[WATCH] ‘Narco’ composer Pedro Bromfman on bringing South American sound to Netflix series

As “Narcos” composer Pedro Bromfman reveals during our recent webcam (watch above), “I’m from Brazil originally so I play a lot of the South American instruments.” For this Netflix drama chronicling the exploits of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) he “had this idea of doing Columbian-influenced music: using Columbian instruments, but doing a more epic, suspenseful, noir even at some points, score.”

Growing up in Brazil gave him first-hand knowledge of the events portrayed in the series. “I remember hearing about these bombs,” he recalls, “and all the horrors and the war that was taking place.” Although there are fictionalized elements, “pretty much all the facts that you see in the show really happened the way they did. So I remember hearing about it and how tough it was to live in Columbia at the time, and how the drugs were really running the show.”

Working in television is a new experience. “I come mostly from the film world,” he explains, “where you have a two-hour movie and you can’t really give every character a theme, otherwise you just confuse yourself and the audience. In a show, as I quickly learned, we have 10 episodes, and maybe a character that’s not as important in the first episode might have a big arc in episode five or six. So I’m able to start hinting at themes early on, and then have the payout when their episodes hit.”

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He was brought in early by frequent collaborator Jose Padilha (“RoboCop” [2014], “Elite Squad” [2007]), who directed the first two episodes and served as an executive producer. “He really has this vision and this ability of explaining very complicated situations in a fun way,” says Bromfman, “and packing it all in a two-hour film or a fifty minute episode, where you leave and you were entertained, and at the same time you were able to learn a lot of stuff while not being overwhelmed by it.”

The composer also had high praise for Netflix. “They wanted something cinematic. They go after the creators and the directors that they admire, that they want to work with. A lot of times with studios, you get so many notes, and when everything’s said and done, the vision is not necessarily the vision the director had in the first place.” With Netflix, on the other hand, “it’s just been a blessing. It’s exactly what we had talked about in the beginning that’s coming across on screen.”

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