1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Archive for the tag “Mbube”

Mbube – Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds

Mbube - Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds

Mbube – Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds

‘Yo-la-la-li-li’ So begins one of the most intriguing stories about a song in history. Working as a record packer for Gallo records, Solomon Linda and his Evening Bird’s were discovered and sent in to the studio in 1939. Back then Ladysmith Black Mambazo were a long way off being invented so Linda improvised the song ‘Mbube’ in the studio using mostly the rich voices of the group and produced a song about a lion (“mbube”) which single handedly invented the mbube style of isicathamiya singing that the aforementioned Ladysmith Black Mambazo have made so popular globally in more recent times.

‘Mbube’, which had sold over 100,000 copies in South Africa by 1949, was picked up by an American musicologist, Alan Lomax, who played it to folk singer Pete Seeger who recorded it as ‘Wimoweh’ a mishearing of ‘uyembube’. The Weavers picked up on this and had some success with it. Then The Tokens added some slumbering Panthera Leos (to give them their scientific name) and hit the top of the US charts with it. There have subsequently been many covers of the song, included the UK number 1 by Tight Fit in 1982 which featured our very own Richard Jon Smith on backing vocals. It was included in the soundtrack to the successful Disney film (and subsequent stage musical) ‘The Lion King’ and was subject to a lawsuit where Linda’s descendents were eventually granted a settlement for royalties due.

All this tends to distract from listening to the original song and it is sometimes good to go back to the roots of the track, ignore the westerner’s idea of what an African track should sound like and indulge in the pure beauty of the real African voices that sparked off this phenomenon. There are harmonies in there and a simple joy at doing what you love best in the voices that few modern songs (or versions of ‘Mbube’) could ever hope to achieve.

Where to find it:
The Story Of Solomon Linda – Various Artists, Gallo Records (2001), CDGSP9
From Marabi To Disco – Various Artists, Gallo Records (1994), CDZAC61


Mbube – The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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:

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: