Lebo M.

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Lebo M
Birth nameLebohang Morake
Born (1964-07-11) 11 July 1964 (age 58)
Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation(s)Producer, composer, arranger, performer
Years active1994–present
LabelsTill Dawn Entertainment

Lebohang Morake (born 11 July 1964),[1] known as Lebo M, is a South African producer and composer, known for his songwriting and vocal work on the soundtracks to films such as The Lion King, The Power of One and Outbreak and numerous stage productions. He was recommended to Disney by Hans Zimmer, the composer of both adaptations of The Lion King, and formed and conducted the African choir that sang for the films.

Early life[edit]

Lebohang Morake was born on 11 July 1964 in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. With no formal training in music,[2] he left school at the age of nine to perform music in night clubs.[3] Morake recorded his first single, "Celebration", when he was 13 years old, receiving only $20 for recording the record.[4] 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.[3][5]


Early career[edit]

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.[5] In Maseru, due to the apartheid system, he was under exile.[4][5] At 15, he was working as a singer in the Victoria Hotel in Lesotho when Lesotho's Ambassador to the United States Tim Thahane noticed him and appreciated his musical abilities.[4] 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.[3][6] Morake lived at first in New York, again playing in restaurants and bars, and was supported by Black churches to attend music school.[5] Morake moved to Los Angeles when he was 18 to pursue a music career.[6]

Start in Hollywood[edit]

In Los Angeles, he struggled to make ends meet, working odd jobs to survive while studying at Los Angeles City College.[2][5] He performed sometimes at Memory Lane, a nightclub owned by Marla Gibbs.[4] 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 multiple Academy Awards, including one for Best Original Song.[3] 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.[5] Rosenthal was the music supervisor on the film The Power of One, and through him, Morake met the film's composer, Hans Zimmer.[2] 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.[4] Morake used his knowledge of African rhythms to compose the soundtracks to other films, such as Congo (1995), Outbreak (1995), and Born to be Wild (1995).[5] He decided to return to South Africa in the early 1990s, after the end of apartheid.[2]

The Lion King[edit]

Morake wrote and sang the opening Zulu chant at the beginning of Disney's The Lion King,[7] for which he was sought by Zimmer.[6] 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.

The duo composed so much music that Disney approved of an additional soundtrack album, Rhythm of the Pride Lands, containing extra compositions.[3] The Lion King's original soundtrack, with the compositions that had made the cut for the theatrical release, earned the two composers a Grammy Award, and Zimmer won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.[3] Morake also helped score The Lion King's stage musical, creating new music and adding pieces from Rhythm of the Pride Lands.[4] The musical was nominated for Best Original Score at the 52nd Tony Awards in 1998.[8]

He founded the Lebo M Foundation and Till Dawn Entertainment.

On 23 July 2019, Morake performed 'Circle of Life' and 'He Lives in You' at the opening ceremony of the 24th World Scout Jamboree.

Personal life[edit]

Morake was married to Viveca Gipson for 5 years. He divorced her and married Nandi Ndlovu and they were together for 11 years. He then divorced Ndlovu and married Angela Ngani-Casara for five years, from 2008 to 2013.[9][10] Morake became engaged to Zoe Mthiyane but their relationship ended in 2016. He remarried his third wife, Angela, but they divorced again in 2017.[11][12][13] He lives with his family in Johannesburg and Los Angeles.[11] His daughter Refi is also a singer who often performs by his side.[14] April 2021 Lebo got engaged to current partner Pretty Samuels.


Lebo Morake has composed, arranged, performed and produced music for the following films:



  1. ^ "Works written by: MORAKE LEBOHANG". ACE Title Search. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d Pegg, Cameron (7 December 2018). "A strong voice, loud and proud". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Barnett, Errol (16 January 2013). "Roaring success of 'Lion King' musician". CNN. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Shawnee (22 August 1998). "Lebo M Draws On Sounds Of Africa". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 32, 86. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Allison, Simon (12 July 2019). "Lebo M on the Lion King, and his own circle of life". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "'Lion King' Stage Score A Departure For Broadway". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 14 February 1998. p. 67. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  7. ^ "Lebo M circles his Lion King life". The Mail & Guardian. 12 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  8. ^ "List of 1998 Tony Award Winners". Playbill. 14 December 1998. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  9. ^ "'The M stands for marriage' - SA reacts to news Lebo M could wed for 5th time". SowetanLIVE. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Lebo M To Wed Again?". ZAlebs. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  11. ^ a b "LEBO M TO WALK DOWN THE ISLE AGAIN!". DailySun. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  12. ^ Carter, Logan (7 June 2020). "Lebo M Has Broken Up With His Fourth Girlfriend". South Africa's Rich and Famous. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Lebo M reportedly set to wed AGAIN". All4Women. 14 October 2019. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Hollywood in Vienna".

External links[edit]