At a time when a number of soundtracks are seeing a re-release with extra music I would have thought that some record company some where would have taken a look at Dave Pollecutt,s score for the TV mini series SHAKA ZULU, I have always thought that this soundtrack deserved an extended version release as there was far more music in the series than what was actually released on the original Cinedisc compact disc and the EMI disc that had a release in Holland. The series was a sprawling and also an exciting and interesting account of the Zulu king Shaka who was responsible for bringing many tribes in Southern Africa together under the collective name of the Zulu nation. He was responsible for establishing the Zulu, s fearsome and highly effective military strategies it was also Shaka who introduced the short stabbing spear the Assegai and the ominous looking war shields that covered a warriors body giving them a better protection against enemies, it was also Shaka who dispensed with sandals for soldiers in the Zulu impis, making it possible for them to run faster thus getting to their enemies before they had even realised the Zulu’s were amongst them. This TV mini series charted Shaka, s rise to power and his brutal but at times necessary actions to bring his people together. The series had an A list of well known actors for the time(1986), these included Edward Fox, Robert Powell, Trevor Howard, Christopher Lee, Fiona Fullerton, Roy Dotrice,Gordon Jackson and Henry Cele as the mighty and highly unpredictable Shaka.
Cele was an imposing character in real life and fitted well into the title role, his acting career was cut short in 2007 when he suffered from complications brought on by a chest infection and passed away in November of that year. His other movies included RAGE TO KILL and THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS. The series which was shown late on the independent channels in the UK on a weekend was quite graphic and certainly pushed many boundaries for a television production, it included copious amounts of bloodshed and also nudity but all of this was essential to the telling of the story. Directed by William C. Faure who was also responsible for the script Shaka Zulu begins with a party of whites landing on a beach, they have been sent there because of reports of an amassing African army that threatens the English settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. Lord Bathurst (Christopher Lee) asks for military reinforcements but is denied by King George IV so he despatches Lt. Francis Farewell (Edward Fox) and an expeditionary force to locate and confront the leader of the strengthening Zulu tribe, this is done under the guise of a trading proposition for ivory between the Zulu, s and the whites and to establish a trading post near the royal Kraal at Bulawayo.
Lt. Farewell hires a crew of sailors and proceeds up coast and into unfamiliar territory. His real mission is to see the strength of the Zulu’s and find out if he can what their leader Shaka is proposing to do about the settlement in Cape Town and maybe attempt to set up a diplomatic alliance with the Zulu nation. Shaka reigns over his people with a bloody assegai, they dare not speak against him for fear of death, the shrewd King is straight away guarded against the white visitors, but after taking an interest in some literature that they have brought with them he begins to relax a little and also recounts his rise to power to one of the party Dr. Henry Flynn (Robert Powell). Flynn begins to compile a chronicle about Shaka and this is how the story of Shaka unfolds within the series via the writings of Flynn. Based upon the book by Joshua Sinclair the series had 10 episodes and is an epic production in every sense.
The South African scenery is awe-inspiring from the unspoiled white sanded coast to the magnificent mountain ranges and what we must realise is that this was produced before the days of computer enhancement and the complex special effects that are common place in movies today, it had a cast that numbered thousands, the Zulu villages and the Royal Kraal were re-created to perfection Made in the days before computer-assisted everything was commonplace. The narrative encompasses the drama of Nandi’s (Dudu Mkhize) Shaka,s Mother and her ill-fated romance with a reckless Zulu prince in the 1780s, her illegitimate son’s growth as a fierce warrior and his premature demise in 1828. The series also has a mystical feel to it as in many scenes Shaka is guided by dark forces to reach his goal. Dave Pollecutt,s score is brimming with effective and authentic sounding themes, the composer employing brass and percussive elements to create a tense and driving atmosphere with support from choir and also the inclusion of strings and solo vocalists such as Margaret Singana, Mallie Kelly and Stella Khumalo the music enhances and underlines wonderfully the sheer expanses of the storyline and accompanies Shaka on his uphill struggle to establish him self as the paramount Monarch of the Zulu’s. The compact disc opens with The opening titles, WE ARE GROWING which is the infectious and stirring central theme from Pollecutt,s soundtrack, performed by Margaret Sigana who also co-wrote the piece with the composer Pollecutt, Julian Laxton and Patrick Van Blerk.
Be a man of greatness now
a man so tall, a man so kind
Be a man of wisdom now
A man of mind, a man of blind
Be a man of kindness now
A man so big and strong in mind
Be a man so humble now
A man of men, now let it shine
Are the opening lines, backed by the Baragwanath choir and pounding drums that are laced by strings and enhanced further with brass.
This is what you are
This is how it was planned now
This is what to be
Every kind of man now
This is what to say
With a kind of meaning
This is what to feel
With a kind of feeling
This is the song that opened each and every episode and set the scene for the all action story that was on screen. The score is a collective of various themes which the composer wrote to accompany the stories central characters, the opening is the theme that we associate with Shaka himself, then in track number three, we hear the theme that will become the underlying music for the British, a more subdued and serene if you like sound with strings and harpsichord making an appearance in the opening seconds of the track SHIPWRECK these soon evaporate and give way to a more dramatic sounding mood which the composer relays via strings and brass with an upbeat sounding percussive background that is supported further by driving strings as we see the British thrown onto the beach after a storm at sea. Track number four, FIRST SIGHT OF KWA-BULAWAYO is a fusion of both the central Shaka theme and also a variation of the British theme, light woodwinds being introduced and also tense strings coming into the equation to heighten the drama slightly as the British arrive at the Royal Kraal. Track five, THE HORSE RACE is an upbeat affair its main stay being driving and rhythmic percussion and also Zulu voices that are underlined by brass flourishes throughout. Track number six is the delightful and beautiful NANDI’S THEME again this is a vocal, performed on this occasion by Mallie Kelly. A low and easy sounding background of percussion and shakers laced with plaintive flute introduces the amazing vocals,
Nandi my name is Nandi ,See me and then just think of me, I’m Nandi.
Nandi they call me Nandi, so lonely, but then I never was like the others,
All I want from life is more than just a life.
For it was spoken in the prophecy my son will rule through me.
There is also another vocal performance on the score which is track number ten, PAMPATA (Wemsheli Wami). Sung in both Zulu and English again this is a delightful piece performed by Stella Khumalo and choir. The composer also employs a scattering of electronic support and this is most noticeable in track number 11 THE MAKING OF THE SPEAR, this is a mysterious and tense sounding composition and oozes drama and mystic. Track 12, THE CORONATION too is highly dramatic, fervent percussion and a sprinkling of electronic stabs open the track, as strings segue into the proceedings ushering a choir vocalising a celebratory offering to the newly crowned king Shaka as his reign commences proper. The score also contains a number of more low key and melodic sounding pieces these manifest themselves in tracks such as DEATH OF DINGISWAYO, MANDI’S FUNERAL and the subdued but elegant Morricone influenced ELIZABETH’S THEME. Overall SHAKA ZULU is a score worth adding to your collection, although I fear it could be difficult to find and this is why maybe a re-issue with extra tracks should be looked into. Find it, Buy it, enjoy it….