There has been a lot of speculation about the meaning of the thrilling, heart beat-increasing “bat chant”, featured in all of the trailers for The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll update after I see the movie (in just a few days!), but I don’t believe that the chant involves existing words in any human language. (Here’s another fan analysis that comes to the same conclusion). I think it was just created for the film. Bane is from a fictional country anyway, so it’s not a stretch to create a fictional “language” or chant to go alone with him. According to one trailer, the chant means “rise” or “he rises,” but trailers don’t always give the full film context so I’m going to wait to see if the full movie gives any more hints to the actual meaning.
Whether the chant is randomly combined phonemes or not, it’s existence and use in the film score is still meaningful because of the way in which it was recorded. Composer Hans Zimmer solicited thousands of volunteers online to record themselves repeating the chant, and mixed them all together. According to ujam.com, the site that was used to submit the recordings, people from 107 different countries participated. I mean, how cool is that, for all those people to be able to go to the movie on opening night and turn to their friend and say “that’s my voice, I’m part of that chant!” I’m very sad that I can’t brag about the same thing, because I didn’t find out about the submission request until a few days after it closed.
This quote from Hans Zimmer, (in an article on collider.com), gives an idea of the scale of global enthusiasm for this franchise, and emphasizes just how very cool the chant project was:
The chant became a very complicated thing because I wanted hundreds of thousands of voices, and it’s not so easy to get hundreds of thousands of voices. So, we Twittered and we posted on the internet, for people who wanted to be part of it. It seemed like an interesting thing. We’ve created this world, over these last two movies, and somehow I think the audience and the fans have been part of this world. We do keep them in mind. And I thought it would be something nice, if our audiences could actually be part of the making of the movie and be participants in this. So, we’ve got this website up, www.ujam.com, where you can go on and be part of it. It was fantastic. The first Tweet that went out just melted our server because we had tens of thousands of people a second, trying to get onto the site.
You always want to create a sound that nobody has ever heard, but I think, this time, we might be doing that. As a musician, I think about what environment things are recorded in. Now, you have hundreds of thousands of voices, all recorded in their own individual environment. Up until now, that’s been impossible to do. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of editing, as well.
The chant, despite being labeled elsewhere on the internet as “Bane Bane Matalo Matalo,” “This is Arkham, Arkham,” “This is Our Gotham,” and even “Fishy Fishy Pasta Pasta”, is actually:
Deh-Shay Deh-Shay Bah-Sah-Rah, Bah-Sah-Rah!
And you can listen to the bare chant here:
I can’t wait to see how the chant fits into the story in the film itself!
*Update* and **SPOILER ALERT**
Well, it turns out the movie doesn’t reveal anything more about the meaning of the chant than the trailer did. Story-wise, it comes from the prisoners in the Pit, who chant it whenever someone tries to make the climb out. The third time that Bruce Wayne attempts the climb, (“as the child did, without a rope,”) he asks the fellow prisoner who has been assisting him, “What does that mean?” and is told, “Rise.”
The rythym of the chant on that final climb was closer to the way Hans Zimmer’s recording solicitation was set up; it would start out slow with the individual repeating the words in a call-back style, (so the computer would play “deh-shay” and then you’d say “deh-shay”, it’d say “basarah” and you’d repeat “basarah”), and then it got faster and you’d say all four words together. (The stress goes on the first syllable of each word, by the way).
Before seeing the movie I had assumed that the chant would be connected to or representing Bane in some way, and it is mostly heard in the soundtrack while Bane is on-screen, but the only time it’s mentioned by the dialogue is in connection with Batman/Bruce Wayne. It is, after all, titled The Dark Knight Rises, so it makes sense that this cool chant element would relate to the title character and his title trajectory. He rises.
I do wonder if the chant will become a popular phrase among Batman fans, pop culture in general, or be forgotten in a few months. I wish they had referenced it a bit more explicitly in the film itself, because it doesn’t really lend itself to being picked up by the masses this way, but I still think it was a really neat that they included all those fan voices and I definitely perked my ears up every time I heard the chant during the movie. Here are all the times I noticed it (based on two viewings so far):
- When Bane starts talking to that agent guy on the plane at the beginning. It gets louder after the “No, they expect one of us in the wreckage, brother,” “But we started a fire,” “Yes, the fire rises,” exchange.
- When Gordon goes down the man-hole into the sewers, (which are filled with Bane’s henchmen,) chasing the perpetrators after the firefight at the bar where they find the missing congressman (and Catwoman/Selina Kyle cleverly escapes).
- When Bane walks onto the roof as a temporarily teamed-up Batman and Catwoman/Selina Kyle fight a group of baddies, (and Catwoman reluctantly goes along with Batman’s “No guns. No killing.” stance).
- The three times Bruce/Batman attempts to climb out of the pit, as well as the time he watches another prisoner try it.
- When the street full of cops moves toward the mob of Bane’s men. The chant starts out slow here and then picks up speed, similar to the way the individual recordings were made.