south african musician

So for some reason, I started singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight and I realised I don’t really know who originally wrote it. Turns out, it was written in 1939 as Mdube by Solomon Linda in Zulu and performed by The Evening Birds.

He was completely ripped off by The Weavers and other western musicians because they thought his music was “simply tribal”. That’s not all.

Like, what the fuck? He wrote one of the most iconic songs of all time and died in poverty. This wasn’t the 1800s. Black artists are still disenfranchised because of western ignorance and institutionalised racism.

Since it’s black history month, I thought I’d share this.

Listen to the original song, it’s brilliant.

Solomon Linda, a South African musician, wrote “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1939. In 1961, Brooklyn band the Tokens recorded the song, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” went on to reach the top of the charts (and eventually The Lion King).  

In 2000, Rolling Stone wrote a history of the song aptly titled, “In the Jungle: How American music legends made millions off the work of a Zulu tribesman who died a pauper.” The original African lyrics were warped into gibberish because none of the American singers could understand the words; American audiences wanted an exotic song without any of the political trappings. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is a perfect example of how not to culturally appropriate music.

11 songs that prove cultural appropriation has been a part of music for decades