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Mbube – Wimoweh – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

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La storia della canzone che sta facendo impazzire tutti, ripescata grazie alla pubblicità orami tutti la conoscono come la canzone dell'"Ippopotamo e del Leone" ma in realtà da dove arriva, chi l'ha scritta, e chi la canta?


The song known as "Wimoweh" (and later as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") was written by Zulu singer and entertainer Solomon Linda, who recorded it with his vocal group, the Evening Birds, in a studio in South Africa in 1939. Linda titled the song "Mbube," which is Zulu for "The Lion." The lyrics translate something like "Lion! Ha! You're a lion?," and grew out of an incident in the groups' boyhood when they used to chase lions that were stalking their fathers' cattle.

By 1948, the song had sold in the neighbourhood of 100,000 copies in South Africa. (It became so popular that Zulu choral music became known collectively as "Mbube Music.") "Mbube" then made its way to the U.S. in a package of ten 78s, sent to the Decca company by a local South African recording company with the hope that Decca might be interested in releasing some of the recordings in the U.S. Decca wasn't interested, and was about to trash the package when it was rescued by Alan Lomax who brought the recordings to his friend Pete Seeger.

Seeger liked "Mbube," especially its soaring falsetto part, and started transcribing it. The Zulus were chanting "uyimbube, uyimbube," but Pete thought it sounded like "awimbooee," or "awimoweh" and that's how he wrote it down. He taught "Wimoweh" to his group, the Weavers, who recorded it on a 45-rpm single b/w "Old Paint" for Decca in 1952. The song was later featured on the immensely popular 1957 Vanguard LP, "The Weavers at Carnegie Hall," which propelled it into the Folk Revival. (The Weavers credited the song to "Paul Campbell," which was a pseudonym for the group.)

The Kingston Trio included "Wimoweh" on their 1959 LP, "From the Hungry!" LP, and their label credits read, "Trad., adapt. & arr./Campbell-Linda."

In 1961, the song was nº1 USA recorded by the Tokens under the title "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," with English lyrics by George Weiss. (The credits for this version went to Weiss and the two producers of the recording, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore.)

Later, the song took flight over America, where it mutated into a truly immortal pop epiphany that soared to the top of the charts here and then everywhere, again and again, returning every decade or so under different names and guises. Navajo Indians sing it at powwows. Japanese teenagers know it as TK. It has been recorded by artists as diverse as R.E.M. and Brian Eno, the Nylons and schlockmeister Bert Kaempfert. The New Zealand army band turned it into a march. England's 1966 World Cup soccer squad turned it into a joke. A very good version of the original song “Mbube” was recorded by the African singer Miriam Makeba. Hollywood put it in Ace Ventura Pet Detective. It has logged nearly three centuries of continuous radio air play in the U.S. alone. It is the most famous melody ever to emerge from Africa, a tune that has penetrated so deep into the human consciousness over so many generations that one can truly say, here is a song the whole world knows.
 

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