While composer/musician John McDowell might not be a household name, David Bowie, Donna Karan, and Al Gore have all sung his praises. Bowie said: "John's doing some quite brave things. It's hard to mix cultural strains together and have continuity. He does that wonderfully." You can hear that in McDowell's recent film score for Born Into Brothels. This documentary is a story about children of prostitutes in Calcutta, India and the kids' experiences using cameras to express themselves in an attempt to create another type of life.
On January 24. 2004, the film was honored with the Audience Award for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. In the live television broadcast on the Sundance channel, the film's directors, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, accepted the award and thanked "the incredible composer, John McDowell" HBO/CINEMAX Documentary Films will air the film later this year.
John McDowell (composer, keyboardist, percussionist) fuses diverse rhythms and haunting melodies with languages and cultures of the world. His work often involves a global journey, mixing instruments and musicians from far and wide. For Born Into Brothels he joined forces with music producer Daniel Baruch and sound editor Tom Paul, conjuring up an aural landscape created out the predominantly acoustic playing of musicians from many cultures, often working with them in a collaborative process. Bass whisperings of Krishna Das and soaring melodic ragas of Steve Gorn's bamboo flute were skillfully combined with Indian strings, renaissance serpent, an Armenian duduk as well as a full range of world percussion instruments.
McDowell--who has been heard at Lincoln Center, the UN, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and at many music, dance and theater festivals throughout Europe and North America.--performs and records with artists ranging from Sting, Carlos Santana, and Krishna Das to Rusted Root.
Writing about Born Into Brothels, The Hollywood Reporter said: "Anyone who has ever thought that documentaries lack the emotional impact, drama or sheer movie-going pleasure of fiction films will likely change their mind after seeing Born Into Brothels. . . Music by John McDowell, featuring both Hindi chanting and Western sounds, ideally complements the action. Born Into Brothels is a triumph of the spirit for all involved." Former Vice-President Al Gore agreed. Sitting next to McDowell at the premiere screening, Gore enthusiastically congratulated the composer on his "beautiful music."