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Lebohang "Lebo M" Morake (born 11 July 1964) is a South African producer and composer. He arranged and performed music for The Lion King films and stage productions. He was recommended to Disney by Hans Zimmer, the score composer of both adaptations of The Lion King, and was later hired to form and conduct the African choir that sang for the films. His voice is the first voice heard at the beginning of the film, singing a chant over the opening sequence, which is often considered synonymous with the film's image in popular culture. He also contributed to the sequel to the film's soundtrack, Rhythm of the Pride Lands, and the film's direct-to-video sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
|Birth name||Lebohang Morake|
|Born||11 July 1964|
Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa
|Occupation(s)||Producer, composer, arranger, performer|
|Labels||Till Dawn Entertainment|
|Associated acts||Jimmy Cliff, Hans Zimmer, Mark Mancina, Alan Silvestri|
Lebohang Morake was born on 11 July, 1964 in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. With no formal training in music, he left school at the age of nine to perform music in night clubs. Morake recorded his first single, "Celebration", when he was 12 years old, receiving only $20 for recording the record. When he was 13 years old, Morake became the youngest performer to sing at the nightclub Club Pelican, when he filled in for a backup singer who could not attend.
In 1979, Morake sought to broaden his horizons, so he left by bus for Maseru, Lesotho after hearing that a new club was going to be opening there. in Maseru, due to the apartheid, Morake was under exile. At 15, he was working as a singer in the Victoria Hotel in Lesotho, when United States ambassador Tim Thahane noticed him and appreciated his musical abilities. Thahane helped Morake apply to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, coordinating with the TransAfrica organization to send the singer to the United States to study. After studying at Duke Ellington, Morake moved to Los Angeles when he was 18 to pursue a music career.
In Los Angeles, Morake struggled to make ends meet, working odd jobs to survive while studying at Los Angeles City College. He performed sometimes at Memory Lane, a nightclub owned by Maria Gibbs. Morake was asked to help find a choir for the Oscars, so that they could perform music from 1987's Cry Freedom, a film about South Africa that was nominated for an Academy Award. He made further strides in his music career when by chance, he ran into childhood friend Solly Letwaba, who was the bassist for Johnny Clegg. Letwaba introduced Morake to Clegg's producer, Hilton Rosenthal, who employed Morake as an intern and gofer for his production studio. Rosenthal was the music supervisor on the film The Power of One, and through him, Morake met the film's composer, Hans Zimmer. After being asked about some ideas for the film's soundtrack, Morake ended up co-writing and co-producing the music for The Power of One with Zimmer, helping to arrange the choruses. Morake ended up using his knowledge of African rhythms to compose the soundtracks to other films, such as Congo (1995), Outbreak (1995), and Born to be Wild (1995). He decided to return to South Africa in the early 1990s, after the end of the apartheid.
When Zimmer was chosen by Disney to compose the music for their film The Lion King, he specifically wanted to collaborate with Morake. The duo composed so much music that Disney approved of an additional soundtrack album, Rhythm of the Pride Lands, containing the extra compositions. The final original soundtrack, with the compositions that made the cut, earned the two composers a Grammy Award, and Zimmer won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Morake also helped score The Lion King stage musical, creating new music and adding pieces from Rhythm of the Pride Lands. The musical was nominated for Best Original Score at the 52nd Tony Awards in 1998.
Morake lives with his family in Johannesburg and Los Angeles. He founded the Lebo M Foundation and Till Dawn Entertainment.
Lebo Morake has composed, arranged, performed and produced music for the following films:
- The Lion King (soundtrack)
- The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
- The Lion King 1½
- The Lion King (musical) - singer at One by One
- The Power of One
- Disney's Animal Kingdom: The First Adventure
- Tears of the Sun
- Back on the Block
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire
- Listen Up: The Life of Quincy Jones
- Born to Be Wild
- Long Night's Journey Into Day
- The Lion King (2019 adaptation)
- How Wonderful We Are (1995)
- Rhythm of the Pride Lands (1995)
- Walt Disney Records Presents: Return to Pride Rock: Songs Inspired by Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998)
- Lebo M Presents: Open Summahhh Open Happiness (2009)
- "Works written by: MORAKE LEBOHANG". ACE Title Search. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
- Pegg, Cameron (2018-12-07). "A strong voice, loud and proud". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- Barnett, Errol (2013-01-16). "Roaring success of 'Lion King' musician". CNN. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- Smith, Shawnee (22 August 1998). "Lebo M Draws On Sounds Of Africa". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 32, 86. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- Allison, Simon (2019-07-12). "Lebo M on the Lion King, and his own circle of life". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "'Lion King' Stage Score A Departure For Broadway". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 14 February 1998. p. 67. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "List of 1998 Tony Award Winners". Playbill. 1998-12-14. Retrieved 2019-07-14.