Kazakhstan Orchestra Invites Borat Star's Brother to Compose Symphony

Classic Arts News   Kazakhstan Orchestra Invites Borat Star's Brother to Compose Symphony
When Erran Cohen, who composed the score for the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan got a call from Marat Bisengaliev, a Kazakh violin virtuoso and conductor, he thought it might be a joke.

After all, the entire premise of the film was that Erran's brother, actor Sacha Baron Cohen, tricked unsuspecting Americans into believing that he was Borat Sagdiyev, a boorish, clueless and entirely fictional Kazakh reporter making a documentary in the US. What's more, the Kazakhstan powers-that-be were so concerned that Western audiences might mistake Borat's home village in the movie for a real place with real Kazakhs that the government undertook a major advertising and diplomatic campaign to convince the world that Kazakhstan is a relatively normal, forward-looking and functional nation.

But at least some Kazakh musicians aren't holding the sins of one brother against the other. The Daily Telegraph of London reports that Erran has received a commission for a symphony from Bisengaliev and his orchestra.

"But after I'd got over the initial shock of being rung up by someone from Kazakhstan, I thought it was a great accolade if they liked the music in the film so much that they asked me to write for a symphony orchestra," Erran told the paper.

His new work is called Zere (in honor of sponsorship from Kazakhstan's Zere Corporation) and will be premired tomorrow at St. James's Church, Piccadilly in London. Bisengaliev will play violin and conduct the Turan Alem Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra.

According to the Telegraph, the work is scheduled to be performed in Kazakhstan itself as well — and in Mumbai by the Symphony Orchestra of India, of which Bisengaliev is music director. Sony BMG will release the complete version on CD.

Cohen told the paper that listeners may detect the influence of Steve Reich, John Adams and Henryk G‹recki. He added that he has "tried to bring in some Kazakh influences through the use of folk elements and instruments like the dombra, which is a Kazakhstani two-string guitar, and the kobuz, which is like a Jew's harp."

i>Borat has precisely no real Kazakh music; the "ethnic" music in the score was based on Romanian gypsy music. "There was orchestral horror-movie music, electronic stuff and gay house music, but there weren't any Kazakhstani references at all. Kazakhstan in the film was just a tool: it was used almost as a random country that nobody knew much about," Cohen told the Telegraph.

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