“Black Panther” was an international cultural phenomenon and the Marvel movie’s Oscar-winning score, by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson, was equally thrilling for its unique blend of African influences, traditional orchestra and modern production techniques.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 10 – 12), that music will be performed live-to-picture by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Senegalese singer Baaba Maal and an ensemble of African drummers at the Hollywood Bowl.
The experience will be “an emotional rollercoaster,” Göransson concedes, especially considering last year’s death of star Chadwick Boseman, who is on screen much of the time as T’Challa, the Wakandan monarch who doubles as the superhero Black Panther.
Göransson had been urging Disney and Marvel to undertake this for some time, and when the Philharmonic agreed several months ago, “I was thrilled,” he says. “What was most important to me was that we get the right players to play this. We have the best orchestra in the world, now let’s get the African musicians who played on the score.”
And they did. Baaba Maal — whose voice is heard at critical moments in the score, notably the introduction to Wakanda — has flown in from Senegal. Massamba Diop, the tama (talking drum) master, will perform; and Magatte Saw will lead a group of six sabar drummers in the score. All played on the original recording and, says Göransson, “seeing the energy between them and the orchestra is going to be magical.”
There is approximately two hours of music in the 134-minute film, so the musicians on stage will be playing most of the time. Choral elements of the score, and the music-production portions, will be played from the original tracks, while the orchestra and soloists will be performing live under the baton of Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Göransson, who will be in the audience during the weekend performances, says the film “was such a big part of my life, not just my music or my career. I was so committed, personally and musically, that I grew into another stage of my life. So going back to that now, revisiting that, is going to be heavy.”
The composer, a longtime collaborator with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler (dating back to their student days at the University of Southern California), spent a month in West Africa researching music for the film. He accompanied Maal on tour, recorded his vocal performances in Senegal, and learned about the various styles of African drumming that he incorporated into the score (the rest of which was recorded in London).
Maal last performed at the Bowl in 2010.
The orchestra is also expected to play the end-title song “All the Stars,” which earned a best-song Oscar nomination for performers Kendrick Lamar and SZA and co-writers Sounwave and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith.
Göransson, who is currently finishing his score for the Disney-Pixar film “Turning Red,” says he will be composing the score for “Black Panther II: Wakanda Forever,” which Coogler has begun shooting. “I’m starting conceptual ideas and having conversations with Ryan,” he says.
As for the original “Black Panther,” the composer says he hasn’t seen the film “since last year’s tragic passing of Chadwick. So it’s going to be an emotional time.”
For tickets and information, head to the Hollywood Bowl website.