NSO Pops to perform Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ live in concert at Kennedy Center

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Black Panther: In Concert' (Part 1)

The Kennedy Center invites you to cross arms and proclaim, “Wakanda forever!”

The NSO Pops will perform “Black Panther: In Concert” on Saturday in the D.C. premiere of a show that premiered last month at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A.

“You get to experience the soundtrack of the film in a way that you never have before,” Conductor Steven Reineke told WTOP. “We’ve got this 90-piece orchestra sitting on stage and above us is a huge video screen. We’re watching the movie where the soundtrack has essentially been taken out and we’re providing that live, synchronized to the whole movie.”

In fact, Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson won the Oscar for his original score.

“He’s worked with Ryan Coogler, the director, on all of Coogler’s projects,” Reineke said. “Göransson decided he needed to take a trip to Africa and he did. He spent a lot of time in Senegal and Southern Africa and met some incredible African musicians that he toured around with and learned a lot about the culture, history and ethnic instruments of Africa.”

What sort of African instruments will we hear?

“You’re going to hear a lot of ethnic drumming, in particular a very special instrument called the talking drum,” Reineke said. “There are some African flutes and African singing as well. It just captures the whole essence of Wakanda so beautifully.”

You’ll also see an appearance from talking-drum master Massamba Diop.

“We’re really excited,” Reineke said. “He played on the original recording of ‘Black Panther.’ He plays the talking drum, which is a really unique instrument. … It’s really communicative. It sounds like it can make inflections, like when we talk, our voices go up and down. … That became the key to represent Chadwick Boseman’s character T’Challa.”

Indeed, you’ll see a great performance by the late Boseman, as well as Michael B. Jordan as villain Killmonger, Letitia Wright as scientist Shuri and Danai Gurira as warrior Okoye.

“I love the way the women are portrayed in this; they’re such badasses,” Reineke said. “The racial and social reckoning this country continues to go through. This movie came out in 2018 and think about what this country went through in 2020. … That’s why we love ‘Black Panther,’ because you see these characters of African descent that are strong.”

Don’t worry, you’ll still hear Kendrick Lamar’s songs like “All the Stars.”

“Kendrick’s music is obviously still intact and still a part of the movie, but [we play] all the orchestral stuff,” Reineke said. “It’s almost wall to wall music for the orchestra to play. This one is a little more complex in that I will have an earpiece in my ear, listening to something called a click track that will help us synchronize everything with the movie.”

The film concert runs 154 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

“It was the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards,” Reineke said. “This is the first Marvel movie ever to be done live with an orchestra. There’s so many great movies in the Marvel universe that I hope there’s more to come.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Black Panther: In Concert' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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