home, this album will help,” the Sachal Ensemble’s flute and Barsani player Baqir Abbas said in a statement. “In music, there is no music which is called American music and Pakistani music. We all are one.”