Today, I have opted to take a look at one of my favorite songs from the Zelda series: “Gerudo Valley” from Ocarina of Time. This song’s popularity is incredible, and with good reason. It is a wonderfully crafted piece with excellent use of percussion and acoustic instruments to create a feeling that is befitting of a wild and mysterious desert. For this song to stand out so clearly in an already impressive soundtrack, it certainly says something about its quality.
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Take a survey of Zelda fans and ask them what their favorite song from Ocarina of Time is and the overwhelming majority will most likely offer “Gerudo Valley” as their answer. The song is vastly popular and has seen hundreds of fan renditions everywhere from metal to dubstep, and was included as a track on the bonus CD that released with Skyward Sword.
So, what has given the song such incredible fame? In short, it provides a fast-paced combination of quick guitar plucking and dramatic trumpets that together form a uniquely effective blend. It’s the kind of track that makes you want to get up and do something, but with the soaring brass instruments as well it bears a feeling of adventure. This is a definitive Zelda song.
The song begins with a short burst of an acoustic guitar, and then from there rises a steady crescendo as the song builds itself from the ground up. First is the rapid, foot-tapping claps that give a foundation to the entire song; these are part of what creates the energetic tune. The claps also give the song a bit of a wild and almost tribal feeling.
Building from the claps comes the groundwork of the guitars. Initially, we are treated a steady strumming that also persists throughout the song until the iconic rising plucks of the strings join in. Here, the song is starting to build into something really special, but it doesn’t quite define itself until the sound of those trumpets back up the guitars. In this intro section, the song basically lays everything out for viewing. You are given a small taste of all that makes the song: rapid claps, steady strumming, quick guitar plucking, and finally the trumpet anthem.
Some songs that try to do this end up tiring themselves out quickly, making it hard to continue listening to them. However, Gerudo Valley doesn’t make itself boring or repetitive. No matter how long the player toils through Gerudo Valley, Gerudo Fortress, and the desert beyond, they never tire of hearing this song. It is the perfect example of complex simplicity. There is not that much to this song, but it comes out as something much greater than the sum of its parts.
So, how well does this song fit its desert location? As I said before, the rapid claps give the song a wild tone but with the acoustic guitar and soaring trumpets added in it then brings something very distinct to mind: traditional Latin-American music. Think of Mexico; what images come to mind concerning the country’s scenery? Sure, it has its forested areas and is not a full desert, but much of the land is covered by plains. Hot, arid plains. Whether or not we immediately think of it, these are the images conjured by this kind of tune. Koji Kondo used that to his advantage when he created Gerudo Valley’s theme.
A marriage of Latin-American folk music and adventurous tunes, “Gerudo Valley” makes the perfect musical compliment to its locations. Beyond that it makes for an excellent tune to listen to at any time. Its core simplicity also offers it up for endless opportunities as a cover song, leading to countless YouTube artists and Zelda fans worldwide making their own versions of the timeless tune.
How do you like Gerudo Valley? Is it your favorite song from Ocarina of Time, or are there other themes that beat it in your opinion? How do you like its orchestral version? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to give your ideas for future editions of Flute Boy’s Meadow as well. See you next week!