Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Bongo Bongo Bongo" (I Don't Want to Leave the Congo) & Two "Bongo Congo" Songs

Edited by Azizi Powell

This blog features music & dance from African Americans and other Black cultures throughout the world. However, some music and/or other cultural offerings that don't originate with Black people can remind people of other cultural offerrings or influence the creation, reception, and interpretation of other Black music/cultural offerings.

I wasn't aware of the 1947 American Pop song "Civilization" ("Bongo, Bongo, Bongo (I Don't Want to Leave the Congo") prior to coming across it while surfing YouTube. However, that song reminded me of a television cartoon show & its theme song from the 1960s. Because YouTube has just about everything, I found a soundfile of that theme song under the name "Leonardo & His Short Subjects". In that vaguely remembered animated series, Leonardo the lion is the king of the fictitious African nation of "Bongo Congo". Both of the 1947 "Bongo Bongo Bongo" song and that 1960s cartoon series with its theme song that includes a reference to "Bongo Congo" influence my reception of a Dancehall Reggae song [no recording date known] entitled "Bongo Congo" as well as the 1973/1974 Salsa song "Congo Bongo" and the 2003 Ghanaian Reggae song "Congo Bongo", each of which I also happened upon on YouTube.

This post provides information & lyrics when available, and a soundfile of the three songs "Civilization" ("Bongo, Bongo, Bongo (I Don't Want to Leave the Congo"), the King Leonardo & His Short Subjectstelevision theme song, and the Dancehall Reggae song entitled "Bongo Congo".

Click and for related posts on the related term "Congo Bongo".

The content of this post is presented for cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"'Civilization' is an American pop song. It was written by Bob Hilliard and Carl Sigman, published in 1947 and introduced in the 1947 Broadway musical Angel in the Wings, sung by Elaine Stritch. The song is sometimes also known as "Bongo, Bongo, Bongo (I Don't Want to Leave the Congo)" from its first line of the chorus.

The song is considered satire and is sung from the perspective of a native "savage", whose village has recently been settled by a missionary and other "civilized" people who have been trying to make the tribe into a civilized place. However, the savage thinks differently and sings about the major flaws in civilized society, ultimately deciding that he will stay where he lives (presumably the Congo, as it is referenced in the song lyrics)…
Many recorded versions made the Billboard charts: by The Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye, by Louis Prima, by "Smilin'" Jack Smith, by Ray McKinley, and by Woody Herman.

The Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye recording was recorded September 27, 1947 and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24462. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on November 14, 1947 and lasted 10 weeks on the chart, peaking at #3”. The Louis Prima recording was recorded July 24, 1947 and released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-2400. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on November 7, 1947 and lasted eight weeks on the chart, peaking at #8."
Click for a soundfile of The Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye recording of this song.
Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo) - Louis Prima & His Orchestra

MLNLSF, Uploaded on Apr 9, 2011

Old American Music, Soundtrack "Lolita" 1997 film
(written by Bob Hilliard and Carl Sigman)

Each morning, a missionary advertises neon sign
He tells the native population that civilization is fine
And three educated savages holler from a bamboo tree
That civilization is a thing for me to see

So bongo, bongo, bongo, I don't wanna leave the Congo, oh no no no no no
Bingo, bangle, bungle, I'm so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go
Don't want no bright lights, false teeth, doorbells, landlords, I make it clear
That no matter how they coax him, I'll stay right here

I looked through a magazine the missionary's wife concealed (Magazine? What happens?)
I see how people who are civilized bung you with automobile (You know you can get hurt that way Daniel?)
At the movies they have got to pay many coconuts to see (What do they see, Darling?)
Uncivilized pictures that the newsreel takes of me

So bongo, bongo, bongo, he don't wanna leave the Congo, oh no no no no no
Bingo, bangle, bungle, he's so happy in the jungle, he refuse to go
Don't want no penthouse, bathtub, streetcars, taxis, noise in my ear
So, no matter how they coax him, I'll stay right here

They hurry like savages to get aboard an iron train
And though it's smokey and it's crowded, they're too civilized to complain
When they've got two weeks vacation, they hurry to vacation ground (What do they do, Darling?)
They swim and they fish, but that's what I do all year round

So bongo, bongo, bongo, I don't wanna leave the Congo, oh no no no no no
Bingo, bangle, bungle, I'm so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go
Don't want no jailhouse, shotgun, fish-hooks, golf clubs, I got my spears
So, no matter how they coax him, I'll stay right here

They have things like the atom bomb, so I think I'll stay where I "ahm"
Civilization, I'll stay right here!


