Movie history is full of great fictional bands – from Sing Street, to Josie & the Pussycats, The Commitments, School of Rock, The Blues Brothers and Spinal Tap. But perhaps none are better than Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, better known as the Cantina Band in Star Wars.
The cantina at Mos Eisley is a wretched hive of scum and villainy and can be ‘a little rough’ – but it’s the first time that we see a wide range of aliens from all corners of the galaxy together in the Star Wars universe. It’s also where iconic characters Luke and Han first meet, sparking a friendship that would change the course of the Empire.
The cantina, along with Dex’s Diner in Attack of the Clones and the Canto Bight Casino in The Last Jedi are venues that give an insight into life in a galaxy far, far away and a chance to gawk at a variety of cool aliens. The music that the Cantina band plays – if you read the Disney Plus subtitles – is ‘Alien Lounge’ music, a variation of Dixieland jazz unwisely termed jizz (it’s true!). Max Rebo and his band are renowned jizz-wailers who perform for Jabba the Hut in Return of the Jedi.
Icelandic pop-alien Bjork was recently perfectly-cast as a witch in The Northman, and she is still releasing new albums after 45 years in the business. Bjork’s first album was released in 1977 when she was 11-years-old, and she had a successful hey-day in the ’90s and ’00s. And in what seems like entirely fitting news, Bjork’s new album Fossora was inspired by the Cantina band from Star Wars.
“She explained where the song was set in her mind – some obscure Finnish jazz bar that exists in the future,” sideproject member Örlygur Steinar Arnalds (who collaborated with Bjork on the album) told The Guardian. “She said, it should sound like the Cantina band. So we tried for a jazzy, futuristic beat.”
For the sound of the Cantina band, George Lucas suggested John Williams imagine aliens having somehow discovered sheet music written by 1930s swing legend Benny Goodman, and attempting to play it without any understanding of what Earth music sounded like.
“That conversation with her [Bjork] was really inspirational, imagining music in another world. Like, what would music sound like without any contact with jazz?” says Arnalds. “It’s been a reference point for our work ever since – writing music for some other place, imagining a world where music would sound like the music we make. And Star Wars is a great starting point for that.”
If you’re a fan of more normal-sounding music, check out our guide to the best musicals.