Music is a brilliantly universal tool exploited heavily in the film Mississippi Masala. Each song placed with a purpose and with a message adds emphasis to the many themes present in the plot. Even though we were not able to view the entire film today, I couldn’t wait to express my thoughts until after out class discussion. I decided to address the use of the soundtrack in this film because the entire plot is not entirely necessary for this assessment, not to mention music is one of my deepest passions.
The music in this film is used to define culture, race, people, regions, countries, conflict, resolution, and countless other entities. What I love the most about its exploitation in this film is that any viewer can close their eyes and easily conjecture where the focus of the film is located at any point in time. From the very beginning African djembes, rattles, and chants can be heard in the time of turmoil that is represented by the deportation of Mina’s family. Choirs of African children singing in English set up and foreshadow the events of racial conflict that soon follow in the film. One of my favorite transitions is right after the family boarded their plane and all that can be seen is a map of their flight. The music shifts from upbeat African drums to a completely new and different music style. A style that not only defines a nation, but a region within that nation, and even a culture within that region. The honky blues that melds and then masks the African drums lets any listener know that they are headed straight for the deep south of North America. The family is headed to the Bayou.
Other contrasts and musical symbols appear even after the family has adjusted in this new country. The traditional Indian wedding songs sung by the mother during a wedding that is to say the least extremely Americanized, is sharply contrasted by the melodious words of a group of black kids as they rap about love on the streets. When Mina’s coveted suitor, Harry [Moneybags], takes her to a young peoples dance club called the “Leopard Lounge” the viewer begins to notice the melding of cultures in this new generation that Mina belongs to. Her heritage is Indian, her past is African, and her life is American and her ability to blend in and mingle in this “American” dance scene is displayed through the use of music in this film. She dances to the same music as the African American adolescents of her own generation. The music to which they move their feet represents neither their heritage nor their past but instead their future. This new genre is what ties them together in the only way they can be tied.
Music is used to set up the relationship between the different ethnic groups portrayed in this film. Each culture seems to have their own style, their own defining type of music but at the same time each new piece, each style and each genre is still considered music. The viewer’s ear may mark a distinction but all the melodies, beats, harmonies, and tones are processed the same way. Music is the universal bowtie that packages this film as a whole.