“Music is a part of life,” reveals “Black Panther” composer Ludwig Goransson in our exclusive webcam interview (watch the video above). “In our tradition you play music to perform,” he explains. “In Africa you play music as part of life. It’s tradition, it’s rituals, you play music to embody what you’re going through in life.”
Goransson once again teamed up with director Ryan Coogler on this ambitious project, having worked with the helmer on “Fruitvale Station” and both “Creed.” The composer was eager to bring something new to the superhero genre, by focusing on a predominantly West African musical aesthetic with instruments not often heard in mainstream blockbuster movies.
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“We wanted the sound of the movie to be based off of traditional African music and also African music from the pre-colonisation era,” Goransson adds. “We wanted rhythms and sounds that did not have any influences from Europe. That was always our intention for those sounds to be the center of the story and the center of the score. The big challenge was how to I weave in the cinematic sound of an orchestra, how do I use the orchestra in a way so it can support the African music.”
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A key element of the score is the percussive cue that punctuates scenes featuring leading man Chadwick Boseman, who plays T’Challah, otherwise known as the titular Black Panther. Goransson spent time in Senegal when developing the score, where he immersed himself with local musicians to develop some of the pivotal sounds and tracks that feature throughout the film. He says, “Something that always interested me was the talking drum, which is a drum that you put under your shoulder and you squeeze the drum when you play it so it is almost like it has a breath, so it is almost like a voice and you can play different rhythms, like Morse code or to send messages and say words,” he explains.
While collaborating with Senegalese musicians, or storytellers as they are known locally, Goransson took to how the instrument effectively felt like it was able to enunciate words, themes or names within the story. “How would it sound if you played T’Challah? How would you say T’Challah on the talking drum” he says, explaining how he came up with the memorable recurring breath-like drum beats that follow T’Challah throughout the story. “That sound was so powerful and regal in a way and it became the sound of T’Challah.”
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