While a lot of people are talking about the original music that Kendrick Lamar did for Black Panther, the score composer is not what people would expect from a movie like this. He’s a Swedish composer named Ludwig Goransson, and he talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the music and the extensive amount of research that he did.
“I was incredibly excited as it was a dream of mine to score a superhero movie,” Goransson said. “I also felt incredible pressure to pay homage to African culture and its traditional music. It’s not lost on me that I’m a Swedish guy from one of the coldest countries in the world.”
In the lead up to the movie, Goransson spent months going over tribal music and learning everything that he could, very much aware that he was at a disadvantage. He praised the tribes of Africa for their music and maintaining tradition over centuries.
“African tribes have different music for hundreds of different ceremonies created over 700 years ago. These specific rhythms have survived due to bloodline traditions. They have individuals known as Griots, which means storyteller,” he said. “It’s a profession that you’re born into… a family of musicians. Which gives the music so much more meaning.”
Goransson is in a unique position with director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan because this is the third time the three of them have worked together. It led to a level of trust between the director and the composer that you don’t get very often.
“Having a great relationship with Ryan means I’m able to start on the film’s score very early. I went to West Africa and South Africa before they started shooting, just to do research,” he said. “When I came up with Killmonger’s theme, I hired a great fula player to record it. I was able to send all those recordings to Michael B., which helped him prepare for the role,” he said.
There were rumors a few months ago that the first cut of Black Panther was four hours long. First cuts are always long, but Goransson had enough material that he actually scored the entire four-hour cut.
“I remember the first director’s cut was four hours long, but I already had a lot of material written and recorded. So, I actually scored the four-hour cut of the film. Which is really great.”
Can we start lobbying for a four-hour cut of Black Panther instead of the Snyder Cut of Justice League? Goransson went on to talk about the themes of the movie coming through in the music, such Killmonger’s theme making an appearance when he isn’t on screen.
“When I read the dialogue between T’Challa and his father, it was so emotional to me. I wanted to bring that out in the instrumentation. A tiny piece of that theme can be heard in Killmonger’s theme. It’s all related in a way, just as they are related by blood,” said the composer.
Goransson is unsure how much of the sounds of Wakanda will make it into the Avengers: Infinity War score, but he hopes they make it in. He would also like to work on more superhero movies in the future.
“I would love to do more superhero work, as a young film composer that is one of the things you dream of… superhero themes really resonate with audiences. I don’t know what Alan [Silvestri] is doing musically with the Black Panther and Wakanda sequences in Infinity War, but I hope the character has a big presence in the movie and they use his theme,” he said.
Jordan and Coogler are working together again for a movie called Wrong Answer, so maybe Goransson will join them on that project as well.
Summary: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
Black Panther, directed Ryan Coogler, stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Martin Freeman. It’s out now.