Nowhere in Africa won the 2003 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, hence promoting a token film that's not in American. Having said that, critical reaction seems somewhat mixed, although the story, of a Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany to set up a homestead in Kenya, seems like dramatic dynamite. As I've commented in numerous reviews for scores that contain African musical elements, the percussion and vocals lend themselves well to integration with western music. Having said that, composer Niki Reiser uses the native ideas more sparingly and generally sticks to adding some local percussion behind otherwise somewhat static string cues, turning them into effective travelling music. The vocal elements seem generally more authentic than Lebo M's African music as orchestral rock ballad treatments, indeed the ones here often sound as though they were recorded on location. The highlight of these is Africa - Europe, which, as the title suggests, mixes Europe with Africa by underpinning a gentle string adagio with a more pulsing chant. It sounds somewhat haphazardly welded together, but I suspect it's subconsciously deliberate - Europe and Africa can mix, but only up to a point.
The more traditional orchestral passages are pleasing, notably those led by what is ostensibly the score's main theme, a plaintive oboe melody. It isn't really memorable enough to stand out against the fusion cues, but when developed, such as in Nowhere in Africa I and II, it starts to assert itself in a potent mixture of percussion, strings and background woodwind. Regina's Melody is more memorable, although primarily for its cleverly conceived, breathy vocals. The only shame is that it's not really developed much and the piano based accompaniment sounds like it's escaped from a quiet moment in a Thomas Newman score. At almost an hour, Nowhere in Africa becomes a little repetitive in places and some of the shorter cues could easily have been omitted for a more concise album. However, the basic material is generally solid and there are enough fine moments - particularly the longer cues, which range from good to excellent - to make it worth recommending and ideal for those who can't get enough of African inspired scores.