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Music Review: The Namesake – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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It was not long ago that I lamented the lack of good roles for actor Kal Penn. I have seen him in a few things, generally comedies, but I was impressed with his screen presence. He carried himself with a confidence that would point to stronger roles. This was further evidenced by his turn at the dawn of the latest season of 24.

Then came the Van Wilder sequel which wasted his ability. No sooner did all of that go down, that I saw a trailer for The Namesake, a decidedly more serious role, and a film which looks quite interesting in its take on family history and the clash of cultures, and the clash of the new world and the old. The film comes from director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) with a score from British composer Nitin Sawhney.

The Namesake's soundtrack album is split between Sawhney's compositions and the work of other artists, blending sounds of old with a more modern edge. As much as I believe the film will be dealing with this clash of wills and the desire to move forward and away from one's heritage, the soundtrack embodies all of those feelings. There is something of a war going on, but one that comes together like a dance. Much like the fights in a film like Hero are more ballet than battle, the music, as presented here, comes together in a diverse, yet complimentary, fashion.

I was not sure what to make of the album at first. This is my inaugural exposure to Sawhney and all of the artists represented here. The style of music is also pretty new to me as I am pretty new to really listening to film scores and I have never really listened to much in the way of world music. Nitin Sawhney's music is beautiful, light, and filled with delightful melody. I almost wish that the entire album was purely his work. It is soothing, emotional, and stirring all at the same time, although the cues are often much too short. It will definitely be interesting to see how the music blends with the film.

The other music here is also quite interesting, although I am sure they will mean more once heard within the context of the film. Of particular interest are a pair of songs from Susheela Raman, she has a lovely voice. There is even a brief rap from Mykill Miers, an entry which seems to be out of place, outside of the background music. Another instance where the film will provide the context.

Bottomline. This may not fall amongst my favorite scores, but it does offer up some beautiful music, and has made me interested in other work from Nitin Sawhney. It also makes me more interested in seeing the film.

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