Celebrating the legacy of Solomon Popoli Linda

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As we celebrate Heritage Day, this year’s National Heritage commemoration pays tribute to the 60th anniversary of the passing of singer and songwriter Solomon Popoli Linda.

He is best known as the composer of the song “Mbube” which later became the popular music success “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and gave its name to the Mbube style of isicathamiya a capella music.

Heritage month 2022 will focus on South Africa’s indigenous music with a spotlight on isicathamiya music and its immense contribution.

Solomon Linda is credited with influencing what is now known as Iscathamiya.

According to fellow music legend, Babsy Mlangeni, iscathamiya was once named after Linda’s song, Mbube also known as A Lion Sleeps Tonight.

The song rose to prominence in 1939 introducing a special kind of acapella music to the world.

It reportedly went on to sell more than 100 000 copies in South Africa by 1949.

Mlangeni believes Linda made a huge contribution to the African music scene.

“Later years, it was called ‘Ngoma Busuku’ because it was performed late at night. Later it became chothoza mfana until it was called schathamiya as far as I’m concerned, I think Solomon Linda came up with a trend”, says musician Babsy Mlangeni.

Solomon Linda was born Solomon Ntsele, in 1909 near Pomeroy, in Msinga, Ladysmith. He later dropped the surname and used his clan name, Linda.

The music composer of the world-famous song allegedly sold the rights to a record company for 10 shillings (R35).

Mlangeni says this was common at the time due to a lack of information.

“Many musicians across the world have gotten down to that song. Unfortunately, it’s one of those African songs that when you pick up you don’t think there’s credit to be given somewhere. You, the writer, are unknown and you can do as you please with it, and that is what happened to Mkhulu Linda”, says musician Blondie Makhene.

Music icon Sipho Hotstix Mabuse says Linda is responsible for composing the most popular song in the world.

“Solomon Linda’s legacy is having created one the most iconic songs ensuring music is sustained beyond the South African shores. I think it’s as critical to celebrate him and say thank you for keeping our music alive.’

Mabuse says groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo became a catalyst in keeping Linda’s music.