A song written for a video game has won one of music’s top awards, the Grammy, for the first time in history.
Baba Yetu, which appeared in Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, won the Grammy for best instrumental arrangement with an accompanying vocalist.
Chalk up another big win for the video game industry. While the industry has been pretty comparable with the movie industry in terms of scale, it hasn’t yet received the same recognition the movie industry regularly garners for its musical prowess.
It’s a feather the video game industry has been trying to put in its cap for a long time. Recent video games, such as Assassin’s Creed 2 and Mass Effect, feature a more sophisticated set of composers and epic scores. For example, Clint Mansell, the composer of movies like Requiem for a Dream and Moon, is composing the score of Bioware’s latest epic Mass Effect 3.
But music from video games has, at best, quietly kept pace with its more widely known movie soundtrack brethren. Perhaps it’s because game music has always had the stigma of being nothing more than chiptunes — songs designed to be played on weaker computers that often has a very choppy and techie feel to it. But those lines have been blurring since the game industry began attracting more widely known composers like Jesper Kyd, the mastermind behind the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack, and Nobuo Uematsu, music composer for the Final Fantasy series.
Since then, game soundtracks have grown in popularity. Most video game soundtracks are available for download on iTunes and other online music stores. There’s even a touring orchestral concert designed specifically for video game music called Video Games Live. Many gaming conventions, like Penny Arcade Expo, also feature live performances of video game tracks.
The song Baba Yetu was composed by Christopher Tin and also appears on Civilization IV’s official trailer and music video. The song beat other songs like Imagine off The Imagine Project, a collection of jazz songs.
The song is featured in Tin’s debut album, Calling all Dawns. But it was originally scored and recorded as the official song for Civilization IV, one of Sid Meier’s top-selling games. The Civilization series features some of the most well-known and highly rated real-time strategy games of all time. Civilization IV received a score of 94 out of 100 across 50 reviews according to Metacritic, a site that aggregates game, music and movie reviews.