Hesham Nazih is an Egyptian composer best known for his distinguished style that interweaves authentic melodies with contemporary music. Nazih has built a 20+ year artistic career and has under his belt more than 40 award-winning soundtracks of blockbuster films that dominated the Egyptian box-office and achieved critical acclaim such as Snakes and Ladders, Ibrahim Labyad, The Blue Elephant I and II, Sons of Rizk I and II, and The Treasure I and II. His TV hits include Friendly Fire, The Seven Commandments, The Covenant, and Shahid’s Every Week Has A Friday.
In addition to an impressive repertoire, Hesham has also received a plethora of “Best Music” awards for many of his works. And in November of 2021, he was honoured by the prestigious Arab Music Festival in its 30th edition in recognition of his musical career and for the excellent work he did composing the accompanying music for The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade.
Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions, I would like to begin by asking you how you became involved on Moon Knight?
My pleasure. Thank you for having me! Well long story short… one day out of the blue, I received an email from Marvel asking for my demo reel, and they were specific about the kind of music they wanted to listen to. I had no idea it was for Moon Knight at the time. Few weeks (and zoom meetings!) later, I flew to Budapest to meet with the team and of course Mohamed Diab who I realized was the one who recommended me to Marvel in the first place. We had never worked together before, never even met. Connecting the dots together, I think he made that recommendation after listening to the music I wrote for the Pharaohs’ Golden parade, a grand spectacle that saw 22 ancient mummies paraded through the streets of Cairo from the historic Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to their new resting place at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. It was live streamed and watched by millions all over the world. That was about a week before I received the email!
You have worked on many movies that were produced outside of the USA, in your native Egypt. How does the scoring and recording process differ if indeed it does compared to the system in the United States?
The scoring process was only different in the sense of that it’s an entirely different system and workflow. But ultimately, whether in Egypt or the USA or anywhere in the world… we all have the same goal… to create those unforgettable moments on screen for the audiences.
The recording was incredible for so many reasons, Egyptian instruments, vocals, and chanters were recorded in Cairo, orchestra and choir were recorded in Vienna, mix was done in Los Angeles! Orchestrators were in London and Prague! So yeah, it was a collaboration of absolutely amazing talents from almost half of the globe.
Did the producers on Moon Knight have any specific ideas about which direction the music should be going and what style it should follow and was there a temp track installed on the movie?
They were specific about key points like the importance of having main themes for the main characters, also the authenticity of the Egyptian side of the score and things like that but I was really given full liberty to play and weave the score freely, and yes, there was a temp track installed on the scenes.
The score for Moon Knight is incredibly thematic, how much music did you write for the series, and did you score the episodes in the order that they were to be screened?
I don’t really know how much music exactly, but it was full! I mean episodes were almost wall to wall full of music, but that’s the nature of the show, and yes, I scored it in the order they were screened.
What size orchestra did you have for the project and what percentage of the score is realized via samples or electronic elements?
About 80 piece, the whole score was recorded! I used synths and electronic elements for rhythms, textures, effects, pads and so…
Did you conduct the score or is it better for you to supervise the session from the recording booth?
The score was conducted by the brilliant Gottfried Rabl and Bernhard Melbye Voss. I supervised the sessions through Zoom!
How much time did you have to write and record the score for Moon Knight.
About 8 months!
The central theme is so robust, and action led but also filled with a lush and lavish melody, do you think that it is important for a TV series especially, to have a theme that the audience will recognize and one that grabs their attention?
I don’t think it would matter if it’s for TV or the big screen… I believe it depends on the nature of the narrative, Moon Knight was one of the shows that demanded a thematic and melodic score.
There are many ethnic instruments within the score, can you tell us which Egyptian instruments you utilized?
The Rababa, Arghul, Ney, and Mizmar among others. Those specific instruments are ancient yet still used to this day in Egypt. You’ll find them engraved on the walls of the temples and you’ll hear them in modern Egyptian music today. And that’s amazing to me. Their timbres and characteristics make them uniquely Egyptian. And on top of that, they blend perfectly well with the orchestra. That’s why I chose them.
Do you orchestrate all your music for film and TV, or is this something that depends upon schedules etc?
It depends on the schedules for sure. In Moon Knight I had the chance to work with Adam klemens, Leigh Phillips and Nicholas Dodd, they we are all really amazing!!
The use of voices within the score is certainly effective and adds a menacing and foreboding persona at times, what size was the choir that you utilized and who provided the solo voice on cues such as Summon the Suit and Chaos Within?
The choir was about 32 in number and the solo female vocalist was Delaram Kamareh and the male Egyptian soloist was Sayed Emam.
In 2015 you scored Sons of Rizk, which was an Egyptian production. When you are writing the score for a project how many times do you like to see it before you begin to get ideas about what style of music the movie needs or where music should be placed to best serve the film, and how do you work out your musical ideas, via keyboard or by using a more tech way?
I like to watch the film many times, I like to memorize every bit of it before starting on writing, this helps me think of it as a whole, I like to recall it all as a summoned moment in my head, then at this moment I’d be ready to write… I use my keyboard most of the time to sketch my ideas but sometimes when I’m away of it I use whatever in hand, write on a piece of paper or even hum on my phone voice note app…
Can you tell us what is next for you if you are allowed to talk about it that is?
I’m still processing what happened. I don’t know what’s next! But I hope it’ll be even more challenging and fun!