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Soundtrack review: The Good Karma hospital (Ben Foster – 2018)

TV

Soundtrack review: The Good Karma hospital (Ben Foster – 2018)

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“The Good Karma Hospital” is a medical drama series produced by Tiger Aspect Productions for ITV. The series is shot in Unawatuna in southern Sri Lanka, Thiranagama Golden Beach Restaurant and some other places in Galle District. It’s a medical drama about a junior doctor, Ruby Walker, who becomes disillusioned with her life and broken relationship, and decides to leave the UK. Seeing an advertisement for a hospital job in south India, she travels there hoping to make a fresh start and finds herself working at The Good Karma Hospital, an under-resourced and overworked cottage hospital run by an eccentric English expat, Dr. Lydia Fonseca. Ben Foser wrote the score.

The score opens with “Ruby’s theme”, a suave combination of guitar and voices that fits very well in my mind with the idea of starting over,of hope for a better future while in the same time the way the voices are used evokes charity, doing good, prayer. The voices are warm and chant melodically. Naturally this special mood couldn’t last as we are in India and the Indian current that has seen some very pleasant Thomas Newman scores in recent years takes over here as well. “Driving to the Good Karma” is the first such moment, ridden with sitar sounds and Indian voices and that joyful chaos I always associate with India. The composer doesn’t overdo it though as the setting of the story is not everything so there’s a nice balance between the Indian sounding cues and the other ones.

As the score progresses I appreciate more and more the use of voices, some whispering, others chanting, but always warm and inviting, usually giving an aura of mysticism to the music. Somehow the music makes me think of people rejoicing, of hope and faith, both in the happier and more serious moments. Ben Foster’s score is always positive, always smiling and the most predominant feeling I experience while listening to this score is that of joy; there’s nothing heavy in the music, the instruments playfully invite each other to play together and a piece like “Good times at the Good Karma” evokes exactly that. I just listen and imagine long summer afternoons.

I am sure that just like India itself the assortment of characters in “The Good Karma hospital” is motley and colorful and Ben Foster makes sure his music is clear on that as he wrote a few separate specific themes that mirror the respective characters, from the uncertain tone of “Desmond’s theme” to the heartbreaking piano in “I don’t want to die (Paul and Maggie’s theme)”. There are no less than 11 separate character themes and I like that in a TV score; even if I haven’t watched the show the music helps me shape an image of the people who inhabit this imaginary world.

What I love most about this score is how it grips me and sticks to me even if it can be considered minimalistic in some instances; I listen to the story Ben Foster tells me and I want to know and hear what comes next. The warm and comfortable musings just fill me up with comfort and joy as there are no rough edges, no corners, just a smooth flow of beautiful music that sometimes feels like a fairy tale when the voices just whisper the melodies.

The score is rich yet almost always quiet and peaceful and just charges me up with good vibes. Every now and then the emotional impact gets higher with pieces like “Going home (Paul and Maggie’s theme)” which is just a beautiful and dense elegy. This is why I love long releases of TV scores because they give me a chance to grasp what the show is about, to get emotionally involved even if only through the music, to know the setting, the ambient. Ben Foster builds the world of “The Good Karma hospital” by using musical instruments and for me, the message was received in full. This is am absolutely beautiful score I recommend with all my heart.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Highlights:
Good Times at the Good Karma Hospital
I Don’t Want to Die (Paul and Maggie’s Theme)
Letting Go (Shobna’s Theme)
Going Home (Paul and Maggie’s Theme)
Separated at Birth
Fading Memories (Sushma’s Theme)
Acceptance (Virginia’s Theme)
I’ll Always be Waiting

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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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