TomTom, the global positioning system (GPS) retailer, has been running these cute TV ads lately, featuring driver and passengers unsuccessfully navigating their way around, accompanied by a catchy, syncopated musical refrain: “boomp-boomp-boomp-boomp-de-
And hearing that music was driving me nuts, because I know I had heard it before, somewhere, but I couldn’t remember when or where or how or who.
It reminded me of Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” from the 1962 movie Hatari!, but the TomTom sample has a completely different feel — definitely not a Mancini work. Yet I had heard it before. It was just so familiar, but dammit, I couldn’t remember the title, composer, or original venue.
Enter that wonderful mental backscratcher, Google. I tried off and on for three days to locate anything informative about the TomTom music, with little success. Choosing the right search terms for Internet searching is after all partly an art, partly a science and partly a crapshoot.
After trying different combinations of search terms like, TomTom, commercial, music, composer, ad, and TV, I finally struck gold with this combination: “tomtom composer tv ad.” The third hit, a Wikipedia entry, provided the salient fact that TomTom’s ad agency had artfully selected and sampled Albert Ketèlbey’s “In a Persian Market” (composed in 1920) for the commercial.
A successful (and well paid) composer of music for silent movies in England, Ketèlbey specialized in impressionistic pieces that created mental images of exotic places. The first few bars of “In a Persian Market,” for example, recall the rhythm of camels loping toward the market, as their drivers urge them on — perfectly suitable for a TV ad promising automobile drivers quick and reliable guidance. It’s a masterful choice of music, if you ask me.
After finding the source of the sample, my next step, of course, was to download an mp3 of the piece to confirm the Wikipedia reference. Of course, it was dead-on, but while I found several renditions of “In a Persian Market,” I have not yet been able to find the exact recording used in the TomTom ad. I swear I have heard it before, possibly as a child, as my father played the few albums of “serious music” he owned.
One of those albums — now since lost — I remember included Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” a piece as evocative as Ketèlbey’s “Persian Market.” Both works got stuck in recesses in my youthful brain. Strangely, I had no problem recalling the title of Khachaturian’s rousing piece, I guess because it’s such a popular accompaniment to all sorts of shenanigans. But “In a Persian Market” is a tad more obscure, I suppose, and its details ended up lodged even deeper in my memory than the “Sabre Dance.”
All it took was a simple 30-second TV ad (and three days of googling) to help knock it loose. (And as I write this sentence, the very TV ad is running in a video window on my desktop!) Mr Ketèlbey would no doubt be amused that his tune endures in a new medium, and dismayed that mushbrains like me would forget who wrote it.
UPDATE (11/24): After listening to a dozen versions of “In a Persian Market” — including one by Spike Jones and His City Slickers — I finally figured out that the commercial samples Terry Snyder and the All Stars’ rendition from a 1959 album entitled “Persuasive Percussion vol. 2,” produced by Enoch Light. I remember seeing it in my dad’s record collection, too. Final confirmation is here. Mystery solved. Thank you, information superhighway.
Now I suppose I need to buy that album, for old times’ sake.