Ludwig Göransson has some big shoes to fill – his own. The Swedish film composer won an Academy Award for his work on the 2018 superhero film Black Panther. Four years later, Göransson returned for the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This time, part of his assignment was to write music to introduce a brand-new character to the series, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the leader of an underwater Mayan kingdom known as Talokan.
It was a challenge for Göransson since the first idea he had to create music for Namor was to base it on the character’s Mayan culture. The problem was, however, there was no way to know what Mayan music sounded like. “I quickly realized that music is gone,” Göransson told Fandom. “It was forcibly erased. We don’t know exactly how it sounded.”
Instead, Göransson decided to travel to Mexico City where Huerta is originally from. While there, he worked with music archaeologists, who are experts in the field of Mayan music and instruments. “They’ve been doing a lot of research in trying to reimagine what that Mayan music would have sounded like and recorded a bunch of different instruments,” he said.
Some of those instruments, Göransson said, included “seashells, tortoise shells that you hit on with sticks … [and] different types of shakers that sound like snakes or birds flying.” Göransson also described a type of clay flute that was referred to as a “Death Whistle” because of the “incredible scream” it produces.
“I’ve never heard [that sound] before,” he said. “It’s so powerful that you can’t really be in the same room as someone playing it, but that fit in immediately. It made me think of Namor going into battle and when he’s doing some of his powerful action moves. So, this whole world started to be kind of reimagined. It was such a unique sound to me, and I was so excited to have that very different and unique sound for Talokan and for Namor in contrast to the sound we had for Wakanda.”