A lot of African and tribal research has influenced the game so far so it seems fitting that the music be inspired by that also. But, I will want to have my own style and influence to it, rather than it just be a copy of tribal music. After having had a conversation with Alex Ayling when he visited our studio, we had the idea for Isiko to have two soundtracks to it; one for the game’s pre-scene which will be a fuller soundtrack, and the in-game music which will be very atmospheric and quiet to allow the sound effects to be more apparent. Both being inspired by tribal music.
Up until this point I had yet to study any tribal music so had little idea on its composition and the instruments involved. Alex again came in to talk to us about what we wanted our game music to be, so we sat down and compiled some tests on the composition of tribal music. A lot of the main instruments used (Marimbas, Bongos, Congas, Shakers etc) are usually off beat and less structured in comparison to western music. So, in Logic, we threw together a few tests using sampled tribal instruments to demonstrate how changing compositions can lead to different sounds using the same the same sampled pieces. Below you can find 2 different tests using the same loops and samples and a screenshot of how they were constructed in Logic:
I then took what I learnt from Alex and began to work on the soundtrack with help from my friend Tom who happens to be a music production student (very handy I know). We started with the basics, composing the kicks and bongos from a tribal music sample pack I had downloaded. Drums are a heavy feature to tribal music so it was important we got this together first so we could then build on it and have a strong base to work from. Below you can see how the drums were comprised:
The next step was to add effects and change EQs so the drums were sounding the best they could. I didn’t understand a lot of what Tom was talking about in regard to effects and EQs so decided to take a few notes for myself so that I can understand them better when I work on the music on my own. The notes for these can be found in the “Music” folder. So, just showing this for the drums, we took a lot of the low end frequencies out so they had less bass to them and altered the top end so they sounded smoother and less harsh, which I wanted for the nature of the game. I won’t go into full detail about all the EQ changes as it might get a little tiresome. But for now you can see an image of how they’re changed in Logic below:
After we had this the way we wanted, it was time to start layering the track with other tribal inspired samples and instruments. Marimbas are one of the most popular instruments in African culture, so decided to a sample of one and convert it into a software instrument so we could play around with its sound and the effects on it more. This then became the main riff to accompany the drums for our track. The sound of the marimbas had a slight resemblance to childhood nursery rhymes, which I think well represented the coming -of-age journey Isiko is on and the excitement/nervousness that comes with facing new experiences in life.
There was a lot of layering to this track, so I won’t explain every single step to it but a lot of improvisation was used for them. After recording a bassline and cymbal rises we wanted to record shakers and claps, which can be found in a lot of tribal music when tribesmen/women play in large groups for ceremonies. So, we used cooking spices and half empty coffee jars for the shakers and created the claps ourselves, this part was especially fun. These sections were also configured using effects and EQs so they fit well with the track. Below you can find a small snippet of what we were working on: