In 1939, Solomon Linda and The Evening Birds recorded the song “Mbube” for Gallo Records in Johannesburg. Simple 4 part a cappella harmony and an improvised introduction, created one of the most influential and famous African songs. Ultimately Mbube became the name of the entire genre of music. In the 1980’s, Ladysmith Black Mambazo received international acclaim for their singing in the traditional Mbube style. Eventually collaborating with Paul Simon on Graceland. It’s hard to remember but that album had far reaching political consequences by breaking the cultural boycott between South Africa and the rest of the world.
But the influence of Mbube doesn’t stop there. In the mid 1940’s, Ralph Peer played a copy of the original Evening Birds recording for Pete Seeger who took it to his band, the Weavers. In 1948, the Weavers recording of “Wimoweh” and the later reworked cover by the Platters in 1961 took the song to international fame. Miriam Makeba recorded “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, also in the 1960’s. Disney turned it into an ear worm in 1994 and “The Lion King”. I present the buster of all Lion King ear worms and, in it’s own way, one of the most influential pieces of music ever recorded.