A Lion's Trail
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It will take anyone in the world no more than a few bars to recognise this song: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, also sung as "Wimoweh”.
The melody has been covered at least two hundred times by artists as diverse as James Last, Henri Salvador, Brian Eno, Chet Atkins, REM and Salif Keita, and has generated many millions of dollars in revenues. It recently featured on the soundtrack of Disney’s The Lion King, and has hit number one in various guises and various languages many times over the past four decades. Everyone in the world knows it - yet few are aware that it was actually written by an illiterate Zulu shepherd boy who barely saw a cent.
A LION’S TRAIL takes us on a humorous and enlightening journey through the international music industry, tracing the fate of the most famous melody ever to come from Africa: "Mbube”, which evolved first into "Wimoweh” and then into "The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. The film tells how a song written by a rural South African became not only world famous but also the subject of exploitation, criminal deals, tribal magic and massive legal disputes. Music, history and larger-than-life characters merge as a film crew goes in search of one more stolen African dream...
The man who added the ten English words to the song ("In the jungle...”) - and thereby obtained copyright to it - is now the multimillionaire president of the American Songwriters Association... and yet the descendants of songwriter Solomon Linda are still living in one of the poorest parts of Soweto, outside Johannesburg. How did this happen? Why is an aged South African lawyer sending obviously faked royalty sheets from ASCAP to the Linda Estate? Who was "A. Stanton”, the name that mysteriously appears in the songwriting credits after 1961? Why does Linda’s daughters claim that their father was murdered by witchdoctors hired by his rivals? There is much that is unclear.
A historical and musical journey will combine with an investigative one, in which we follow the route followed by the song many years before. Archival material and beautifully filmed footage of new environments and musical performances will combine with hard-edged footage shot on mini-DV - here, led by humorous voiceover, we travel Nick Broomfield-style along a series of bittersweet meetings with memorable characters and blocked doors, culminating in a final confrontation with the truth in New York.
A tale of magic, greed and deceit...and of the power of music to transcend barriers.