SCORING IT RIGHT WITH KOLADE MORAKINYO
Kolade Morakinyo studied industrial mathematics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, but today is an accomplished composer, sound designer and audio post-production specialist. He is one of the few Nigerian high prospect professionals in these fields. Morakinyo has written film scores for several Nollywood films and documentaries, working with filmmakers like Femi Odugbemi. As an agency producer with LTC-JWT Lagos, he produced several radio, television and print commercials. Known for his uniquely appealing approach to scoring films, he is also a partner at SilverPitch Studios, Nigeria and Ostudiolabs, United Kingdom. Recently, he released online, an instructional video about some of the processes involved in the art of sound design and film scoring. He is currently working on ‘sleep music’ scores and an album of his film scores.
Do you find the world of music more inspiring than calculus having studied industrial mathematics?
I think it’s a function of interest. I have a lot of interest in mathematics but not as much as I do for music. However, I found that music and mathematics have some relationship. As much as music is an art, its core is founded on specific formulas. You’d be surprised that every sound you hear can be represented by numbers in terms of frequencies. Music is made when there’s a creative combination of these sound frequencies. I’d say mathematics has made music more interesting and inspiring, it has enhanced music production and sound design thus creating a limitless platform for creativity with sound. I find the world of music, mathematics has created inspiring.
Why did you make this switch?
My interest in music didn’t just happen overnight; I learnt how to play the piano at a very tender age, and never stopped developing ever since. I began nurturing the desire to become a film composer close to leaving secondary school. Studying mathematics at the university was just a goal for me at that time but I knew what I wanted to do.
Do you have any special training in this field or you are self-taught?
Yes, I’m self-taught, but I would not but acknowledge the man who saw the raw talent in me and introduced me to the world of music production and sound design – Late Dapo Osewa. He supplied me with training materials (books, videos, e-books). I did a lot reading and now I still do. Though I wish I had a formal training in music and sound design in particular. It is very expensive, and can only be studied outside the country. But one must make use of that which one has and get the best from it.
What inspires your scores and their titles like Cousins, Sands of Time, Dark Places and Hidden Treasures?
Physical or mental pictures usually inspire my scores. In my mind, for instance, I could imagine bright sunlight shining through a stained glass window and get some inspiring ideas to write a score that defines or emphasizes that mood. My scores are birthed through the desire to express moods. Moods are abstract. It’s like abstract painting. Not everyone appreciates abstract art, so it is with my music.
Can you tell us about your work process? What is your starting point?
Most of the time the nature of the visuals determines how I start. There’s never a standard method I use. Sometimes my music ideas hit me at the middle or end the piece, and then I work my way backwards to the beginning of the score. Some projects sometime require a particular driving element (say a growling synth or an ambient piano), once the foundation is established, every other music element fits in like a jigsaw puzzle. At times, when I get some projects requiring work on all aspects of audio, I start with dialogue edits, I record foley, I equalize my recordings, Record ADR (automated dialogue replacement), I work on the film score and mix the entire project. A team of sound specialists best executes this process.
Do some particular instruments work better for different genres of films?
Yes. A film score is not just a soundtrack but it is an art of storytelling with sound and its elements. Some instruments and pitches can be used to express the size of an object, and some instruments can be used to express the state of a thing – funny, powerful, dangerous, innocent, sparkling clean or very dirty. It takes a nice wield of experience and creativity to accomplish this.
What are some challenges a film composer may face on the projects?
A film composer may face the challenge of having to score a lot of weak scenes or visuals. In such situations a film composer’s work would sound weak due to the weak scenes unless he totally forgets about the visuals, sticks with the impression and expression the director wants to achieve and emphasize the music. A typical example is how a rage scene is executed. I am of the opinion that an act of rage is best expressed without words. The scene becomes weak when there is more dialogue than actions. Most actions are watered down when everything (particularly actions, intents, and emotions) is spelt out in words.
Composers like Alex Heffes seem to get a lot African themed work. He recently did the scores for the forthcoming Disney live action movie Queen of Katwe and the Roots television miniseries remake. Do you see yourself and other Nigerians doing scores for international movies in addition to ours?
Alex Heffes is one of the many film composers I admire. I saw the movie trailer too. It is very possible for Nigerian composers to enjoy such international platforms for work. Unfortunately, film composers are yet to be recognized locally. Moreover, if we are not allowed to display our relevance locally, or get to work extensively (provide complete audio service) on film projects, that opportunity may not materialize. Great works open doors for greater ones. It’s sad that most filmmakers have to produce films on low budgets and unrealistic post-production timelines due to several unfavorable conditions prevalent locally. Below-standard productions would not attract international platforms.
Do you have a favourite score so far?
I do not have any favourite score. In fact, I critique my works when I listen to them again and note those areas that could have been done in a better way. I try not to repeat those mistakes in subsequent productions.
What is your most memorable experience working on a score?
It is the feeling derived from working on a film project with an experienced and talented film composer. I have had such working with Michael ‘Truth’ Ogunlade on some of his recent projects.
It’s always exciting when I get his ideas coming from a whole new angle. We share some tricks and jokes on the job too!!
Are you working on any project at the moment and what was the last Film Score you did?
I am currently working ‘sleep music’ scores as I discovered that many people have insomnia. Life can get quite stressful and this affects people’s sleep patterns with people getting sleep deprived and very cranky. Special music can help with this. I am also on putting together an album of scores, which I started some months after scoring Omoni Oboli’s Wives on strike. My last film score was on Shoyode Tunji Jamiu’s Short film Aliyya’s Wish which is a very interesting short film.
Do you think this is an area more people should get into and is it financially rewarding?
Yes, it’s a very interesting field for responsible people who are conscientious and pay great attention to details. It’s not a field for everyone because for now I can categorically say that our passion for the job is our driving force. Presently, film music in Nollywood hasn’t been firmly established. There are more Nollywood films going to the cinemas and every month people watch and hear the actors act and talk. I am of the hope that film composers would get a fair share in storytelling, break in and gain acceptability in the industry. After all, the goal is to leave the viewers with a memorable experience. Who says we can’t have original film scores for Nollywood films?
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