The idea for the CD surfaced several years ago at the beginning of production planning for the film when the director David Lickley asked me to help him with the music for "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees." We wanted to make the music for the film as interesting and exciting as possible and we wanted to keep an eye toward producing a soundtrack CD, after the film was finished, as a benefit for Jane Goodall's work. We wanted the film to feature the songs of a well-known musician as a unifying theme. Johnny Clegg of South Africa immediately came to mind as a wonderful choice whose songs we knew would be great for the film. However, we wanted to interweave the African songs and sounds with a lush orchestral score. Amin Bhatia in Toronto was the perfect candidate, and pretty soon we had the two working together (sometimes by long-distance) to produce something special. Johnny Clegg's songs "Great Heart" and "Scatterlings of Africa" became themes that Amin reworked with full orchestra, so that the film music combines elements
of "Afro Pop" and chants from southern Africa with symphonic flourishes from the orchestra in Toronto.
Once the film was finished, we had about 24 minutes of songs and score selections from the film that we knew would make a great soundtrack CD. We then got busy looking for music to fill out the album and produce a
soundtrack/compilation CD as a benefit for the Jane Goodall Institute. I contacted several of my favorite artists whose music I thought would fit and who we believed would be excited by the idea of contributing music to help support Dr. Goodall's work.
Paul McCartney and Bonnie Raitt immediately threw their support behind the project and gave us the momentum we needed. Paul McCartney suggested that we include his song "Wild Life" which fit the theme of the film and the compilation perfectly. He has been a strong and consistent supporter of the fight to protect the natural world, and "Wild Life" states his case very clearly.
Bonnie Raitt had recently recorded the joyous song "Hear Me Lord" which was written by Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe (with great "world music" lead guitar played by Andy Abad, the L.A. musician with Latin roots). She agreed to let us include the song and agreed to help in any way she could, helping with much needed encouragement at times when finishing the project seemed too difficult. We all loved Bruce Cockburn's "Wondering Where the Lions Are" and were so happy when he joined the effort and allowed us to include his song. My friend, Mickey Houlihan at Wind Over the Earth in Boulder Colorado, had sent me some music by the Ugandan musician Samite (pronounced "SAH mi tay") some time ago. I contacted Mickey again and he sent me the newly recorded song "Ndere" sung "a cappella" by Samite. The song is Samite's version of a Ugandan legend of a young woman, often sung to children by their mothers at bedtime. It became the beautiful lullaby that makes the transition on the CD from the "Afro Pop" songs to the orchestral section.
We still needed one more song, so I contacted my friend George Marinelli who is Bonnie Raitt's guitar player and had played on "Hear Me Lord" as well. He, Tim Gaetano, and I finished writing a song based on an idea that was inspired by Dr. Goodall's voice in the film. At one point in the film, Dr. Goodall remembers her childhood and says, "I dreamed of going to Africa." I took that phrase and some images from my own visits to west Africa to make "Otana - My African Dream." "Ota" is the Swahili word for "dream" and "otana" means "dream of each other." George Marinelli, Tim Gaetano and I finished writing the song and we recorded it with some members of Bonnie Raitt's band. George Marinelli played lead as well as several guitar parts, Ricky Fataar (from South Africa) played drums (recorded in San Francisco), I sang the vocal and played two guitar parts, and other players in Nashville
finished it up.
We now had enough songs, but Dr. Goodall's speaking voice is so beautiful that I wanted to somehow include her voice on the CD as well. We then edited phrases that she had spoken in narrating the film and placed them over one of Amin Bhatia's beautiful orchestral pieces so that Dr. Goodall is "doing a reading" with orchestral accompaniment. It was perfect to set the stage for the listener at the beginning of the CD and to keep the focus on the reason for this whole project; to help people "see the world through their eyes" and help preserve the natural treasure that are the wild chimpanzees of Africa.
When it was all over, we had Dr. Goodall's voice and music by African, North American and European musicians recorded in South Africa, Toronto, England, San Francisco, Hollywood, Boulder, CO and Nashville all on the same CD.
It took a lot of work by a lot of people, but it was a labor of love for us all and it finally came together beautifully. I hope you enjoy it!
Big Screen Music