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!

Black History Month: Getting Ready for Black Panther

There’s a lot of things to get hyped up about this February, what with the Winter Olympics, a Tesla Roadster headed off toward Mars, and Mardi Gras celebrations throughout the world, but few things have been as fervently anticipated as the premiere of the newest Marvel superhero film, Black Panther.

There’s so much excellence going into this film that I am incredibly excited to see it.  I can only begin to get a glimmer of how much this must mean to the Black community. On top of a whole cast of POC in featured roles, beautiful cinematography that properly lights all the skin tones of its actors (for the startling history on why this is an issue, start here), and celebrating a vibrant, joyful, enlightened culture in an (albeit fictional) African nation, we get a soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar highlighting established and up-and-coming black hip hop and R&B artists.

In the official trailer, we hear snippets of the famous Gil Scott-Heron 1971 track “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised“, a seminal call to arms to participate, to pay attention, to do thing that needs to be done NOW. In the context of the Black Panther trailer, I hear it as a call-out to all the times media and culture have said to the disenfranchised, ‘not now, we’re not ready for that, let’s take some time to think about this from all sides’. But the BP movie is not waiting any longer. It’s about time Marvel featured a black superhero that was more than a sidekick or side character. It’s about time they weren’t the only one in the film, but existed in a backdrop of their own vibrant, colorful environment.

There are plenty of haters out there, trying childish things to diminish the importance of this kind of representation. But that what isn’t diminished? The fact that the movie is outselling everything in pre-sale tickets, smashing records for opening day weekend before it even starts.

You might say, it’s just a superhero movie- it doesn’t solve the problems of our real world – but you’d be wrong. Representation matters. Seeing yourself represented in media means you start to think of yourself as powerful, important, valued, and most importantly, SEEN. Confidence comes with a voice, and voices speak up. The revolution will not be televised, brother. The revolution will be live.

Do you have your tickets? What about Black Panther excites you the most?