It has been 25 years since the smash-hit animated film The Lion King first graced our screens and video collections. In the story, the protagonist, Simba spends many of his formative years in a foreign land after he is forced to flee his home. While exiled, he is fortunate to find new friends who provide a nurturing environment, and a songbook full of life lessons. And eventually, the young lion returns home to claim his glory in the triumph.
The story of The Lion King offers a remarkable parallel to the real-life experience of Lebohang Morake – known in showbiz as Lebo M – whose musical work on The Lion King films and stage productions are as revered and beloved as the story itself.
Lebo was born in Soweto in 1964 but, much like Simba, found himself far from his home and family in his teens. The young performer relocated to Lesotho in the late 70s, where a chance discovery by a United States ambassador opened a door to a future that few would have predicted. Given the opportunity to start again in a new country, Lebo committed fully to his ambitions in music.
Lebo and his friend Vernon Molefe both took and passed the Duke Ellington School of Music admission examination in Washington, DC, arranged by ambassador Tim Thahane. The duo spent three years honing their craft at the music school before moving to the New Metropolitan School of Arts in New York.
A subsequent move to Los Angeles in 1983 brought on some tough times. Lebo was reduced