In the ’s commentary track for the Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema DVD, composer Alan Ari Lazar discusses some production and cultural details for the songs and score for Ralph Ziman’s South African gangster film, and explains how he drew from many African cultures, capturing the melting pot environment that flooded the inner city of Hillbrow in Johannesburg after the end of apartheid: upscale whites moved out, and a wave of mixed cultures moved in, only to be affected by violent gangs that rendered whole areas of the city as patently unsafe for citizens and police.
Lazar’s score begins with ethnic-styled cues, blending a vast array of percussion instruments and vocals (such as “Armored Car Robbery”), slight orchestral elements, and subtle electronic ingredients that never overpower or take away from the composer’s determination to evoke the cultural diversity and clashes using organic sounds.
Electronic and grinding drones morph into semi-orchestral cues, such as “Are You In?” for a robbery sequence, but they serve as sonic blankets for both the percussion and mixed chorus.
The score’s lyricism comes in the form of songs, particularly “Jerusalema,” which Lazar deliberately weaves in and out of the score in partial vocal versions, and tender instrumentals (such as the mournful “Sniper,” augmented with solo viola and discrete electonica).
Action scenes are naturally covered by heavily textured percussion, but Lazar slowly adds more orchestral elements during the film's progression to help audiences focus on the gravity of the clashes that pit gangs against each other in turf wars, and the police who are affected by corruption and free-form violence reminiscent of Chicago during prohibition wars.
Kinetic highlights include the opening title track, the mixed percussion / vocals / organic drones in “Taxi Thieves,” the blending of jingling chains and vocals in “First Arrest,” and the thick percussion clusters in “Roof Confrontation.”
Lazar’s score is memorable on CD and in the film, but it’s also a great sampler of the musical diversity that’s often distilled into sound samples in Hollywood scores. Jerusalema bristles with authenticity in spite of the instruments and rich percussion textures being harnessed to suit the dramatic needs of scenes. Lakeshore’s CD represents pretty much the entire score, with several of Lazar’s song arrangements placed in their correct chronological order.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan