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The Descendants has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Alexander Payne) and Best Actor (George Clooney). Building on the success of the film, the The Descendants soundtrack, available now from Sony Classical, has been #1 on Billboard’s World Music chart for the last seven consecutive weeks.
From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways, set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki.
The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. The film, from Fox Searchlight Pictures, opened in the U.S. on November 16th.
The Descendants, based on Kaui Hart Hemmings’ highly acclaimed novel of the same name, is scored exclusively with Hawaiian music. Hemmings, who comes from Hawaii, weaves into her writing the island themes of family, soil and inheritance, and the movie too has a strong sense of place, not least thanks to its soundtrack. Given the intention of the filmmakers to lend the movie a distinct Hawaiian flavour, the natural direction to take was to use the sounds of the islands, and the music plays a crucial part in evoking an authentic mood.
Most of the titles on the soundtrack feature established masters of Hawaiian music, whether modern and classical: names such as Gabby Pahinui, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer, Lena Machado, Sonny Chillingworth,Jeff Peterson, and Rev. Dennis Kamakahi.
The soundtrack of The Descendants not only serves to remind movie-goers of a memorable film, but also opens up a superb cross-section of Hawaiian music over the decades to listeners unfamiliar with this genre. It provides the best possible introduction to some of the greatest masters of this soulful music.