27 March 2006

Monday's mp3: Justice Is Only a Wimoweh

A long saga of cultural expropriation and copyright confusion is finally resolved. And the family of the man who wrote one of the best known African melodies will finally receive compensation.

The story is everywhere this week (even the New York Times got into the act), but it's too late for Solomon Linda. Born in 1909, Linda recorded the song "Mbube" (also know as "Wimoweh" or "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") in 1939.

The song has been recorded at least 150 times, and featured in at least 13 movies. But Linda had signed over the copyright to the song in 1952, receiving received 10 shillings — worth less than a dollar. Linda died in 1962 virtually broke. A paltry stream of royalties trickled to Linda's family, but the new agreement should, the family's lawyers say, keep them "quite comfortable."

More history of the song here, including how Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger got involved with it.

Today's mp3 features a version of the song about as far as imaginable from the original. The singer is Yma Sumac, the five-octave queen of exotica.

[mp3] Yma Sumac: "Wimoweh"
from The Ultimate Yma Sumac Collection

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