Waylaid By ('50s-60s) Music Once Again + Solomon Linda and Mbube)

Friday morning on Sirius Radio’s “50s on 5” station:

1. Bobby Marchan, “There Is Something on Your Mind” Lovely operetta.

2. “The Wah-Watusi” by The Orlons. Let’s see you  hold still to this one. The ’50s had a lot of bubblegum pop, but also tons of wonderful singing like this.  Shoo-bop, shoo-bop…

3. “Walk Right In” by the Rooftop Singers. Sit right down, daddy let your mind roll on…

4. And then the “Lion Sleeps Here Tonight” by The Tokens. It’s such an unusual song. I always wondered about it. Beautiful singing, some semi-yodeling, Brooklyn boys in 1961. A little Google-noodling-around and I unearthed a treasure—thrilling to find the original of a great song:

5. Solomon Linda was a South African Zulu musician, singer and composer who wrote (improvised) the song “Mbube” in 1939, which “…became the basis for Mbube style of isicathamiya a cappella popularized later by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.” There’s a great story with this song, involving as well, Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, and the Tokens with their big hit (#4 above).

Linda “…is credited with a number of musical innovations that came to dominate the isicathamiya style. Instead of using one singer per voice part, the Evening Birds used a number of bass singers. He introduced the falsetto main voice which incorporated female vocal texture into male singing. His group was the first known to use striped suits to indicate that they were urban sophisticates. At the same time, their bass singing retained some musical elements that indicated traditional choral music…” (Wikipedia)

Photo: Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds in 1941. From left to right are: Solomon Linda (soprano), Gilbert Madondo (alto), Boy Sibiya (tenor), Gideon Mkhize (bass), Samuel Mlangeni (bass), and Owen Sikhakhane (bass).

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