Creating The Music For ‘Black Panther’: Music Composer Ludwig Göransson Dishes On The Sounds Of Wakanda

Black Panther’s February 16th release date is just around the corner and fans are already clamoring for tickets to see the Marvel film, which is already positioned to break records. The film, which takes place in the fictitious world of Wakanda, has inspired fans all over the internet. 

The film’s soundtrack has already arrived, featuring Kendrick Lamar and various TDE artists, but the music you’ll hear most in the film comes from composer Ludwig Göransson. 

ESSENCE spoke to Göransson, who has worked with director Ryan Coogler on Fruitvale Station and Creed as well as Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! The composer dished on traveling to Senegal, working with African artists, and collaborating with Kendrick Lamar. 

Here’s what we learned about the making of the music for Black Panther

Göransson spent a month in Senegal doing research for the film, meeting up with artists like Baaba Maal and touring small villages. “The first thing I did after reading the script was… I went on a one-month research trip to Africa. A friend of mine put me in contact with the artist Baaba Maal. He invited us to come with him on his tour and it was about a week of touring different small villages between Senegal and Mauritania,” he says.

It was important for the composer to work with African artists and create a score that perfectly reflected Wakanda’s African influence. “It was really important for me to go to Africa, have African musicians play on the score, and really try to customize a music soundtrack for the movie where you feel like you don’t lose the African feel of the music,” he says. “It was very challenging because as soon as you put a Western classical orchestra on top of traditional African music, it doesn’t feel African anymore.”

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) both have different and specific musical sounds. “For T’Challa I had the talking drum as his sound. For Killmonger I met this amazing flute player that plays a fula flute,” Göransson explains. “When he started playing, he started screaming and kind of talking to his flute and it kind of made me a little uneasy. So I was like, this is going to be perfect for Killmonger as the villain. I told the flute player about his character and about where he comes from and what his intentions are and after that I just let the flute player play and he just started screaming Killmonger’s name in the flute. It was kind of a religious experience.”

Göransson also got the opportunity to do a quick collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, who worked on the soundtrack for the film. “There’s a really cool moment in the middle of the movie where we kind of got to do something really different and I can’t really talk about it. It was basically a collaboration of me, Ryan, Kendrick, and Soundwave and being on the phone and texting each other and just constantly talking about how to do this particular scene, what were we aiming for what were we trying to do, and then we kind of just went into the studio one day and came up with something that was just… they did really well,” he says.