Black Panther

Music Composed By: Ludwig Göransson

Distributed by: Marvel Music and Hollywood Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Based on the Marvel Comics character, Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa, a young man of the Wakanda nation who returns to Wakanda after the death of his father, King T’Chaka.  Expecting to take his rightful place as king of the technologically advanced, isolated African nation, thus becoming the next Black Panther, T’Challa is challenged by an old enemy.  Drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of his nation and the rest of the world at risk, T’Challa must rally his allies together and release the full power of the Black Panther to defeat his challengers and secure the safety of his people.

                The musical score of Black Panther was created by Swedish musician, composer, arranger, songwriter and producer Ludwig Goransson.  Performing on stage under the name Ludovin, Ludwig Göransson, he has written a number of songs for well-known artists and produced albums for Childish Gambino, Haim and Chance the Rapper.  As a songwriter and composer, Black Panther is actually the third collaboration for Göransson and director Ryan Coogler, having created songs and musical score for Creed and musical score for Fruitvale Station.  Other composing credits include 30 Minutes or Less, We're the Millers (with Theodore Shapiro), Stretch, Top Five, Central Intelligence (with Theodore Shapiro), Death Wish, Community, Happy Endings, New Girl and more.

                As soon as I began listening to the Black Panther Soundtrack, I began to smile.  I knew I would like this score.  When you listen to most superhero soundtracks, they contain a great deal of fanfare – brass plays a major role in most superhero scores.  But immediately, you could sense the difference in this score.  Instead of that expected superhero fanfare, the composer opted to focus on the roots and culture of the character and his homeland.  According to Ludwig Göransson, “After reading Ryan’s first draft of the script, I quickly realized that the only way I could properly score ‘Black Panther’ was to travel to Africa to record, research and learn from as many musicians I could find. I was introduced to Senegal’s most incredible musicians and storytellers, and from there it all started to come together.  One of the instruments that especially caught my attention was the talking drum, which together with West African sabar drums and ceremonial rhythms, became the foundation for the score.”

                Göransson used a 132-piece western orchestra with African percussionists and a 40-person choir.  The African instrumentation was used to speak to character themes.  According to the composer, the talking drum was used for T'Challa's main theme, with one hit on the drum per each syllable of his name.  For the Killmonger theme, the name was sung and screamed into a fula flute to express the character’s ferocity.  Sabar drums, used in traditional African wrestling, were employed in fight scenes as well as to propel the story and highlight the movements of Wakanda as a country and T’challa. 

                What an amazing soundtrack!  Words will inadequately express what I felt while listening to the Black Panther score, but I will do my best.  The score is long – twenty-eight tracks in lengths combining for over an hour’s worth of music, but what a listen!  The music is incredibly moving.  I love an ethnically centered score with exotic instruments and sound and the score Ludwig Göransson created for Black Panther certainly delivers in this aspect.  From the first track, Wakanda Origins, you can hear the African influence of the exotic strings, percussion and vocals.  Brass still has a place here – hey, it IS a superhero film after all, but the main focus of the score is the character’s African roots and the heavy and varying percussion sounds make for quite an enjoyable and adrenaline pumping score.  The exotic horns and flutes vary from forbidding to downright spine-tingling accents.  The choir just adds to the drama of each sequence.  Believe it or not, I found myself actually dancing along with some of these tracks, so affecting is this score.  For just a small preview, I suggest you check out the last track on the album, United Nations End Titles, which features a montage of each of the major compositions on the Black Panther Soundtrack.

                I am so glad I was invited to review the Black Panther Soundtrack.  The entire score is incredibly dramatic and moving thanks to the attention to the character’s ethnic roots.  Every single track on this album, even one’s that are of a softer tone, is simply beautiful.  I couldn’t have asked for a better score.  Ludwig Göransson has outdone himself with this one.  Definitely worth the listen and the purchase!


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