Solomon Linda version
They Might Be Giants’ version (my favourite!)
The Tokens’ version
Wikipedia “The Lion Sleeps Tonight“, also known as “Wimba Way” or “Wimoweh” (and originally as “Mbube“), is a song written and recorded by Solomon Linda originally with the Evening Birds (Song by Solomon Linda originally titled just “Mbube”) for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939. Originally composed only in IsiZulu, it was adapted and covered internationally by many 1950s pop and folk revival artists, including The Weavers, Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba, and The Kingston Trio. In 1961, it became a number one hit in the U.S. as adapted in English by the doo-wop group The Tokens. It went on to earn at least US$15 million in royalties from covers and film licensing. In the mid-nineties, it became a pop “supernova” (in the words of South African writer Rian Malan) when licensed toWalt Disney for use in the film The Lion King, its spin-off TV series and live musical, prompting a lawsuit in 2004 on behalf of the impoverished descendants of Solomon Linda.
- “Mbube” (Zulu: lion) was written in the 1920s by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who worked for the Gallo Record Company as a cleaner and record packer, and who performed with a choir, The Evening Birds.
- Linda’s improvised melody was wordless; no English words occur in the recording. Issued by Gallo as a 78 recording in 1939 and marketed to black audiences,”Mbube” became a hit and Linda a star throughout South Africa. By 1948, the song had sold about 100,000 copies in Africa and among black South African immigrants in Great Britain.
- Mbube’s history is clouded by cultural exploitation. The story starts in Eric Gallo’s Johannesburg studio, where migrant Zulu musician Linda and his group, The Evening Birds, were paid ten shillings for their original song. It went on to sell 10,000 copies in the ’40s.
- Despite being ‘lionised’ in South Africa, where he is regarded as the founder of Zulu choral (or Mbube) music, Linda died a pauper in 1962, he and his estate having received almost none of the royalties the song generated (including an estimated $15M alone from its use in Disney’s The Lion King). It was only in 2006, under threat of of legal action, that publishers Abilene Music agreed to a financial settlement with Linda’s heirs.
Hawaiian music proved to be the first ‘world music’ craze after it was introduced to the US public at the San Franscisco-Panama-Pacific expo in 1915. At the Expo, the grass-skirted dancers and Ki ho’alu (slack-key) guitarists set off a craze in the US for all things Hawaiian. While much of this was down to novelty kitsch, the lyrical Hawaiian guitar sound proved hugely influential.
Mexican and Portuguese immigrants had brought guitars and ukeleles to Hawaii, and the indigenous Polynesian populace had returned them, creating the slack-key guitar style. This involved playing the guitar in in open tuning on your lap while sliding a steel instrument across the strings, and was developed in Hawaii in the late 19th century. Slack-key’s resonant sound, especially its ability to suggest a droning, weeping effect, would prove a strong influence on blues (as slide guitar) and, especially, country music (as lap-steel guitar).
Sol Hoopii was the greatest slack-key guitarist of the ’20s and ’30s. He brought in jazz influences and was technically brilliant in his use of chords, harmony and phrasing. The tuning he developed led to the emergence of the pedal-steel guitar that would become omnipresent in country music. The bubbling ‘Hula Girl’ finds Hoopii’s genius at its finest; joyful, jazzy rhythms topped off by the fabulous excursions of his melodic, expansive solos.
- Sol Hoopii was born Solomon Hoʻopiʻi Kaʻaiʻai in 1902 in Honolulu, Hawaii into a large family; his birth making him the 21st child in the family. As was the norm in Hawaiian families, Sol’s family taught him to sing and play instruments by the time he could walk. He was playing the ukulele by age three. By his teenage years the Hawaiian steel guitar had become his instrument of choice.
- At age 17, Sol and two teenage friends stowed away on the ocean liner Matsonia. They were discovered by passengers who were so charmed by their musical performances that the other passengers took up a collection to pay their fares. They landed in San Francisco, played a few club engagements, and eventually made their way to Los Angeles. Sol’s friends returned to Hawaii, and Sol formed a trio with new associates.
- In 1938, Hoʻopiʻi gave up his secular career to join the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, writing and performing songs for her tours.
- He is credited as one of the creators of the electric guitar.
- Author Simon Leng likens George Harrison‘s slide guitar work with the Traveling Wilburys to “a 1990s Sol Hoʻopiʻi” in his 2006 book on the works of the British legend.
Hayley Westenra version
Pokarekare Ana is a traditional New Zealand love song written in Māori, probably communally composed about the time World War I began in 1914. It has been translated into English, and also enjoys some popularity in Australia.
East Coast Māori song-writer Paraire Tomoana, who polished up the song in 1917 and published the words in 1921, wrote that “it emanated from the North of Auckland” and was popularised by Māori soldiers who were training near Auckland before embarking for the war in Europe.
There have been numerous claims and counterclaims regarding authorship over the years. Although the matter has never been definitively settled, guardianship of the words and music are held by the family (descendants) of Paraire Tomoana.
The song is very popular in New Zealand, and has been adapted for multiple purposes, including in advertising and by sporting groups. Notable uses include:
- “Sailing Away“, which promoted New Zealand’s 1987 America’s Cup challenge, and featured an ensemble choir of famous New Zealanders recording as ‘All Of Us’
- It is best known worldwide through Air New Zealand‘s TV advertisements in 2000. This version was performed by Rose Hanify (later of NZ Band Supermodel). In particular, the song became a phenomenon in Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, where the song again became another unofficial anthem, this time for the success of Oceania into the new millennium, specifically during the time of the Olympic Games, and beyond.
- In April 2013, members and spectators in the parliament of New Zealand sang “Pokarekare Ana” after the house passed the bill legalising same-sex marriage in New Zealand.
- In popular culture, “Pokarekare Ana” was used as the theme song for the 2005 South Korean film Crying Fist.
- A version of the song sung by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly is used as the theme to his 2004 Tour of New Zealand and features on both the DVD and CD.
- A homophonous translation into Hebrew was composed in 2007 by Ghil’ad Zuckermann. In this translation the approximate sounds of the Māori words are retained while Hebrew words with similar meanings are used. In this translation, however, “Waiapu” is replaced by “Rotorua” (oto rúakh, Hebrew for “that wind”).