Joep's Arthouse Scores

April 2008

Black Gold is a British documentary about the world trade in coffee that shows us how unfair the market is to towards Ethiopians, who produce the best coffee in the world. They get a price that’s dependent on Western stock exchange and get disgracefully underpayed. Andreas Kapsalis wrote the score that needed to catch the whole essense of this problem, and had to write music that fitted the various places of the world. Most of the music was written for (acoustic) guitar, percussion and strings. For the Ethiopian sound he used a lot of interesting Ethiopian music samples and he admitted having used real coffebeans for the score, while also unifying the world by also using guitar and strings. I had trouble spotting the beans, but I’m sure in certain cues the ticks and clicks, sounding like something electronic, were the real deal. The scenes in Italy have a more passionate string domination, which can be explained by their true love and care for good coffee. Joe Henson and Kunja Chatterton got the main ideas for the music in a stage, before Kapsalis was hired, and did some additional music.

There’s a current wave of Mongolian films (and their music) I can’t get enough of. Tuya de Hun Shi (Tuya’s Marriage) is a recent project that’s situated in this country, but made by Chinese with two unusual elements; a too-westernized story and a strong female character. When documenting such a culture on film, using their traditional music is naturally very important. Some of the traditional elements used for the music include gorgeous throatsinging and amazing morin khuur (a Mongolian fiddle) performances. I wouldn’t know who wrote and performed the music, since the end credits were in Chinese. So far, no source has been able to inform on the credit problem, but I’m hoping to find out soon.

The third and last interesting title was a documentary called Blindsight, wherein we follow a group of blind Tibetan children climbing the Mount Everest. This is the kind of film that’s incredibly varied in terms of music being used. The film contains a score by Nithing Sawhney, while using a lot of music by Tibetian artists such as the Silk Road Ensemble (with Yo-Yo Ma), Zimig Gupa and many others. Altogether, a guaranteed quality collection. Director Luce Walker began exploring their music in an early stage and wanted to reserve places for all these different musicans. Sawhney, a born Brit with Indian roots, had many experiences with Asian music and Indian scores such as The Namesake and Hari Om. He proved to be a very good choice. Before he was brought in, Richard Blair-Oliphant wrote a few demo’es, of which the cue in the Ice Palace sequences remained in the film. Sawnhey used two fantastic musicians playing Tibetan orientating music, while western epic music plays while we see the progress of the climbers on a map. All of the music left me speechless.

All three scores have not been released on cd.

Written by Joep de Bruijn