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Sunday, July 04, 2010


Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema
Music by Alan Lazar
Lakeshore Records
31 Tracks 56:32 mins

Ralph Ziman's new film Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema is set in the violent, most crime-infected district of Johannesburg, and is a timely release, what with the World Cup football taking place in South Africa at present.
Obviously, anyone tuning in to the football will have gotten used to hearing native South African music this past week or two, and the film's South African-born composer Alan Lazar has appropriately infused his work with these sounds, featuring tribal percussion (care of a 12-piece drumming ensemble) and vocals in his score, but there is much more on offer here in a truly hybrid work, and this is evident from the very first track.
Now LA based, Lazar was a child prodigy who arranged for and conducted his country's National Symphony Orchestra, before going on to enjoy success with multiracial group Mango Groove. He was also responsible for the 1996 South African Song of the Year "African Dream," which also enjoyed success in Europe, and was recently performed at the inauguration of South Africa's second democratic president. Leaving Mango Groove in 1994, Lazar went to America to study at USC Film School, where he was awarded the Cine Eagle Award. Subsequently he graduated from there and also Trinity College of Music and embarked on a film and TV career that has so far seen him score more than 30 productions, his latest (aside from Gangster's Paradise) include An American Crime and This is Not a Test. Find out more and hear samples of his work at
As I said, right from the very first track, it is obvious that this is anything but a conventional genre score. The setting obviously partly dictates this, but Lazar has come up with an interesting mix of many elements and, even in this very first, quite lengthy, track, "Two Heroes," we have ethnic instruments, tribal percussion and voices, and electronics combining to provide a varied canvas; atmospheric and threatening moments giving way to energetic bursts of violence.
You might realise by the track count that many of the tracks that follow are quite brief, often providing said threatening atmospheres, but there are lengthier cues that reward and there is a great energy to the action sequences. Sipho Nxumalo provides the lead vocal to the uplifting "Jerusalema," heard originally in a shortened version, but concluding the album in fine style, and there is a nice, understated acoustic guitar-lead love theme introduced in "Lucky Meets Leah."
If you like your film scores to show great invention and originality, you may well want to check this one out. Download it from Amazon and iTunes.


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6:43 AM  

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