New Talents: Interview with Imran Ahmad

ESTA ENTREVISTA TAMBIÉN ESTÁ TRADUCIDA AL ESPAÑOL… ¡Léela!

Hi Imran! First of all, Asturscore want to thank your kindness for allowing us to “steal” your time for this interview. And now, the questions:

1) What’s your first memory about music? The moment when you realized this is it, this is what I want, this is what I wanna do.

I’ve been making music from a very young age.  However, the realisation set in when I was around 16 years old – I had a very strong feeling that I all I wanted to do was make music.

2) You’re co-director of 4Dio, a transmedia publishing company creating “audio movies” – produced with professional actor performances, film music and sound design. Talk about your experience in this project.

This is a very exciting project.  I am co-director along with two other creative friends of mine.  We are producing audio movies or ”audiodramas” which are scripted stories produced with professional actors and film quality music and sound design.  As musical creatives we are passionate about sound, and so our aim is to create a rich immersive audio experience with which the audience can invoke their imagination whilst listening to these stories on their iPad, iPhone or any other mobile device – check it out! www.4diospace.com

3) About The Dead (2010), it’s really an interesting movie about the phenomenon zombie (in fact, it’s the first road movie of zombies shot in Africa). How do you arrive this project?.

I met the directors, Jon and Howard J. Ford, in London.  Howard sent me a link to the initial trailer just before the film was going into post-production.  I was so inspired by the images of the African landscape (shot on 35mm film) I composed a music demo that in my mind translated how I felt by watching the trailer.  Howard and Jon were excited with the music and my ideas regarding the score and so I came onboard.

4) This movie has many ethnics instruments (like the Kora), tribal singer and vibrant percussion, all related with Africa. How do you focus the creation of the score? Was it important to ambient perfectly the movie in relation with the localization?

The directors wanted the movie to be original in every way possibly including the score.  And they were very keen to communicate the fragile sense of hope the main characters possessed.  I knew I wanted a strong melodic African flavour, yet universal sounding, for the inner emotions of the main characters and vocal and percussion for the outward journey and horror aspects.  Also from a creative point of view it was exciting to musically blend the expected genre conventions of horror with the beautiful setting of West Africa.

5) There is an incredible (and apocalyptic) leitmotiv, the “theme from the Dead”, with vocals sung by Saba Tewelde. I think it’s important to transmit the drama of the history, and your music is more human, in terms of sensibility, than another films of zombies. Was it an indication of the director, or you follow your own musical instincts?

The directors wanted there to be a strong spiritual component to the film.  The film has a very bare bones realistic setting and the characters are only out to survive.  They do not enjoy killing the zombies – the dead used to be human beings.  The African soldier, Sgt. Daniel Dembele I emotionally distressed having to slay his own people.  Also, this is a story of survival not just from the zombies, but from mental and physical fatigue due to the harsh natural environment and climate.  It’s a very human story that is why the music stays grounded in this sensibility.

6) Other beautiful motive is destined to the friendship between Brian Murphy, the American mercenary, and the Sgt. Daniel Dembele, a local military man. Why did you decide to use the Kora to associate to the relation of both men?. It sounds fantastic, with African flavour.

The kora is an exquisite ancient stringed instrument from Africa.  It’s not widely known.  It has a distinct musical timbre of a harp-lute and this entwined melodic sound is used to convey the main characters’ dependence on each other and sense of hope.  The kora is usually played in a very expressive style with quick flourishes and twists, but in the context of the story it was more restrained as if vocalising the characters’ unexpressed feelings.  I wanted this pure delicate sound to convey their unspoken friendship and mutual respect.

7) Others motives or melodies of light, inside this sea of tension and horror, are the destined to the thoughts of both men about their families, or the beautiful scenes of the sunset and sunrise in the movie. Did you search to find an equilibrium between the horror of the zombie apocalypse and the beautiful pictures of Africa?.

Yes, there was an opportunity to explore this.  However, the directors wanted to convey that the main characters can never stay still for too long and need to continuously move on which is why there is mainly a sea of tension and horror.  Each time there is a moment of peace, it is quickly drowned by the horror.  Even the beautiful images are juxtaposed with horror aspects of the music that have human cries of anguish and sorrow.

8) Action music is represented by fantastic percussion, played by ethnic instruments. I think this music provides a vehicle of action for the escape by car through the lands of African, or the combats with zombies. What type of percussion instruments did you use?.

Sass Hoory who is a great percussionist performed on congas, cajon and darbuka.  The darbuka is a North African instrument and the cajon is Peruvian – I thought their sounds would add immensely to the rhythmic pulse of some of the scenes like the car escape.  I love working with all types of percussion so it was inspiring to mix African and non-African instruments.

9) For tension moments, like the brilliant scene of the beginning of the film (The Desert) or the final journey to the north, you use dark music, with some percussion instruments and voices (like a type of dark murmur or whisper). Are these types of voices (or sounds) a dark form of “dehumanize” the zombies, family and friends before living?

Yes that’s right.  Saba Tewelde’s voice was meant to represent the natural world taking on a twisted and distorted persona.  It’s this sound which causes the physical and spiritual dehumanisation of the people. Her vocal tones pursue the two soldiers incessantly throughout the journey giving them no chance of peace or respite!

10) Talk bout your next projects, like the action drama Transfer at Aachen .

I am really looking forward to working on this project.  It’s a heist movie set on the high speed train networks of Northern Europe.  It will be an entertaining action drama.  I am already thinking up musical ideas as I answer this question!

Thanks for all Imran, and congratulations for you great work in this movie, The Dead.

Thank you..

Special Thanks to:

  1. Gorka Oteiza: For the translation.
  2. Mikael Carlsson: For facilatate us the contact with the composer and the musical material.
  3. Imran Ahmad:  For give us his time to do the interview and facilitate us visual material.