One of my favorite films of 2016, Queen of Katwe, just entered wide release this weekend. If you’re like me, you will leave the theater wanting to see it again and even humming a few of the songs. The good news is you can go back to Katwe anytime on an aural tour through the Queen of Katwe soundtrack.
Featuring a new song by Grammy winner Alicia Keys, “Back to Life” is the end credit song and final track on the album. It’s a beautiful ballad from the only domestic artist on this release. A lyric video highlights moments from the film and offers a preview of the heartfelt tune.
While Alicia Keys is the only household name on the album, the song that steals the show in the film and on this release is “#1 Spice” by Young Cardamom & HAB. The Ugandan duo tend to write music that shines a light on social issues and Cardamom shares a special connection to Queen of Katwe since he is the son of director Mira Nair. The duo also shot a music video for their addictive song on the set of the film, which includes cameos from the cast including Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.
The majority of the 20-track album consists of other African artists. Many of these are catchy dance tracks, such as “Juicy” by Radio, “Sekem” by MC Galaxy, “Bamboclat” by Chameleone and “Skelewu” by Davido. There are also three tracks by A Pass, whose style mixes reggae with pop sensibilities on “Tuli Kubigere,” “Wuuyo” and “Kyempulila.”
Several of the songs also sound like something you would hear a live band perform when traveling through Harambe Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These tracks include “Oswadde Nyo” by Moses Matovu, “Mbilo Mbilo” by Eddy Kenzo, “Nfunda N’omubi” by Afrigo Band, and “Kiwani” by Bobi Wine.
The only other ballad on the album other than Alicia Keys’ original song comes from British singer Michael Kiwanuka. “Home Again” comes from his 2012 debut album and is a beautiful song. It’s relevance to Queen of Katwe is made even more relevant in his music video for FilmAid, which features young Ugandan women living away from their families in order to get an education.
There are five score tracks by composer Alex Heffes peppered between the songs on this release. Using African rhythms and instruments, these selections offer a nice blend of score elements. These tracks are sadly short in length, with most barely lasting to a second minute. They provide a sampling of Heffes’ themes from the film and not much more. My favorite of the score tracks are “It Is Fine” and “The Promise of Harriet.”
Fans looking for more of the score should note that there is a Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack that features all of the tracks mentioned above, plus a second disc with the complete score. Alex Heffes has many more wonderful melodies that didn’t make the cut and this is the version I recommend to serious soundtrack listeners. The score is worth a listen isolated from the film and offers a very unique listening experience.
I’m a huge fan of Disney’s Queen of Katwe and love this soundtrack. The authentic African music makes me feel connected to the film’s characters and the city of Katwe. With the addition of two songs written just for the film and a selection of Alex Heffes’ score, it’s hard to go wrong with the standard release. But if you love film scores, I highly recommend the Deluxe Edition.