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World Music CD Reviews South Asia

John McDowell

By Tom Orr
Published January 5, 2007

Music From The Film Born Into Brothels

The movie’s been around for more than a year, and now the availability of the soundtrack has caught up. Born Into Brothels, an acclaimed documentary by photojournalist Zana Briski and film editor Ross Kauffman, takes an extremely up close and personal look at the lives of prostitutes’ children in Calcutta. The music on the soundtrack, like the images in the movie, reflects tragedy and squalor but shows innocence and playfulness, too. Composer John McDowell lays a foundation of India-rooted sounds ranging from emotive bansuri flute, sitar and sarod to Bollywood-like fancy. Sounds suggestive of the Silk Road, the Middle East and Africa find their way in to give things a wider perspective, while solo and choral voices add tones lush and stark. Even in the absence of visuals, the music is heartfelt in the way it frames the whole story as well as underscoring the plights of the numerous hardscrabble individuals striving for a better life they may never get.