The loss of Chadwick Boseman was felt by creatives working on both sides of the camera including Ludwig Göransson, the Oscar-winning Black Panther composer tasked with bringing Disney and Marvel’s sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, to life musically following Boseman’s tragic death.
“It was a very difficult project because of what happened,” Göransson said during a virtual panel conversation at Deadline’s Sound & Screen awards-season event. “Obviously in the first movie, so many themes and so many sounds are tied to Chad and to T’Challa. So how do we go back in doing a sequel when he’s not in it? Can I use the themes? Can I use the sounds? Everything has so much meaning to it. So it was very important heading into the [sequel], whenever we use any of the sounds from the theme from the first [movie] they are really thought out and that we put attention into the detail because of all the emotions that it would bring. It really had to feel right.”
An important element of the sequel was to honor Boseman’s life, and it does so by cementing his legacy as T’Challa both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and what he means to people all over the world. It’s a task Göransson calls a “labor of love.”
Wakanda Forever also sets up the future of the MCU featuring new characters like Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and the Talokans, which have origins tied to the Mayan culture, of which not much remains historically. It was important to Göransson that he be as authentic as possible, so he enlisted help of professionals who had some of the pieces of the Mayan puzzle the movie desperately needed.
“Mayan music and the culture was forcibly erased, so we don’t know exactly what that music sounded like,” Göransson said. “The first thing I did when thinking how we can reimagine this sound and this music was to contact some musical archeologists in Mexico City. I went down there and started working with these experts who showed me instruments that were found in graves, like sea shells and turtle shells, clay flutes, a lot of them sound like sounds from nature. There were different kinds of whistles, a flute called the death whistle and one called the flute of truth. These were all part of the Talokan sound and they became integral to Namor. What’s interesting is like with the seashell, it’s very limited on range and the melody you can play, but the timbre resembles a horn.”
With all of these experiences, it might be difficult to pick one he’s most proud of, but Göransson knew instantly.
“We recorded on four continents with over 40 artists who were able to create a unique sound and an immersive experience with both songs I wrote with the artists and the score—I did both hand-in-hand,” he said. “So there are elements of the score in the songs and vice versa. Even though it’s four different continents and the amount of artists from all over the world, you still feel like we got together and created something unique that binds it all together. Just how we all came together on that was very special.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.