On Saturday, September 11, 2021, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will present Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther Live in Concert” featuring a screening of the complete film with the musical score performed live to the film. The concert will be led by conductor Thomas Wilkins with Baaba Maal as a special guest.
When Marvel Studios’ Black Panther was released in 2018, it quickly became a huge blockbuster success, cultural phenomenon, and global sensation. The driver of the film’s intensity was the original score by the Swedish composer Goransson Ludwig, which blended the traditional African music and the classic orchestra sound into African music. The African artist who contributed to the score, have all played an instrumental role in leading to the success of the project. The talking drums, the Fulani Traditional Flute, and the melodious voice of Baaba Maal have all helped in capturing the highly sensational aspects of the movie.
In a long interview published by deadline.com, the composer and Academy Award winner, Goransson Ludwig went into lengthy detail about his collaboration with Baaba Maal in the score of the Black Panther movie. Ludwig discusses the first call he made to Baaba Maal, their meeting in the heart of Fuuta Tooro in the middle of the night, hundreds of miles away from the Senegalese capital, and finally the recording of the intro of Black Panther.
“I was drawn to West Africa. I did listen to a bunch of different styles of African music, and there was something about the percussion and the drums of West Africa, and the energy, that felt so cinematic to me. I really thought that would be a cool sound to have in the movie.” Goransson confessed in the interview. So, I bought a ticket to Senegal, and a week before my flight, I got a number [for] Baaba Maal one of Africa’s biggest artists. So, I called him the week before, and I didn’t know what I was going to say. But I asked him if he had time to record, or just meet up, and he’s like, “Okay, I’m going on tour in a week. You should just come and follow me around.”
Baaba Maal invited him and his wife to come on this African tour, they flew straight to the Senegalese capital, Dakar. Baaba Maal had left before they arrive, for his hometown Podor, in the north, where he organizes a festival called Blues du Fleuve (Blues of the River). At the airport, one of Baaba Maal’s assistants picked them up and take them to a place two hours drive outside Dakar to sleep for the night. The next day, with Baaba Maal’s assistant, and a retired police chief, they started a long road trip that took them to the heartland of Fuuta Tooro, northern Senegal. They got to their final destination around two in the morning, but the town was not sleeping. When they arrived at the house the assistant pointed them to the room where Baaba Maal was sitting and told them to enter and meet him. When they walk into the room, they saw Baaba Maal sitting in the corner, surrounded by family members, friends, women, and men from his hometown, all enjoying being in company with the local artist and world superstar. The whole atmosphere was in the mood of festivity, and Ludwig was dazzled by the beauty of their African traditional clothing, the welcoming nature, and the legendary hospitality that fuuta Tooro is famed for was in full display.
By inviting Ludwig Goransson to his hometown Podor, rather than meeting him in Dakar, Baaba Maal certainly, wanted to give him the opportunity to experience the African culture and Fulbe traditions of his terroir. The millennia tradition of sharing food and eating with hands by the Fuutanke did not escape Goransson’s attention: “Baaba Maal invites us to sit down and eat food with him. We all eat from the same plate; it’s like goat and rice. We all eat with our hands, and it’s the best food I’ve ever had.” He told the deadline interviewer.
It was about 3 AM when Baaba asked his guests to get ready to leave for the concert, which was taking place just five minutes drive from his house. When they arrived, they see that the whole town was there waiting, and people were pouring into the town from other towns and villages in the surrounding areas, some even from distant localities of St. Louis and Matam regions, to participate in this Musical event.
Maal started his own music festival, Blues du Fleuve (Blues of the River), in Fuuta, in December 2005 to draw attention to the culture of this region. “Even the people who live in Dakar sometimes don’t know the country very well,” says Maal. “It’s to open a window for people to discover where I come from and see all the opportunities in this part of Senegal.” Said the lead vocal of Daande Leñol.
The Blues du Fleuve festival is unique in its kind in this region by the number of celebrity artists and internationally renowned musicians who participate in the event. The 2017 edition was played by all Mumford and Sons band members, with whom Baaba Maal collaborated in several projects running over a decade.
“Baaba Maal finally comes out and starts singing solo with a piano”, Ludwig relates, “just one note on the piano, and he starts singing. The energy in the whole town is crazy. It’s so super quiet, and Baaba Maal steps out, and it’s kind of like a religious experience, like a sermon.”
I was like, “I can definitely tell I’m at the right place at the right time right now. If I can capture this moment and this feeling that Baaba Maal is contributing to right now for the movie, I’d be so happy.”
Capturing that feeling for the Black Panther movie soundtrack is, indeed, what Ludwig did with Baaba Maal’s melodious voice. On his last day in Senegal, Goransson was able to record Baaba Maal singing for the inro of Black Panther.
“I put Baaba Maal on FaceTime with Ryan, and Ryan told Baaba Maal about the story of the movie. Five minutes later, we went into the studio. I went in and played the piano chord, and Baaba Maal started singing this beautiful melody. The lyrics are in Fulani because Baaba Maal is from the Fulbe ethnic group. He was singing about an elephant that had died, an elephant being like a synonym for a king, and “It’s time for someone to take over. But you shouldn’t do it too fast.” That became the opening for flying into Wakanda.”