Ludwig Goransson interview: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ composer

Even if “Black Panther” composer Ludwig Goransson had wanted to rest on his Oscar-winning laurels when returning for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” it wasn’t a possibility. The blockbuster sequel not only introduces a new world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the undersea kingdom Talokan but also reckons with and responds to the real-world death of star Chadwick Boseman, who died in the summer of 2020.

So Goransson – who traveled to numerous countries during his work on “Wakanda Forever” and spent thousands of hours on the score and songs – wasted little time in letting audiences know up front that the new film would pay tribute to what came before but forge its own path with his music. “The first track of the movie is obviously like a callback to the first movie,” Goransson tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video.

The opening scene, a memorial for T’Challa, the character Boseman memorably played in the Marvel franchise, features the citizens of Wakanda mourning their leader, and even includes an appearance from Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, who played a huge part as a vocalist in the first film. “It’s instantly a sound you’re familiar with,” Goransson says of the vocals and instruments that were integral to the original score, like the talking drum. Those orchestrations helped Goransson’s score make an immediate connection with T’Challa and Boseman.

“It was very important to have that conversation to see really where we can put those sounds in [from the original film],” Goransson says. “The funeral procession was a great place where we could honor that sound.”

Goransson worked on the music for “Wakanda Forever” for months, not just the film’s complex score, but the songs that appear in the film and on the soundtrack. It was, in his words, an attempt to create an “immersive sound-music experience” with director Ryan Coogler. Something where viewers “can’t tell the difference between what is song and what is score – everything flows together in a seamless thread.” Goransson produced, wrote, and co-wrote numerous songs for the film alongside artists from Mexico and Nigeria.

“When we wrote the songs, we used elements from the score. And when we wrote the score, I used elements from the songs, so everything is just kind of embellished and threaded in a way where you don’t really feel a difference.”

That technique is apparent in “Lift Me Up,” the emotional song by Rihanna that closes out the film. The track, pegged as an early awards contender, includes a melody that is heard earlier in the movie. “You’ve heard that theme throughout the movie already four times, in very crucial spots,” Goransson says. “So when you finally hear the full song, you already have a connection to it from the movie.”

Goransson and Coogler have worked together for years, and the shorthand they share is evident in the finished film – and even its marketing materials. After filming wrapped, Goransson and Coogler flew to Lagos in Nigeria to do more research for the score and soundtrack. On the flight, the pair discussed what music the “Wakanda Forever” trailer might include. After toying with various tracks from the 1990s, Goransson says, Coogler eventually suggested “No Woman No Cry.”

“That’s genius. That’s such a great message,” Goransson recalls thinking. When they landed, Goransson immediately recorded a cover of the song with Nigerian singer Tems. “She just nailed that performance effortlessly and it was incredible,” he says.

Coogler then suggested that “No Woman No Cry” might pair well with Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” particularly on the song’s famous bridge, “Everything’s going to be alright.”

“He was like, ‘Is there any way you could mash those songs up?’ And I was like, ‘of course,’” Goransson says. “I went back to my room and mashed it up and we sent it off to the trailer house.” The result was one of the most-watched trailers of all time.

“The trust we have with each other [is special],” Goransson says of Coogler. “I trust him and he trusts me. … it’s such an organic process. It’s very special and unique.”

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UPLOADED Dec 2, 2022 11:30 am