: (James Horner) There have been many
powerful plays written to illustrate the struggles of race in South
Africa, and among them is Percy Mtwa's Bopha!
. In his directorial
debut, Morgan Freeman imports Hollywood talent to Zimbabwe to tell this
tale against the authentic poverty-stricken backdrop of Southern Africa.
That talent goes largely wasted because of the inability of Danny Glover
and Malcolm McDowell to speak well in the English and Afrikaans dialects
of the region. The film also had perhaps an alienating effect on
audiences because the story involves conflict between the native African
cultures of the areas, playing to a different storyline that impressed
critics but left audiences with no clear resolution from the film.
Freeman's direction also came under fire at the time. It's no surprise
that he would have wanted composer James Horner to join the crew,
however, for the two had both been part of a Glory
featured an outstanding Horner effort. Bopha!
is a world away,
however, not only in location but in budget as well. For the project,
Horner would sneak in a quick, synthesized effort to satisfy the basic
needs of the film. Such endeavors by Horner (the completely synthetic or
small-ensemble variety) have ranged from serviceable to miserable; it
should be noted that one of Horner's best ethnic scores has remained
, for which much the same kind of ensemble was
assembled as heard in Bopha!
. In many cases, you hear electronic
Horner scores like Unlawful Entry
or The Name of the Rose
and you wish that you could hear them performed by a large symphonic
group, for Horner's ideas are usually pretty strong. One major
exception, however, is Bopha!
, arguably one of the most
unlistenable scores ever produced by Horner, even if it serves the very
basic functions of the film. Unlike The Chumscrubber
more than a
decade later, Horner's synthetic work here exhibits very little of the
composer's trademark creativity.
The film opens and closes with the "Amandla" song
performed by a variety of African voices over a strong bed of authentic
percussion. The structure of the theme is pure Horner, though that theme
is weakened by the nature of the vocals. Perhaps necessary, but perhaps
by choice, the main chorus is flanked by significant numbers of soloists
who perform a key off from the group, or, in some case, yell out and
speak in regular tones. The frenetic effect is a striking study, but is
nearly unlistenable on album. Both Horner and John Williams provided
fuller, more listenable versions of the same general idea in Mighty
a few years later. One intriguing
similarity to Glory
exists in the pulsating electronic base to
the song that was also utilized in the previous score's famous opening
to its end titles. A secondary theme for the score meanders through
keyboarded variations, offered in full in the second and final cues. The
percussive elements in the score are as you would expect, and the score
definitely benefits from their presence in several cues. Most of the
remainder of the work consists of purely synthetic droning, with many
effects similar in style to Vibes
. Much of the center portion of
the score pass nearly unnoticed, with entire cues featuring a handful of
drowsy note changes and soft percussive washes in the background. A
synthetic trumpet makes several appearances, representing the nobility
of the primary character's pride in being part of the police force. Two
notable action cues break the monotony in the film's latter half, with
dissonant groans in the bass regions accompanying whining,
pitch-evolving synth effects and tapping and clicking percussion. The
"Uprising" cue would offer some of the most annoying synthetic
entanglements since Commando
and would be explored further by
Horner in Beyond Borders
. The wailing sakauhachi prevails as the
"instrument of shock" in the score, with sharp blasts and no fluid
performances. Overall, Bopha!
is a score that could be respected
in its proper place, but varies from painful to boring on album. It's an
ethnic afterthought, an faint echo of the score that could have come
from this film, and it is by no means worth the effort in finding the
rare, long out of print album. * @Amazon.com: CD or
For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.16
(in 103 reviews)|
and the average viewer rating is 3.26
(in 192,544 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.
The insert includes notes about the score and film.