April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Hotel Rwanda  
Music composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams and Andrea Guerra
  Available on Commotion (CR005)
Running Time: 49.32
Amazon UK   Amazon US

Hotel Rwanda is a Terry George-directed drama that mirrored the menace of the civil war that tore Rwanda apart. The story circled around the true life story of a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees during their struggle to escape the Hutu militia. The film’s music mirrors the difficult questions presented by the drama, gathering together orchestral cues with pop and traditional songs of different styles and moods – all genres evoking the turbulence of the film’s setting.

Composer Rupert Gregson Williams and Italian composer Andrea Guerra had the task of composing the main orchestral parts of the score. What they came up with is deeply interesting and diverse. Rupert provided the movie with a score heavily influenced by Hans Zimmer, particularly drawing elements from the former’s highly popular 2001 score for Black Hawk Down. ‘Interhamwe attack’ recalls Zimmer’s ‘Hunger’ with its heavy and rhythmic percussion section, dense electronics, a distorted electric guitar, the characteristically atmospheric electric cello and male African vocals. Gregson-Williams’ other cue, ‘Ambush’, pretty much moves in the same direction as well, intensely rhythmic through use of a sizable percussion ensemble along with a groovy electric guitar motif on top, with low electronics and loops as the veil.

Andrea Guerra’s contributions are the more interesting, coming as they do from a more ‘traditional’ orchestral approach. His compositions basically make up for the highlights of the whole score, especially ‘Children Found’, essentially a slowed-down and more dramatic take on the vocal theme by the beautiful children’s choir which also serves as an intro, refrain and basic motif for the melodic, uplifting and groovy reggae hit song ‘Million Voices’ by Wycleaf Jean. ‘Finale’ is possibly the score’s best moment, where an intensely dramatic four-note string motif leads a wonderful orchestral piece with soft timpani rhythms, echoing Harry Gregson Williams’s scores for Spy Game or Man on Fire. Additionally, Guerra’s talent shines once again in the beautiful pop ballad he co-composed, ‘Nobody Cares’, sung by Deborah Cox. A catchy and warm string motif serves as the basis of this beautiful song, while woodwind textures are the connecting element between the orchestral accompaniment and the pop vocals. Smooth vibraphone and organ complete the texture of the piece.

Moving in the same vein we find Andrea Guerra once again co-composing ‘Do not leave me here by myself (Ne me Laisse pas seule ici)’, a touching pop ballad with a distinctly sad tone, classical-colored orchestral background and compelling vocals sung in French by Tilly Key. Also notable is the opening song, ‘Mama Arira’, by Afro Celt Sound System and Dorothe Munyaneza. A duduk performs a solemn six-note motif (which also serves as the basis of the movie’s main theme) on top of moody synthesized veil. African vocals imitate the motif and interchange with the duduk on a kind of musical dialogue, with eventual rhythmic accompanment from the percussion, also bringing Zimmer’s Black Hawk Down in mind.

The rest of the album is sadly filled with traditional African songs that don’t really fit the mould of the above, and I’m not just talking about the extremely silly and annoying song about African beer. Moreover, Afro Celt Sound System’s contributions, which take up a very large portion of the film, feel desperately in need of an orchestral treatment instead of the clichéd synthesizers they preferred to rely to.

In Hotel Rwanda, there are some particularly dynamic, interesting and worthy pieces indeed; notably the orchestral pieces and song penned by Andrea Guerra. Rupert Gregson William’s contributions perfectly reflect the action on screen and also add to a more satisfying listening experience overall, despite being unoriginal. However, where this compilation fails is at its attempt to reflect the complex and multicultural tone of the film with its spirit of unity and peace. Bringing all these musicians on board was the main thought here, but they actually failed to combine all those different and unfitting musical elements and styles into a tight whole. The score lacks a connecting core and therefore, coherency and meaning. Had the movie’s executives kept only Andrea Guerra on board with a chance to explore and develop his ideas into a single score, we would be listening to a masterpiece now; unfortunately, we are not.

Demetris Christodoulides

Rating: 2

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