Why, you may well ask should we listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing a song that has been covered millions of times and is so well known that it has worn a groove through Africa the size of the Great Rift Valley. We have a choice of so many versions, including the original by Solomon Linda’s Evening Birds, why should we listen to this one?
Well, what Ladysmith Black Mambazo do with the song is take the original and bring a cleaner sound to it, using the advantage of more modern technology for their recordings of it. They also know how to produce the beautiful harmonies that Solomon Linda’s crew did.
They approach the song in a slightly different way though, seeing more of the lullaby side to it. They bring in the help of a woman (not sure who) who narrates a childs story over the gentle tones of the Mambazos and she adds the modern ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ lyric to the original ‘Mbube’. The result is a thing of delicate beauty. While there are a lot of the versions out there and most of them take a Tarzan swinging through the jungle approach with over the top falsetto vocals, it is nice to occasionally soften the tone and enjoy the song crowded around the cot, watching the youngster drift off to sleep.
Also worth checking out is the version where Ladysmith Black Mambazo team up with British group The Mint Juleps (see video link below)
Where to find it
Gift Of The Tortoise -Ladysmith Balck Mambazo (1994), Gallo, CDGMP
Ladysmith Balck Mambazo
With the Mint Juleps: