I Dreamed of Africa
As a technician there is no doubting Maurice Jarre's ability, but as a artist
his music all too often is bland and uninspiring and that is certainly the
case here. The irony is that he has proven that he is capable of writing
emotionally resonant work, such as his memorable score for Jesus of
Nazareth. But as that seems to be the exception rather than the rule,
perhaps in that particular instance it was more a case of divine intervention!
Anyway, 'Arrival in Africa' opens with a conventional, unsurprising mixture
of strings and a few African tribal rhythmic embellishments that unfortunately
only add up to a feeling of heard it all before.
Supplementing the Jarre tracks are a number of pieces by African musicians,
the first being 'Ondiek' written and performed by Ayub Ogada. I suppose this
could well be described as modern African folk music, but I'm sorry to say
that I found it to be rather dull.
'A Different Rhythm' is curiously uninvolving too, as if merely going through
the motions, although of course I'm certain that Jarre does intend that to
be the case. The problem is that he so often provides film-makers with the
flip side of what artists like John Williams or Danny Elfman offer. Where
their scores seem to be so rich and evocative, Jarre's work can sometimes
meander along without hitting any kind of strong emotional buttons.
Next Geoffrey Oryema contributes 'Kel Kweyo', an up tempo Africana piece
with plenty of solid rhythmic work and moments of vocal interest, before
Jarre returns with 'The Storm', beginning with dramatic percussion and brass
followed by a lengthy section of low-key semi-melodic tinkling. A combination
of buff and bluster and quiet introspection.
'Death and Misery' incorporates Richard Strauss and Joseph Von Eichendorff's
'Im Abendrot' with solo soprano by Michaela Kaune. The melodramatic string
and tribal rhythm section half way through comes as something of a surprise
after a very restrained opening, but once 'Im Abendrot' takes over we are
at last provided with something of substance and quality. Whether the comparison
is fair or not, Jarre's original work is made to look rather second-rate.
'Obiero' is the second track featured written and performed by Ayub Ogada
and while it's more enjoyable than his first selection, I still didn't find
it particularly engaging.
The final Jarre cue, 'Kuki's Determination' recaps some of the themes previously
heard with swirling strings plus the obligatory African rhythmic elements.
While this clearly attempts a big, uplifting conclusion, all that is really
achieved is a sense of workmanlike mediocrity.
All of Jarre's pieces are on the longish side ranging from six to eleven
minutes in length, but sadly this only seems to highlight their lack of vitality
I think it will come as no surprise if I conclude by saying that this is
not a score I will returning to any time in the near future