Make way for the Lion King
A few years ago, I was asked to emcee and DJ a wedding for a very nice couple named the Green's. The wedding was set in the rolling hills of the Napa wine country at a beautiful winery. When I had met the bride & groom to be at a consultation, they had inquired about a mic with backup music for the ceremony for they had a very "special" singer to perform a very untraditional wedding march. Being to hundreds of weddings, I was giddy to say the least. A "special" singer? Who could it be? A pop star maybe? A celebrity known by all?
Well, turns out the gentleman who was to sing was named Lebo M. As I went deep into my memory banks trying to fit a pop song with this name, nothing was coming up. Was Lebo M. the name of a group, or an individual? What genre did he/she or they sing? I was at a loss. I had to ask the couple who Lebo M. was and what was his claim to fame.
Turns out, Lebo M. to all of us Disney fans, is the guy who does the opening Zulu chant in the song " Circle of Life " written and produced for the 1994 smash hit Disney movie "The Lion King". That's right, that chant. I can hear all of you now singing that famous movie song at the top of your lungs (just like I do).
Composed by Elton John with lyrics by Tim Rice, it was sung by Carmen Twillie (female vocals). It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 1994 together with two other songs from The Lion King: "Can you feel the love tonight " and " Hakuna Matata ". " Can You Feel the Love Tonight " won the award. "Circle of Life" reached #11 in the UK and #18 in the US.
The opening chant is sung in Zulu by Lebo M. and translates as: "Here comes a lion, Father / Oh yes, it's a lion / Here comes a lion, Father / Oh yes, it's a lion / A lion we're going to conquer / A lion a lion and a leopard come to this open place. Pop lyrics? No, but powerful with incredible impact, yes.
I was beyond excited to hear Lebo M. the day of the wedding as I knew the lyrics to that famous song would echo with remarkable feeling in that small courtyard outdoor setting. Anticipation grew from the crowd as most if not all of the guests knew what was to come. As I expected, Mr. M. was flawless. His voice crystal clear belting out the Zulu chant as only he could. I stood in awe as this amazing talent that most of us only knew from the beginning of a cartoon movie set the mood of a wedding that I will never forget.
I had a chance to meet Lebo M. later that night and started asking him all sorts of questions. I think he figured out right away that I was a true fan and also a major league Disney fan.
Here's what you might not know about the amazing song and how it actually came to life. According to Lebo M. Disney flew him to London to work with Elton John directly. After meeting Elton, the two collaborated for about a half hour twisting lyrics, music and chant around and around like a spin cycle washer. In about the same time it takes a load to wash, the song had been created. Sure, it was in need of studio work but for the most part, Sir Elton John & my now good friend Lebo M. had produced it in one half hour. Can you believe that?
How were the Green's so lucky in securing Mr. M for their wedding? Believe it or not, a chance meeting at a bar was all it took. Lebo actually volunteered for the gig and as the story goes, the bride & groom were Disney fans. By a chance meeting one of the most memorable weddings that I have ever seen or been a part of was created.
Call it luck, call it fate or call it faith, trust & pixie dust, I will never forget meeting Lebo M. nor will I ever forget the amazing song "Circle of Life". One of my many fond memories of being a DJ.