... But It's No "Yub Nub"
May 22, 2021 10:30 PM   Subscribe

 
The synergy between Zimmer's orchestra and Lebo M's soaring chorals was incredible and probably the single biggest factor in TLK being such a great film, IMHO.

There's a fantastic YouTube channel that tracks whole sequences from the movie to the original score, with no dialogue or sound effects. It's striking to see how closely the music underscores the action. Some favorites: Brave Like You - The Stampede - Kings of the Past - Simba and Rafiki - and of course, that finale.

Speaking of which, revisiting that last clip reminds me of one of the most interesting parts of the musical collaboration that a lot of people miss -- the subtle Zulu/Xhosa vocals woven into the score that actually comments on the film, like a Greek chorus. It's most obvious right at the start, as Lebo M himself leads the choir in singing the introduction to The Circle of Life (translations via lionking.org):
Nants ingonyama bagithi, baba (Behold: a lion king is coming, father)
Sithi uhm ingonyama (Yes, it's a lion)
Siyo nqoba (We are going to overcome)
Ingonyama inengw' enamabala (A lion and leopard gather in the open)
This excellent ScreenRant article unpacks the meaning:
Literally, the line says "a lion is coming, father." But instead of laughing at the seemingly mundane meaning, remember: translating the words isn't the same as translating the idea being communicated. For starters, use Google and you'll learn the Zulu word for a "lion" is ibhubesi, not ingonyama. That's because the more fitting translation would be that "The Lion is coming, father," which is also the word the Zulu use for king. So make that "A King is coming, father."

The "nants" also raises the level of speech to a greater occasion or meaning, something close to "witness," or "behold." Fans can decide for themselves if the voice is metaphorically that of Simba speaking to Mufasa, either outside of the text or unspoken as he later rises to his destiny. It could also be one of the assembled animals speaking to their father as they travel to witness their future king. The response from the chorus is in agreement, so any reading of it works in accompaniment to the opening scene. [...]

"Siyo Nqoba (baba)". The literal meaning here is once again saying that victory, or a "conquering" will be achieved. And while it isn't listed in the official lyrics, it's easy to hear Lebo M. repeat the use of "baba" in between the first and second verses of the song. After he utters this line (including the unmistakable Zulu glottoral "pop") which translate to "we will conquer," it sounds again like the ending of "Nqoba" masks another call out to the singer's father. That makes the calling out to a father the cap on the first line, the second, and even this third one. [...]

Lion, Leopard, in the open. Enemies making a truce, existing without threat - all in response to the future king's arrival. and to those who have seen the movie, a son uniting a people in tribute to his father is the perfect way to open and close the story.
The choir appears again during an elegaic passage as Mufasa explains the Circle of Life to Simba, underscoring the gravity of life and death and the weight of responsibility:
Uzo libusa le lizwe (You will rule this land)
Ili buse kahle (Rule it with care)
Uzo libusa le lizwe, le lizwe, le lizwe (You will rule this land, this land, this land)
After solemnly grieving Mufasa's death (couldn't find a transcript here, unfortunately), they return during the Simba-Rafiki meeting, contrasting his games with sadness:
We sangoma ngi velelwe (O spiritual healer, I'm troubled)
We baba ngivelelwe (O Father, I am in pain)
We baba ngivelelwe (O Father, I am in pain)
And immediately after Simba's decision to return:
Busa le lizwe bo [x3] (Rule this land)
Busa lomhlaba (Rule this world)
Se busa le lizwe [x3] (He rules this land)
Busa lomhlaba (Rule this world)
There's a minor reprise in the shot of Simba racing across the desert, with the added lines Is'khathi sifikile, Is'khathi busa iyo (The time has come, it's time, rule)

It all comes together in the spectacular finale sequence:
Uzo libusa le lizwe (You will rule this land)
Busa, Simba (Rule, Simba)
Uzo libusa le lizwe (You will rule this land)
Ilibuse, Simba (Rule it, Simba)
Ngo xolo, ngo thando (With peace, with love)

Ndabe zitha (King of kings)
Nkosi yethu (Our lord)
Mholi wezwe lethu (Ruler of our land)
Lefatshe la bonata rona (This land of our ancestors)
Lea halalela (It is holy)

Busa le lizwe bo (Rule this land)
Busa le lizwe bo (Rule this land)
Busa le lizwe bo (Rule this land)
Lethu busa ngoxolo (Rule with peace)
Is'khathi sifikile (The time has come)
Is'khathi busa iyo (It's time, rule)
Is'khathi sifikile (The time has come)
Busa lomhlaba (Rule this land)
Is'khathi sifikile (The time has come)
Is'khathi sifikile (The time has come)
Busa Simba (Rule, Simba)
Busa Simba (Rule, Simba)

Ubuse ngo xolo (Rule with peace)
Ubuse ngo thando (Rule with love)
Ubuse ngo xolo (Rule with peace)
Ubuse ngo thando (Rule with love)
Ubuse ngo xolo (Rule with peace)
[Also available as a lyric video]

There's some more celebration in the end credits, including more Busa ngo thando's (Rule with love) and the new lines Vusa amakhosi, vusa amdlozi bo (Wake the ancestors, wake the spirits)

The finale fanfare ends with a reprise of the Circle of Life theme -- and while I could link to some fantastic orchestral version here, why not let Lebo M and his choir joyously close it out with a spur-of-the-moment awards show tour-de-force (including his jubilant pan-African anthem One By One).
posted by Rhaomi at 5:46 AM on May 23 [34 favorites]


This is a fantastic post. Thank you. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the behind-the-scenes elements of filmmaking: for example, in Lincoln, the sound designers tracked down the clock that was in Lincoln’s office during his tenure, got permission from the museum to wind it up, and recorded the sound of it ticking. Such a small element toward an overall production. Such devotion to the heart of the project. I’m enthralled to see that same devotion here.
posted by Silvery Fish at 9:11 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Rhaomi with the alley-oop.
posted by clockwork at 10:14 AM on May 23


Thanks, Rhaomi, for the amazing level of detail and linkage you added. I simply didn't have the knowledge or experience to add that, and the post is all the much better for it.

Just to explain to Mefites, there was some thought behind posting that particular TikTok. I felt that in a good bit of low-key comedy, the TikToker managed to encapsulate, in a lot of different moments that he must've either scripted out or did in improv, the emotional gut reactions one would get when listening to that absolutely amazing ending sequence -- from Zimmer's quiet confidence, the tears that always burst to my eyes at the exact same spot as in the video, or the sort of hope-in-humanity optimism that, again, wells up at the exact same spot in the musical experience.

Good comedy looks easy, but the construction of it, and necessary observation and compression of it into a observable comedy sequence, is hard. That's why I wanted to share that. I'm actually surprised at how much good human creativity and creation is occurring on TikTok nowadays (Kris Collins' amazing characterizations, for example). It's a bit exciting.

Doing a SLTT post felt a bit weak on the ground, though, so I wanted to include the fantastic performance in the Vienna Hall and the on-stage live theater performance, and then round out it with a bit of comedy with the what-the Nala-less 16-bit video game sequence.
posted by metabaroque at 11:26 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Believe it or not, I actually had most of that comment written up years ago for the 2019 remake, but it turned out to be so disappointing that I never bothered finishing it. Your awesome Vienna concert link was exactly the inspiration I needed to finish it -- thanks!
posted by Rhaomi at 6:02 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


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