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How African music influenced Black Panther

The ostensible reason for the buzz is the fact of a major black superhero on the big screen. It is a bit of novelty, as besides 1997’s Spawn, 1998’s Blade and Hancock from 2008, not too many black superheros have graced the big screen as main protagonist.

But music from the continent might be another reason for African viewers to root for the movie. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Ludwig Göransson, the man responsible for creating the film’s music, revealed that he spent some time in Africa, interacting with music and musicians from the continent.

“I took a month off and traveled to Senegal,” he said. “I got connected with this artist Baaba Maal and traveled around with him while he was on tour. After, I was able to get into a studio and just record amazing musicians for weeks.”

This collaboration could be seen as tying in with Baaba Maal’s statement at the ACCES conference organised by Music in Africa last year. « It’s time for what we share with the world to be developed here, » the Senegalese veteran declared. « The main foundations of music must above all meet the standards of exchange and sharing that can only flow through travel.”

During his travels within the continent, Göransson became fascinated with the talking drum, the West African instrument that the Swede describes as “the first type of communication device. It’s a drum you put under your arm on one side of your body and you can press down your arm under the drum and essentially pitch it, so it’s like a voice.”

Göransson also visited the International Library of African Music in South Africa where he “spent a lot of time listening to…recordings and discovering”. He then returned to the US with his research: “The challenge,” he told Pitchfork, “was incorporating these things and making them still feel African.”

When Black Panther opens across the continent in a couple of days, African watchers will decide if Göransson overcame that particular challenge.

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