Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Composed by Ramin Djawadi
  • Walt Disney / 61m

While he became known for his pulsating modern scores to big action films (and a certain tv series), the first time I came across Ramin Djawadi was for a score for a film set in South Africa called Beat the Drum. He was co-credited with Klaus Badelt (higher up the ladder at Remote Control at the time – which should perhaps be a cautionary tale to those occupying that position now) and it was a beautiful, tender score which made me look forward to his future. He went off in a very different path, and I’ve liked some of what he’s done along the way, but all these years later I think I finally have the music I’ve been waiting for – the wonderfully uplifting Elephant, for Disney+. (I honestly don’t have a clue what it’s about – vampire bats is my best guess.)

Calling it “Lion King Lite” would not be entirely accurate, but it is also extremely easy, so I will do it. The album opens with a six-minute suite, “Elephant Prologue”, which gives us the first taste of the score’s real joy, which is the African vocals. Of all the Hollywood approximations of ethnic music, I think I like the African one the best, and this album offers numerous joy-filled, heart-warming songs. But it offers more than that, too – the sad beauty of “Bones”, the playful spirit of “Caterpillars”, the tension of “Crocodile Crossing”, action/drama of “Lion Hunt”, quiet tragedy of “Death of a Matriarch” – it’s consistently strong from start to finish. “Victoria Falls” is a brilliant track, perhaps the highlight – it builds quite slowly before exploding with energy and drama. This is an excellent album – not your usual sound from Djawadi, but one I hope he gets to revisit.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Yves (Reply) on Sunday 5 April, 2020 at 10:35

    Most people who like this score, will probably also like “The Elephant Queen” (2019) by Alex Heffes, which also features some nice African vocals.


  2. Andre>>Cape Town (Reply) on Monday 13 April, 2020 at 03:44

    Thanks for bringing this Djwadi score to our attention James—I’ll look out for this one when air travel is once again commonplace, and a jet’ll deliver my copy within days of purchase. My favourite African score is JERRY GOLDSMITH’S vibrant ‘CONGO’– with a premier theme that vibrates with pulsating rhythms that augment his exquisite melody-line and Afro-song. There’s a ten-minute finale that’s a triumphant example of a master A-Lister effortlessly using the tools of his craft to fashion a score that will always be in demand. It’s taken an American composer to demonstrate to the ethnic musos in South Africa, the amazing heights their music might reach, if we could only produce a musical genius such as JERRY.

  3. Edwin (Reply) on Tuesday 21 November, 2023 at 10:09

    I only recently discovered the Elephant soundtrack (haven’t seen the movie), one of the best I’ve heard in recent times!
    I just want to highlight 2 tracks:
    Palm Island makes me feel happy, the word “uplifting” is invented for stuff like this! Only sad thing, this track is too short.
    Under the Stars is the perfect soundscape for watching the night sky full of stars.