In Conversation with Kulanen Ikyo
The power of great sound is a major component in contributing to the success of many films but is often neglected in many Nigerian productions. Indeed, we remember films many times, for their overall sound design, as well as haunting, moody, joyful or chirpy soundtracks. For example, if you watched Kunle Afolayan’s The Figurine (2009), you are unlikely to forget the Araromire original soundtrack. As some Nigerian filmmakers begin to pay more attention to the technical aspects of their productions, sound designers and film composers like Kulanen Ikyo, a Physics graduate of the University of Jos, seems to be enjoying a meteoric rise but not without hard work. Kulanen has worked on some short films and documentaries for international organizations like UNICEF, Red Cross and DFID, but his debut effort on a feature film as a sound designer and sound editor, earned him the prestigious Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) 2015 award in this category, for Kunle Afolayan’s period psychological thriller, October 1. He also received a nomination at the AMVCA 2016 for Best Sound Editing for Ishaya Bako’s Road to Yesterday. For a second time, he teamed up with Kunle Afolayan on the sound design and film score, for his highly anticipated Pan-African thriller, The CEO. The quest to raise the bar took them to far away Budapest in Hungary, to work with The Budapest Film Orchestra. After seeing a short video from the set of The CEO movie released online recently, Adebimpe Adebambo knew she had to get more out from Kulanen about this innovative venture.
It was exciting for me to see you and Kunle in the studio with some members of the orchestra in Budapest. How did you achieve that?
It was a great experience! When I received the script of The CEO and went through, I told Kunle that it would be great to take the sound design and film score to another level, and that I wanted us to work with an orchestra. He eventually agreed and we settled for the Budapest Symphony/Film Orchestra managed by Csaba Lokos.
Do you consider yourself privileged to work with someone as tough as Kunle Afolayan, a second time?
Yes I do! The Budapest trip wasn’t particularly easy but I had to focus on what we were there for. We went in winter, straight from the airport in Paris, thanks to Air France, to the studio in Budapest. It was also the first time the conductor and orchestra were seeing the score sheets and ‘meeting’ the music.
Amazing! It seemed quite effortless on their part. Though they are professionals it must have been quite a task to see the score for the first time and set to work immediately. The conductor also seemed quite calm and composed.
Yes, Peter the conductor is very knowledgeable and spent time explaining the score to the orchestra before they kicked off. That is why a conductor who understands the composer and the orchestra is absolutely necessary. Some composers who studied music also work as conductors.
There were also about thirty people on string instruments like violins and cellos but we hear other percussion instruments like drums and maybe tambourines?
You know quite a bit and are observant! Yes, it is a 30-piece string session as that’s what the production could afford. That is where one has to be creative. I added the drums. All the strings for the movie were played in Budapest. In one or two of the scores, there are voices and then I added other elements. I love hybrids.
So did you do the full score in Budapest?
There are about 23 cues all together in the movie and we did 17 of them there.
How long did the recording/performance session for the 17 cues take?
We spent four hours of studio time with the orchestra. So a one, four-hour studio session since every single minute counts.
The very short piece we hear in the short video (from the third minute) sounds like there is a sense of foreboding of something sinister. Can you give us some clues?
Laughs! No, I won’t let the cat out of the bag, as that will be a spoiler! You need to watch the movie, but the title of the piece you heard is The End Game!
Since you are keeping numb, can you at least tell us if there will be an Original Sound Track (OST) album for the movie?
Let’s see how it goes but yes, that will be great!
Are you the first African working with the Budapest Film Orchestra?
No, but I can say I am the first Black African or West African film composer they are working with. They have worked with two Egyptian composers; Moustapha El Halawany and Tamer Karawan and from Tunisia, Amine Bouhafa.
So we should fasten our seat belts and get ready to be taken to another stratosphere with the sound design and score for this movie?
I think so (laughs).
March 25, 2021