Song Spotlight: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Song spotlight for The Lion Sleeps Tonight


    • Mood: Calm, relaxed
    • Themes: Animals
    • Tempo: Slow, relaxed
    • Genre/Style: Doo-Wop, 1960s Popular song

What do you think of the nighttime sounds where you live? Especially in warmer weather, we can hear sounds of all sorts of wild night time critters, while some are fast asleep. In this song spotlight, we will explore the music of composer Solomon Linda and origins of his song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Scroll down to find ways to enjoy and experience this song on your own or with others.

Solomon Linda was born in Natal, located in South Africa. He learned traditional wedding music and had an early education filled with lessons on Western music culture and hymns, and participation in choir contests.

Linda later moved to Johannesburg, doing a variety of jobs while singing in a choir called, “The Evening Birds.” After the disbanding of his original group, he gathered a new group of singers which he also named “The Evening Birds.” This revived group evolved from playing small wedding performances to participating in choir contests. They were known as a, “cool urban act who wore pinstripe suits and bowler hats.”

After Linda started a job as a record packer, “The Evening Birds” were discovered by a talent scout. In 1939, while recording other songs in the studio, Solomon Linda improvised the song “Mbube”(Lion), which we now know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The original version was recorded in the Zulu language. It was a major success for Linda and The Evening Birds, selling over 100,000 copies in South Africa by 1949.

The lyrics for the English version were written by George Weiss. The song was adapted and covered by many artists, including the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, and The Tokens. The Tokens recorded the song in the American doo-wop style in 1961 and it hit number one on the music charts. In 1994, the song was brought to pop culture again when it was featured in the Disney Film “The Lion King.”

Here are some of the English lyrics:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

The lion sleeps tonight

In the jungle the quiet jungle

The lion sleeps tonight

Near the village the peaceful village

The lion sleeps tonight

Near the village the quiet village

The lion sleeps tonight

Try This:

This is a great song to use within a group and would go well with a collection of songs about animals. It can be used as a transition into reminiscence, an opportunity for musical engagement, movement and more.

Theme – Animals – This song would fit well into an animal theme. Other complementary songs may include “How Much is That Doggy,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Hound Dog.”

Encourage the group to reminisce by sharing their favorite memories of animals and pets. 

Discuss what other large animals are found in Africa, like the lion, and around the world. Have group participants share what their favorite animal is. Discuss what makes a peaceful evening where you are.

Musical Engagement: divide the group into two, have one half sings, “A-weema-weh” while the other sings the verses of the song. 

Add percussion: bring drums or percussion instruments to play along with the song.

Movement: You can do rhythmic movement to this song and, for additional flare, add scarves.

What is your favorite animal song? Please leave your comments below!


Leave a Comment