Track of the Week “Earth” by South African film-score producer Zethu Mashika is part of the gripping score of what is being hailed as the first local dance film, Hear Me Move. The song is placed over a scene where the main character and his brother, the antagonist, are dancing in separate worlds, but in the form of a duet. The scene focusses on their individual struggles, their unawareness of how similar these are and how all of this spiritually binds them. The music, says Mashika, amplifies their individual determination to emerge the victor.
“The song basically revolves around the joys, challenges and conflicts that a man faces. ‘Yasuka impi emhlabeni, saphumelela ebumnyameni’, which means ‘War erupted on earth and we overcame the darkness’,” he says. The music evokes traditional Zulu warrior culture. “The song brings in a metaphoric aspect of their conflict in a way that our forefathers would have expressed it, taking it deeper into an African cultural perspective. I insisted that the song radiates testosterone and this was achieved by having the dominance of male vocals chanting in an ancient Zulu-warrior fashion. The deep percussion resembles explosions of war as well the drums played as a call-to-action.”
Much of the film revolves around using music to project a South African identity while still having a global appeal. “This meant carefully selecting the instruments and creating the vocal chanting that would emphasise the spiritual aspect of the story,” Mashika says. He went for a blend of a modern, urban classical sound with djembe drums, the kalimba (or thumb piano), African vocals and other urban pop elements.
“It meant fusing different genres of music while maintaining an African appeal. Ultimately, it came down to my perspective of what South Africa sounds like in 2015."
Calling himself “an engineer of emotions”, Mashika says he enjoys the challenge of communicating aspects that the film dialogue and picture cannot. “Film scores are a great way to truly experiment with musical sounds that influence people's emotions.”
He started out in 2003 making beats ranging from hip hop and rock to pop and R ’n B and producing tracks for Nkululeko "Flabba" Habedi, H20 and Zulu and title sequence music for various TV shows. He took his first shot at film scoring in 2009 on Mfundo Mkhize’s graduate film from AFDA film school. Two years later, he scored two feature films, Skyf: The Movie and Zama Zama, for which he was nominated for a South African Film & Television Award in 2013. Various short films and commercials followed. Hear Me Move is his third feature film and the next is already in the works: a South African zombie film called Last Ones Out, which will be shown at Cannes Film Festival 2015.