The Lion King is one of Walt Disney’s most successful and well-known franchises, and a great part of the that success comes from the film’s masterful musical score and soundtrack. The music of the Lion King made it a natural for Broadway, and the initial stage musical adaptation of the film in 1997 was so successful that it launched productions all over the world.
To this day, Lion King tickets are among the most sought-after by fans of musical productions. The music of the Lion King is a clever mix of popular show tunes originally recorded by Elton John, an inspiring instrumental soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and the African traditional arrangements of Lebo Morake, a musician from South Africa who is mostly known as Lebo M.
Lebo M: A Musical Career Shaped by Films
Lebo M is a native of Johannesburg and longtime resident of the southwest townships (Soweto). Growing up in an era fueled by apartheid and racial strife, Lebo M developed his musical talents from an early age. In his early teens, he was a nightclub singer enamored with soul artists like Marvin Gaye and the Temptations. His talents were discovered by an American ambassador who encouraged him to attend the prestigious Duke Ellington School in the U.S.
In 1987, Lebo M was tapped to assemble a musical act for the Oscars based around the film Cry Freedom, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Richard Attenborough. He put together a choir that left a substantial impression on the Hollywood players in attendance, including German maestro Hans Zimmer.
Hans Zimmer worked with Lebo M on the score of The Power of One, a 1992 anti-apartheid film. Lebo M would later move from Hollywood to Soweto when Zimmer once again came calling, this time for The Lion King. When Lebo M was working in Hollywood, finding him was not a problem, but Zimmer admits that Soweto was a different story. Lebo M flew back to California and began working on the soundtrack that will one day become a classic.
The Iconic Vocals and African Chants of the Lion King
Lebo M did not only compose and conduct the haunting chorus of The Lion King; he is the first chanting voice heard on the film. Everything fell in place for Zimmer, Lebo M, Elton John, and Tim Rice with regard to the music of The Lion King. The soundtrack rightfully earned Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe awards.
The success of The Lion King soundtrack is not only due to the mixture of orchestral arrangements with African drumming and inspiring chants. Lebo M confesses that the Shakespearean undertones of the story helped him to visualize certain aspects of life in South Africa. When Simba is a mature lion and leader of the pride, Lebo M remembers President Nelson Mandela assuming leadership over South Africa.
The work of Lebo M for The Lion King franchise continued with additional music for the Broadway play, straight-to-DVD sequels and video games. He thinks that The Lion King has played a significant role in getting people acquainted with the beauty of African music.
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Derek enjoys blogging about Broadway musicals and theater. When he is not blogging, he enjoys volunteering at a local highschool and helping them out with their musical. The article above is for broadway theatre tickets.