Manta Ray

Album: Racing Extinction (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • This song was created for the documentary Racing Extinction by composer J Ralph and singer-songwriter Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. The film documents the ongoing mass extinction of species, including the undercover investigations of the manta ray gill trade in China for traditional medicines. The track is sung from a manta ray's viewpoint, as it warns humanity not to destroy nature.
  • Ralph based the music on a distressing clip he saw of the last existing male Kauai O'o bird. "He's singing for a female that would never come. They mate for life and so it was incredibly harrowing to see this bird singing this song fully unaware that he's the last of his species," Ralph told Billboard magazine. "At that moment I knew the melody of the song had to be almost a response to this call."

    The Kauai O'o bird was endemic to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Its song was last heard in 1987 and it has since been declared extinct.
  • Once he'd composed the melody, Ralph called his friend, Antony Hegarty to write the lyrics and perform the song. "I said, 'If I had one voice to represent the fate of humanity, it would be you.' We talked about what the lyrics could be and what the song could do. He called me a few hours later and said, 'I think I've got it,' and came back and we recorded it."
  • The song was nominated for an Academy Award. It was Ralph's second nomination following his nod for "Before My Time" from the documentary Chasing Ice.

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