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This is the journey of an enchanting African doo-wop song ‘The lion sleeps tonight’ and it’s singer.
The original title of the song was “Mbube,” (pronounced EEM-boo-beh) which means “Lion”. It was sung with a haunting Zulu refrain that sounded, to English-speaking people, like “wimoweh.”
“Mbube” was written in the 1920s by Solomon Linda ( Linda was his tribe’s name), a South African singer of Zulu origin. He worked for the Gallo Record Company as a cleaner and record packer, performed with a choir, The Evening Birds.
“Mbube” was a big hit in what is now Swaziland, sold nearly 100,000 copies in the 1940s.
Linda had written the song based on a boyhood experience chasing lions that were stalking the family’s cattle.
He recorded the tune in 1939 with his choir, the Evening Birds. It was so popular that Zulu choral music became known as “Mbube Music”.
For his performance of “Mbube”, Solomon Linda was paid a fee very small fee. Gallo Records of South Africa reaped all the royalties of the record sales in South Africa and Great Britain. Unaware of the implications, Linda sold the rights to Gallo Record Company for 10 shillings (less than $US 2) soon after the recording was made.
Despite the popularity and wide use of the song, Linda died impoverished during 1962 of renal failure. It was not until 18 years later that a tombstone was constructed at his gravesite.
Then, in the mid-nineties, the song popular as ‘The lion sleeps tonight’ became a pop “supernova” (in the words of South African writer Rian Malan) when licensed to Walt Disney for use in the film The Lion King, its spin-off TV series and live musical. The song earned $15 million for its use in the movie The Lion King alone.
With the support of many activists including the writer Rian Milan a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the impoverished descendants of Solomon Linda, to get back the right s for the song . By the British laws then in effect ( in the time Linda sold the rights) , those rights should have reverted to Linda’s heirs 25 years after his death during 1962.
After an arduous battle, the ownership of “Mbube” reverted to Linda’s heirs 25 years after his death, in 2006.

The original song ‘Mbube’ by Solomon Linda sung in 1939

Current version sung by Ladysmith Black Mumbazo

Lyrics:

The lion sleeps tonight.

Lala kahle[Sleep well]
In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight

(Chorus)
Imbube
Fcuk
Ingonyama ilele[The lion sleeps]
Thula[Hush]

Near the village, the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight
Near the village, the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight

(Chorus)

Ingonyama ilele(The lion sleeps)
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/l/lion_king/the_lion_sleeps_tonight.html ]
Hush my baby, don’t fear my darling
The lion sleeps tonight
Hush my baby, don’t fear my darling
The lion sleeps tonight

He, ha helelemama[He, ha helelemama]
Ohi’mbube[lion]

(Chorus)

Ixesha lifikile[Time has come]
Lala[Sleep]
Lala kahle[Sleep well]

Near the village, the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight
Near the village, the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight

(Chorus)

My little darling
Don’t fear my little darling
My little darling
Don’t fear my little darling

Ingonyama ilele[The lion sleeps]
(Repeat to fade)

SOURCE: http://www.weeklybugle.com/music/mbube.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mbube_(genre)

Comments on: "Mbube~~Music Without Borders" (2)

  1. Oh My God what a beautiful story, how do you know these things? That this song, comes from the Zulu tribe, amazing.

  2. Rian Malan’s article on it is incredible. A music journalist that South Africans can be proud of. If it wasn’t for Malan’s investigation it would be unlikely that anyone would be aware of the copyright infringements that ‘In the Jungle’ broke, and of the estimated $15 million in royalties that Linda lost out on.

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