When Your Music Plays on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
How do you pick a single song to encompass life in a place where, as Anthony Bourdain puts it, “all the evils, all the problems of the world could be easily found, right next to and among all the best things about being human and being alive”?
That was the challenge faced by the producers of Parts Unknown for the finale episode of the fifth season, which aired in June of 2015. Tony was returning to Beirut, where an ill-fated 2006 shoot for No Reservations had coincided with an outbreak of intense and violent conflict.
“That experience changed everything for me,” Bourdain wrote. “One day I was making television about eating and drinking. The next, I was watching the airport I’d just landed in a few days earlier being blown up across the water from my hotel window.”
His story about Beirut felt unfinished. So this time, Bourdain and his crew were determined to capture the complex cultural and religious dynamics of Beirut—and they needed a soundtrack that could speak to wild contradictions of a city where both “bikinis and hijabs coexist.” Cue AudioBlocks contributor Jason Donnelly (a.k.a. DJ Puzzle) and his song, “God Knows.”
The electronic beat of “God Knows” picks up as a breakdancer performs stunts on a BMX bike along a boardwalk. A setting sun cuts to women in hijabs riding on beachside swings. Nightclubs are juxtaposed with religious ceremonies as the song plays, devoting a full minute and a half to the tune like a mini music video.
“That scene was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen with my music to date,” Donnelly says. “The clips they pieced together were just so perfect for the song, and the song was so perfect for the episode. I got the chills when I first saw it and, to be honest, I heard the song in a totally new and different way.”
‘Beirut’ was not the first time that Donnelly heard his music on the show. He’s had five songs on Parts Unknown so far. “Someone over there must like my sound because they picked my songs straight from the catalog.”
It makes sense that Donnelly’s music would feel like a natural fit for Parts Unknown. He’s a lifelong musician that grew up on the wrong side of Chicago and can relate to Bourdain’s rough road to success. He also shares musical tastes with Bourdain, especially when it comes to Iggy Pop.
“I absolutely love the music on Parts Unknown,” says Donnelly. “I’ve heard everything on that show from exotic ambient sound beds to gritty Dubstep-inspired breaks to dark, edgy garage Rock and everything in between.”
Since the Beirut episode aired, hundreds of people have reached out to Donnelly about his music. He continues to produce tracks for a variety of television shows and other outlets, such as the National Geographic Channel.
Jason Donnelly contemplates a song in his music studio.
Donnelly’s versatility has allowed him to excel in the licensing market. For those looking to break into royalty-free music, he recommends sharpening production skills and networking at trade shows like the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show.
“It’s all about timing, being in the right place at the right time and being prepared,” he explains. “Most importantly, believe in what you do and stick to it. Put in 100% of your energy and visualize your goals.”
The authenticity and energy of “God Knows” combined with the powerful visuals of Beirut made for truly memorable television—and a particularly rewarding moment in Donnelly’s career. Among the millions of people that watched the episode, it sparked an appreciation for a city where, in Bourdain’s words, “nothing made any damn sense at all—in the best possible way.”
Listen to some of Jason Donnely’s top selling AudioBlocks tracks.
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