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Hesham Nazih on building the authentic musicality of Moon Knight’s Egyptian setting

Hesham Nazih (Moon Knight)

Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works, as well as select commentaries from some of the score’s most important tracks.

One of the most heartening things about Disney+’s run of Marvel TV shows is that they seem to be an interesting staging ground for new ideas, the exploration of new communities, and — most importantly for our interests — new artists to reach broader audiences. That’s certainly the case with Marvel’s latest series in the MCU, Moon Knight, which sees Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant, a pair of dissociative identities sharing the same body, which also happens to be able to summon the spirit of the Egyptian god Khonsu and turn them into the avenging superhero Moon Knight.

The series itself is a brisk, fun Indiana Jones-type adventure, wafting between breezy action sequences and more sobering explorations of the trauma of mental illness, child abuse, and more. But given its Egyptian setting, it’s heartening that the vast majority of the talent both in front of and behind the camera are Egyptian, from its director Mohamed Diab to composer Hesham Nazih, a veteran film and TV composer with reams of accolades and more than twenty years of experience in Egyptian media.

For Moon Knight (his first English-language score), Nazih crafts a sound that is both indebted to the gee-whiz adventure influences of the show itself and the cultural markers and musical identity of Egypt itself, combining the two into a unique musical synthesis that echoes the balancing scales Marc and Steven have to achieve in order to make themselves whole. Egyptian instruments combing with Arabic-language choir and the bombastic, brass-heavy sweep we expect of superhero blockbusters to create something that feels wholly new, while avoiding the cliches of most Western scores set in the Middle East and North Africa.

For the podcast, Hesham was lovely enough to sit down with me (on the first day of Eid al-Fitr!) to talk about transitioning his robust skill set to Marvel, weaving his own influences within the score while avoiding stereotype, and how his score fits in with the show’s use of mahgraganat (a budding genre of exciting, fist-pumping protest music making waves in Cairo the last few years) in the musical fabric of the show.

The entire first (and only?) season of Moon Knight is currently streaming on Disney+. You can also listen to the score for Moon Knight on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Marvel Music.

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CategoriesRight on Cue
Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, as well as one of the founders of the website/podcast Alcohollywood in 2011. He is also a Senior Writer at Consequence of Sound, as well as the co-host/producer of Travolta/Cage. You can also find his freelance work at IndieWire, UPROXX, Syfy Wire, The Takeout, and Crooked Marquee.

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