Black History Month: African Inspiration

Well, did you see it? Did you catch Black Panther on opening weekend?

I saw it on Saturday and I was blown away. By everything- the plot and the rich, human characters, the costumes, the scenery, the fights, the MUSIC, the message of hope and redemption. It was so tasty. I will see it again!

Last week I introduced you to Kendrick Lamar’s commercial soundtrack album for the film. Going in, I was really curious as to how the film score would draw from African sources. I knew the costumes were taken from various cultures, but I hadn’t heard much about the scoring.  Enter Ludwig Göransson, a Swedish composer who has worked with BP director Ryan Coogler before, as well as co-produced Childish Gambino albums with Donald Glover. He spent a month in Africa, soaking up as much as he could.

He tells Variety:

“I came back with a totally different idea of music, a different knowledge. The music that I discovered was so unique and special. [The challenge was] how do I use that as the foundation of the entire score, but with an orchestra and modern production techniques — infuse it in a way that it doesn’t lose its African authenticity?”

The result was a repertoire of leitmotifs and sounds from the music of Senegal that infuse the film with deeper, intrinsic meaning.

For T’Challa, Göransson used 6 talking drums (“tamas”- held under the arm and squeezed while hit to breathe and change tone) to signify the young king’s character and journey. His challengers for the throne matched the intensity with the sabar, a drum played between the legs.

You’ll also hear choirs singing in Xhosa, a Bantu language of South Africa, as well as the Senegalese artist Babaa Maal featured as Wakanda is revealed in the film.

The main antagonist of the film, Erik Killmonger, was represented musically by the fula flute, which Göransson describes as ‘sad but also aggressive, energetic and impulsive.’

Other instruments used include the kora harp and the vuvuzuela (which you’ll remember as the buzzing noisemaker we heard at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa).

Did you catch any other African-inspired sounds in Black Panther? How did you feel the film blended all its source material into the final product? Tell me in the comments!

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