There are many aspects of Black Panther that make the movie unique. Not only does it feature Marvel's first African superhero, but it's also the first Marvel film to contain original music on the soundtrack. Thanks to Kendrick Lamar, the carefully curated tie-in album has hip hop tracks inspired by Ryan Coogler's project, sung by SZA, Schoolboy Q, The Weeknd, and Lamar himself (among others).
These songs are beautifully weaved into the film, complementing the instrumental score of Ludwig Göransson, who collaborated with Coogler on Fruitvale Station and Creed. Göransson's compositions were drawn from traditional African music, which the composer says he's never worked with before, in a new featurette by the digital media company known as Genius.
"During this experience, I really became a better musician myself and became a better composer, just through doing this project," remarks the 33-year-old Swedish songster of his first superhero assignment.
To accurately write music for the movie, Göransson decided he was going to Africa to do research after reading the script. However, Africa is such a big continent, with every country and tribe having different musical sensibilities, that the task was daunting. Luckily, he got in touch with a Grammy-nominated artist from Senegal, Baaba Maal, and the two began a collaboration while Maal was on tour.
One instrument that caught Göransson's fancy right away was a ceremonial instrument called a Talking Drum, which can mimic tones of human speech. He utilized this in T'Challa's theme, making the drum belt out of the three syllables of the newly crowned king's name. By adding horns, everything became instantly more regal-sounding.
"People have been waiting for this movie forever," states Göransson. "This is culturally something that's never been done before. When I went to Baaba Maal's concert, as soon as he started singing, it was just like waking up from a coma or something. And I really was trying to recreate that moment with this piece of music. Music is from Africa, and I could never have done this score without going there and spending time with the griot, listening to their stories, and their rhythms that they've been passing on from generation to generation. I just can't wait to go back, because there's so much more to study and learn."