Role of Music in Film and Television: A Comprehensive Analysis

The Nigerian band Tola Sholana and Osumare Beats playing at Kulturbühne Hinterhalt Image: Ralf Steinberger

Source: Africa Publicity

In the vibrant streets of Lagos, Nigeria, director Amina Nwosu was gearing up for her latest film project. Amina, known for her captivating storytelling, understood the power of music in evoking emotions and enhancing narrative depth in film and television. Her assistant, Kofi Mensah, from Accra, Ghana, was equally passionate about the project and the role music would play in it.


Amina and Kofi’s collaboration highlighted the critical function of music in film and television. Music serves as an invisible character, guiding the audience’s emotions and adding layers to the visual narrative. As they brainstormed, Amina shared how she wanted to use traditional Yoruba rhythms to underscore the cultural heritage in her film. This decision exemplified how music can root a story in its geographical and cultural context, enriching the viewer’s experience.


In Nairobi, Kenya, sound engineer Jomo Kariuki worked closely with directors to create the perfect soundscapes for television dramas. Jomo’s expertise lay in his ability to blend contemporary and traditional music to reflect the show’s themes. He recalled a project where he used Kikuyu folk songs to evoke nostalgia in a family saga set in rural Kenya. The music not only transported viewers to the setting but also deepened their connection to the characters.


Back in Lagos, Amina and Kofi discussed how different musical elements could convey various emotions and themes. They analyzed scenes from classic films, noting how suspenseful music heightened tension, while soft, melodic tunes evoked tenderness and love. Amina remembered a scene from a Tanzanian drama where the absence of music created a poignant silence, emphasizing the gravity of the moment. This technique demonstrated that the strategic use of silence could be as powerful as music itself.


Music in film and television also plays a crucial role in character development. In Kampala, Uganda, scriptwriter Mary Atieno crafted characters whose personalities were mirrored by their musical themes. For a recent series, she developed a character whose journey from innocence to maturity was marked by a transition from playful, light-hearted tunes to more complex and somber compositions. This evolution in the musical score paralleled the character’s growth, providing the audience with a deeper understanding of their emotional journey.


Amina and Kofi’s film required a diverse musical score to reflect its multifaceted storyline. They enlisted the help of renowned South African composer, Sipho Maseko, whose ability to fuse different genres was unparalleled. Sipho’s work often featured a blend of Zulu traditional music with modern orchestral arrangements, creating a unique sound that resonated with audiences. His involvement brought a new dimension to the project, showcasing how collaboration across different African regions could produce a rich and diverse musical tapestry.


In Johannesburg, South Africa, film critic Lindiwe Dlamini emphasized the importance of music in creating memorable cinematic moments. She cited the example of a famous South African film where a poignant Zulu lullaby played during a critical scene, leaving a lasting impression on the audience. Lindiwe explained that such moments became iconic because the music encapsulated the essence of the scene, making it unforgettable.


As the film production in Lagos progressed, Amina and Kofi faced the challenge of integrating music seamlessly into the narrative. They knew that music should complement, not overshadow, the visual elements. Amina shared a lesson she had learned from a mentor in Cairo, Egypt, about the importance of subtlety in film scoring. The mentor, an experienced composer, had taught her that the best music in film often went unnoticed, blending so perfectly with the story that it became an integral part of the viewing experience.


In Abuja, Nigeria, musicologist Fatima Abubakar researched the psychological impact of music in media. Her studies revealed that specific musical elements could trigger emotional responses, influencing the audience’s perception of a scene. For instance, minor chords often conveyed sadness or tension, while major chords evoked happiness or relief. Fatima’s findings reinforced the idea that music was not just an accessory in film and television but a powerful tool for storytelling.


Amina and Kofi also considered the commercial aspect of music in their film. Music could enhance the film’s marketability, as memorable scores often led to successful soundtracks and merchandise. They planned to collaborate with popular Nigerian artists to create original songs for the film, hoping to attract a broader audience and increase the film’s appeal. This strategy highlighted the symbiotic relationship between music and the entertainment industry, where music not only supported the narrative but also contributed to the film’s financial success.


In Casablanca, Morocco, editor Karim El-Hassan reflected on the technical aspects of integrating music into film. He explained how the timing and pacing of musical cues could affect the overall rhythm of a scene. Precise editing ensured that the music aligned perfectly with the action, enhancing the impact of key moments. Karim’s meticulous approach to editing demonstrated the technical expertise required to achieve a harmonious blend of music and visuals.


Amina and Kofi’s film was nearing completion, and the final task was to ensure that the music resonated with the audience. They organized a test screening in Lagos, inviting a diverse group of viewers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many praising the music for its emotional depth and cultural authenticity. The successful screening validated Amina and Kofi’s efforts, underscoring the vital role music played in their film.


In conclusion, the role of music in film and television is multifaceted and profound. It enhances emotional engagement, supports character development, and enriches the narrative. From Lagos to Nairobi, Johannesburg to Casablanca, the integration of music in media is a testament to its universal power to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, creating a shared experience that resonates with audiences worldwide. Amina and Kofi’s journey exemplified this, showing how music, when used thoughtfully and creatively, could elevate a film from a visual story to an immersive emotional journey.

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