Let me first start by saying how impressed I am with the time and effort that not only went into making this film but the effort that Ludwig Göransson, the composer of the original score, put into making the soundtrack. He did not want to make an average movie soundtrack, he wanted to make something that meant just as much as the movie. Göransson wanted the music to be real, and he succeeded.
In preparation, Göransson spent over two weeks in Senegal, accompanying Baaba Maal, a Senegalese singer, and guitarist, on his tour. Maal and several other Senegalese musicians were used for the soundtrack, giving a feeling of authenticity that just screams Africa. He uses real African instruments like the talking drum (a small drum that is carried on the shoulder that) and the Fula flute, allowing Göransson to create a sad but aggressive sound that can be heard in many of the movie’s tension building moments. Göransson also uses sabar drums, the kora (an African harp), and the vuvuzela (an African horn) to give the challenge scenes more color.
Returning, Göransson augmented the music of a western classical orchestra and 40-person choir with the sounds he had gathered from Senegal and the International Library of African Music in Grahamstown, where he gathered more music and sounds from thousands of African tribes, giving echoes to the layers of rhythms. He even had the choir sing in Xhosa, a South African language. By weaving the two together, he created an anthemic film score that translated into a language that coincided with the events of the movie but kept the authenticity of the African culture the movie reflected.
At an individual level, each track possesses the authentic sound that Göransson sought to capture when he was in Africa with a modern twist, both from the western orchestra and the occasional synthesized rhythms. In my opinion, this gives the entire track a sound that comes from both the past and the future, traditional and modern, much like Wakanda is in the film, and no track does this better than track eight’s “Killmonger”.
Without giving away too much of the movie, Killmonger is a character that, while Wakandan, comes from the west. In a nutshell, he is from two different worlds, a modernized America and a traditional, albeit futuristic, Wakanda. Just like the character it is named for, the track takes classic African music and builds it up into an electronic and bass driven rhythm that is present in a lot of today’s hip-hop. This creates a mirror that reflects the inner workings of the Killmonger and reflects it into the music.
Furthermore, tracks ten and eleven, “Casino Brawl” and “Busan Car Chase” respectively, possess that iconic slow build into a more energetic pattern, matching up with the scenes mounting action scene. However, unlike the usual fill that the Marvel cinematic universe possesses, this final build ends with animated tribal-like music. This rift is also present within several of the fight scenes between T’Challa and his various challengers, further showcasing the finite integration of western and African music Göransson has achieved.
However, despite the uniqueness of the track’s fusion of two different genres, the track does get repetitive at times. The tribal drumming is used on almost every track and the electric base-like rhythm from track eight is also present in tracks twelve, fifteen, nineteen, and twenty-two. Not only that, but “Killmonger’s Dream” is almost the same as “Ancestral Plane” aside from a couple of different notes and rhythms in the beginning. Though this can be overlooked as this is a common occurrence within movie soundtracks.
All in all, Ludwig Göransson’s score for Black Panther is a true masterpiece. Hearing the music of Africa and western styled music blend together so cleanly was, and still is, an incredible experience. Coupled with such a revolutionary movie like Black Panther, Göransson’s music inspires a new appreciation for African culture and music and for that, I give Göransson nothing but my deepest respect.