World & Latin

Babel Soundtrack Brings the World Home

06 JUN 07 JOHN C. BRUENING

With the 2006 release of Babel, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu completed the compelling celluloid triptych that began with Amores Perros and 21 Grams. With the lion's share of the tracks penned by score composer Gustavo Santaolalla (the Oscar winner for Best Score for Brokeback Mountain), and a diverse array of supporting artists that include Earth, Wind & Fire, Nortec Collective, Ryuoichi Sakamoto and others, the Inarritu-produced Babel soundtrack is as richly layered and emotionally resonant as the film itself.

In search of an authentic Middle Eastern feel for the film score, Santaolalla taught himself to play the loud, a percussive sounding Arab lute. His performances on the soundtrack album include solo oud meditations, folkloric recordings of the Gnawa brotherhoods of Morocco and orchestrated pieces that infuse classical Arab music with electronic percussion.

But Inarritu wanted more than just a collection of folksongs from exotic countries. He and music editor Anibal Kerpel and music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein set up shop in recording studios in Marrakech and Tijuana and immersed themselves in the music of each locale. The director took himself through a similar exercise in Japan, where he captured the atmospheric vibe of Tokyo at night.

The result is an evocative tapestry of numerous musical and cultural references, all of them subtle yet powerful at the same time. Inarritu said, "I hope when you listen, you can feel the distant winds of the planet caressing your skin."