documentary

Soundtrack review: Journey to Mecca (Michael Brook – 2009)

journey-to-mecca_2400
This is just the tip of a score as beautiful as a sunset in the desert.

“Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta” is an IMAX (“giant screen”) dramatised documentary film charting the first real-life journey made by the Islamic scholar Ibn Battuta from his native Morocco to Mecca for the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage), in 1325. One of the greatest travelers in human history, 21 year old law student Ibn Battutah set out alone to Mecca from Tangiers in 1325 and returned to Morocco almost 30 years later. This is the story of his first pilgrimage, book-ended with never-before seen documentary footage of the contemporary Hajj. The score is written by Michael Brook who recently scored another documentary entitled “Jerusalem”.

The music of “Journey to Mecca” is gentle and easy to listen to. This is a documentary and they are maybe the toughest to score because you need to let the audience focus on what’s going on on screen rather than be absorbed and distracted by the music. The score should be a travelling companion who doesn’t interfere but instead helps the watcher better go through this experience. The emotion is dosed just right and the most poignant moments come when Sheikh Hamza Shakour uses his powerful and divine voice to hypnotize me and make me slip into a trance like state. This score was one of the last compositions he played on before his death in 2009 and his legacy us powerful.

The score for “Journey to Mecca” is deeply seeded in Arab history, tradition and spirit and rightfully so since the documentary tells the tale of one of the greatest Arab journeys. There are barely any modern influences in the music. The score is like an eternal and warm wind that brings with it memories and feelings and then moves further to enchant others. Michael Brook’s composition makes me thing of the perennial quality of music and the way it can replace any language and make everyone understand each other. Film music transmits feelings and when it’s written like this it can bring people together. I dream while listening to this score, I just close my eyes and let the fragile motifs and the sounds of the traditional instruments sooth my soul and make me forget any worries.

I think my favorite cue from this album is “The offer”. Something about the minimalistic yet poignant way it sounds make me want to listen to it over and over again. This is just the tip of a score as beautiful as a sunset in the desert. The documentary is about a pilgrimage and the music is as thoughtful and meaningful as that journey 700 years ago. I loved this score.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 19 / 36

Album excellence: 52%

Highlights:

02 The Dream (Featuring Sheikh Hamza Shakour)

04 To Find My Own Way (Featuring Sheikh Hamza Shakour)

05 The Highway Men

06 If I Am To Die

07 The Offer

09 On The Nile To Cairo

11 Fastest Route To The Red Sea

12 The Highwayman Returns

16 Seeing The Kabbah (Featuring Sheikh Hamza Shakour)

19 Sacrifice

20 Farewell To The Kabbah (Featuring Sheikh Hamza Shakour)

21 A New Beginning

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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