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African Chant

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"Whaaaaaat's on the menuuuuuu? It could beeeeeee ceviiiiiiiiiche. Iiiiiiit's stinkyyyyyyy. Oooooooh it's Pumbaaaaaaa ..."
Timon, making up the possible lyrics for The Lion King (1994) opening, The Lion King 1 ˝

The unknown depths of the jungle are shown. The film cuts to a quieter scene, the Jungle Drums beat, and some random African chant comes from the music. While sometimes the chant may be real, most of the time it's just random phrases of Swahili or Zulu in order for it to mean something. The go-to-guy for genuine African chants is Lebo M.

Compare Ominous Latin Chanting and One-Woman Wail. May appear during a "Lion King" Lift.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King:
    • The original:
      • The famous opening sunrise is possibly the Trope Maker for more modern examples. It does sound better than most other examples listed, as it was written in an authentic mix of Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, and Sotho.
        Nants' ingonyama bagaithi baba!
        Sithi hum, ingonyama!
        Siyo nqoba!
        Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
        Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
        Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
        Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
        Sitho kwaa
      • Rafiki's chant while taunting Simba — Asante sana, squash banana, we we nugu mi mi hapana — is also a real Swahili phrase. It means, "Thank you very much, [mister] squashed banana! You are a baboon, and I am not!"
    • The trope is lampshaded in the P.O.V. Sequel The Lion King 1 ˝, as quoted above.
  • "Courtship" and its Dark Reprise, "Breakout/It Comes With a Pool", from Dinosaur.
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: As the zoo animals arrive to the watering hole and meet various members of their own species, the wild animals are partying to an African chant. The animals perform another chant in the third act as they are about to sacrifice Melman in a volcano.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Trope Namer is from the U.S. version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which had a game called "African Chant". It involved Wayne Brady singing to an audience member in the style of an African Chant, but the real comedy comes from the three other comedians singing and dancing in the background. When Brady was told the name of the game, "African Chant", he (understandably) did not react too well, initially pretending to walk away before sitting again.
    Wayne Brady: Hey, how come I gotta do the African Chant?
    Drew Carey: Because Colin would screw it up.
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV series has this on occasion, with lyrics in authentic Setswana.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Sally Cruikshank produced a series of animated inserts for the series involving counting up to a certain number, with the highest being 19 and the lowest being 13 (according to Muppet Wiki, there is no animation for 20).
    • Another animated Sesame Street skit involving counting to a certain number had number emerge out of seashells while a chant sounding like "Bading-a-ding bada-bading-a-ding" can be heard in the background.
    • Two alphabet songs from the same show are even sung to African tribal music.
  • "Mystery Animal" from Zoboomafoo (sung over an animation where a cartoon blob is shown morphing into the animal featured in the episode).
  • Reasonably enough, the opening and closing episodes of Roots (1977) had African songs, mostly sung by Maya Angelou (who also appeared as the elder Nyo Boto in the first episode).
  • In the Top Gear (UK) two-part Africa special, the customary theme from The A-Team was punched up with African chanting.

  • "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" has a horribly convoluted history, but it was originally a Zulu folk song titled "Mbube."
  • Peter Gabriel takes this and makes it his favorite instrument, often using contributions from actual Africans. For instance, "Biko" opens and closes with samples of protest chants from the titular activist's funeral, while "In Your Eyes" features Wolof-language guest vocals from Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour.
  • The Christian song Siyahamba, often translated in English as "We are Marching in the light of God".
  • Shakira's "Waka Waka". Justified, as it was the main theme for The World Cup in Africa, and the song's subtitle is even (This Time for Africa).
  • Zulu chanting pervades Paul Simon's Graceland, mainly "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes", "You Can Call Me Al", and "Homeless", which consists almost entirely of this. Justified in that Ladysmith Black Mambazo — one of South Africa's greatest musical groups — contributed to the album.
  • Lionel Richie gives us All Night Long.
  • The Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town" uses an African-sounding chant over the chorus.
  • The Afro-Celt Sound System blends this with traditional Irish song, mixed with electronic sounds and a variety of dance rhythms. (Guest vocals by Sinead O'Connor on that track.)
  • Typical for the Afrobeat genre too. Musicians like Fela Kuti and Babatunde Olatunji, best known for Drums of Passion, make frequent use of background singers to accompany their epic jams.
  • Eskimo by The Residents. Except instead of African Chanting, it's (fake) Inuk chanting.
  • African-sounding vocals pervade singer/songwriter Erutan's 2013 single, "Across the Sunlands".
  • Johnny Clegg's "Asimbonanga" (with a number of Zulu lyrics) is sometimes used in media to this effect, to say nothing of its covers and remixes by non-South African musicians.

  • Show Boat: The Dahomey dancers in the 1893 World's Fair sequence frighten off white visitors with their frenzied chanting and barbaric manners, then reveal it's a load of Big Applesauce — "our home just ain't Dahomey at all" but New York.
  • Parodied in The Book of Mormon, where the phrase being chanted by the Ugandans in their first song, "Hasa Diga Eebowai," is revealed to mean, "Fuck you, God."

    Video Games 
  • Civilization:
    • "Baba Yetu," from Civilization 4, is just a Swahili rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" — but a truly epic one, worthy of being the soundtrack to a whole history of, erm, civilization.
    • The Zulu from the sequel Civilization 5 also have one (technically two) as their theme song.
    • Once again, the Zulu in Civilization 6 have one. It's actually a medley of several real life Zulu folk songs.
  • A set of samples called “African Mist” are used in the Danganronpa soundtracks, specifically for Monokuma’s Leitmotif, and the tracks played for the executions.
  • The music theme of the level Grassland Groove in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze displays this trope. Notably, the song doesn't loop like a normal theme would do, but instead changes gradually as the player progresses in the level. When the exit is displayed, the music ends with an epic chant of Donkey Kong's name.
  • Main theme for Far Cry 2, sung by Senegalese singer Baaba Maal.
  • The Magnor forest levels of Serious Sam II (and some of the levels in M'Digbo) feature action music with these stock sounds.
  • The Adventure Field's Mystic Ruins in Sonic Adventure, and Mazuri in Sonic Unleashed.
  • Shivers (1995): Happens in the Background Music while in the Shaman room.
  • The aforementioned Afro-Celt Sound System also did the music for Magic & Mayhem.

    Web Original 
  • Doug Walker sometimes brings up how much he dislikes this trope in his reviews whenever it's used to accompany scenes of death and devastation (more specifically, the times when it's combined with One-Woman Wail).

    Western Animation