Afrika Original Soundtrack is the quintessential outdoor adventure score, melding captivating themes with a grand orchestral performance, while emulating classic adventure movie scores in the best way. The clearest influence, however, comes from a more recent work. When the inevitable next Jurassic Park film makes it into production, Spielberg has a place to turn should John Williams be indisposed - composer Wataru Hokoyama has Williams' successful soundtrack formula down to perfection.
I can't imagine a single soundtrack-loving soul not being moved by the opening cue "Savanna". The main theme of the score, a tender melody to portray the beauty of nature, receives its first and most stirring rendition here, via a gorgeous performance on strings and woodwinds by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra. The main theme takes a more spirited turn in "Jambo Jambo" (frequently with the same rising flute flourishes in Jurassic Park) and receives a wistful, reflective reprise in "Heaven". Accompanying the nature theme is an optimistic, bounding secondary theme for the adventure aspect of the score, first rendered in "Safari" and later reprised majestically in the closing cue "Afrika".
The latter part of the score takes a more cinematic direction but is no less exquisite. The moody "Night Safari" is well worth listening for its ethereal ending harp and string fade alone. "The Big Five" makes for a triumphant finale (with a hint of more to come), while "Sunset" forms a peaceful but slightly poignant epilogue.
The inspiration from John Williams shows a little too clearly at times, mostly in the middle section of the score. "Hunting" follows the standard template of Williams' aggressive style of action music, while the combination of rapid, rhythmic percussion with dense pulses of brass in "Mission" takes the same form as the action music in Jurassic Park The Lost World. The pizzicato plus tuba "Okapi" sounds very much like a cross between the Jaba the Hut and Jawa themes from Star Wars. These are the most extreme examples; in most cases, even when the arrangements resemble other scores in form and function, the themes themselves are in a class of their own.
Afrika Original Soundtrack is short at only 33 minutes, but the strength of its themes and the magnificence of the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra's performance make for an immensely satisfying listen - in ways even more so than the excellent scores it sometimes resembles. I suspect even Williams himself would be impressed with the work Wataru Hokoyama has crafted.