Music for documentaries has over the past ten to twelve years come into its own, this is mainly due to composers such as George Fenton who scored some of these fascinating and highly informative pieces of imagery with a fully symphonic approach. I highlight George Fenton simply because of his work with David Attenborough, but there are so many other composers who have crafted beautiful and haunting soundtracks for documentaries which have wildlife as their subject matter, Christopher Gunning‘s WILD AFRICA for example. Recently the BBC screened a mammoth series entitled AFRICA which was created by Sir David Attenborough. I not only enjoyed the series immensely but fell in love with the music that had been composed for it by Sarah Class. To be honest the score for the series is as diverse and as epic as the film and the continent of Africa itself, it is full of drama, overflowing with rich and gracious themes and brimming with emotion and poignant musical moments which tug at the heartstrings, evoke concern, frustration and also have a sound that gives the viewer hope for the future of Africa. The score contains atmospheres and moods which are frightening, quirky, amusing and at the same time near operatic in their make up, but more importantly the music supports the images and the stories on screen and as a bonus is an enjoyable listen on its own away from those images.

The compact disc opens with JOURNEY OF THE KING FISH, strings act as a background to a meandering piano solo, which combines with the string section creating a swirling almost shimmering effect as the theme builds from within and gradually makes its way to the fore performed by a rich and full sounding string section courtesy of the BBC concert orchestra, woodwind takes on the theme punctuated and supported by piano then strings return with a lush and romantic rendition of the theme, gradually bringing the composition to its conclusion. Track two RIVERS AND FALLS is slightly more upbeat and dramatic percussion providing a backbone to the composition with strings and brass being added to the foundation creating a strident variation of the central theme which builds to a crescendo. Track three, LAKES AND FLAMINGOS is a combination of guitar and harp which are underlined by at first low sounding strings, these are then bolstered by a fuller sounding string section that carries the composition along at medium tempo gradually building and bringing it to its close. Track four I think is one of my favourite compositions from the score, BUTTERFLY BALL is a waltz inspired theme for strings which is introduced by guitar and harp, the strings soar and glide in an almost joyous dance as woodwind, piano, voices and strings intermingle creating a delightful and beautiful composition.

Track five, FORCE OF THE WHALE, is an up tempo piece, an array of percussion provides the backing and are joined by forthright sounding strings that are punctuated by subdued brass stabs, with the string section supported by brass bringing the central theme back into the equation. Track seven GIRAFFE VS GIRAFFE is also a favourite of mine from the score, I had always thought Giraffes to be a placid animal but obviously I was mistaken, the composer infuses a touch of Spaghetti western into the proceedings for this particular sequence, solo guitar and trumpet being the main protagonists in this cue, with a gentle but noticeable nod to Ennio Morricone‘s The Good The Bad and The Ugly present. The score for AFRICA is as imposing as the series and as varied and beautiful as the continent, it is a soundtrack that I urge you to add to your collection, because if you do not you will be missing out on some of the most gracious and inspiring music that I have heard in a long while…

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