" "King Leonardo and his Short Subjects" is an animated cartoon series released in 1960 by Total Television (which would later rename itself Leonardo Productions after the main character of this show), sponsored by General Mills.

The show focused on Leonardo the lion (voiced by Jackson Beck), who was the inept yet well-meaning King of Bongo Congo (a fictional African nation that is known for it's bongos). Leonardo was assisted in his adventures by a mild-mannered skunk named Odie Cologne aka "Odie O. Cologne" (voiced by Allen Swift).
King Leonardo's incompetent brother Itchy (voiced by Allen Swift) along with his friend, gangster, and leader Biggie Rat (voiced by Jackson Beck) attempt to overthrow Leonardo and rule Bongo Congo for themselves. Biggie would often employ the help of an evil German inventor named Professor Messer (voiced by Jackson Beck) and even obtain help from Odie's flirtatious sister Carlotta. Itchy and Biggie would come up with various plots which always ends with them either landing in the dungeon or getting away”.

King Leonardo cartoon TV Theme Song 45 rpm record

Paul F, Uploaded on Dec 25, 2011

Jackson Beck
Golden Record FF632A
Here comes Leonardo, Leonardo Lion.
King of Bongo Congo, the hero lion of iron.
Where Leonardo travels, his subjects all go too.
There's Odio Cologne who's loyal and true blue.
I say there's a booming Hunter, a wily witty Fox.
And Tooter who brings fun to you, and visits magic box.

Good King Leonardo, has his enemies,
Biggie with his pistols, there's Itchy with his fleas.
They fought against the kingdom to overthrow the king,
Looks like Leonardo has had his royal fling.
But Odio Cologne, steps in to change the play,
That loyal skunk, with skill and spunk comes through to save the day.

You'll find adventure and thrills,
Laughter a minute, too.
You mustn't miss, excitement like this,
Or Hunter may hunt you.

Let's watch Leonardo, all his subjects, too.
Odio Cologne, the Fox and Hunter, too.
Tooter and the Wizard, they're ready set to go,
So everyone come join the fun on King Leonardo's Show.


Bongo Congo feat. Tikaf - Dando Batalla (Rastafari Armada Crew)

rastafariarmada, Uploaded on Aug 3, 2011

desde el cuartel otra rola mas del crew Rastafari Armada , Bongo Congo (Ex Baterista de la agrupacion de El Salvador Anastacio y los del monte) feat. Tikaf , Argentina Buenos Aires , Dancehall Kulcha BLACK KING.
Google translate to English:
"from the headquarters of the crew another dime more Rastafari Navy, Bongo Congo (former drummer of the grouping of El Salvador Anastacio and mount) feat. Tikaf, Argentina Buenos Aires, Dancehall Kulcha BLACK KING."
There are a number of other YouTube video (soundfiles) of this Dancehall Reggae group. The information given indicates that this group is from Buenos Aries, Argentina. I don't have any other information about the group, including when this song was first recorded.

I want to be clear that I don't know if the American pop song & the American television cartoon show & theme song had any influence whatsoever on the title or lyrics of the "Bongo Congo" Dancehall Reggae song or the Salsa song "Congo Bongo" or the Reggae song "Congo Bongo". It's possible that the composers of those songs might not even know about those American songs or that American cartoon series.

What I am saying is that the "bongo bongo" and "bongo congo" lyrics of those American songs & that television show my reaction to those other songs. Furthermore, the cultural context that I bring to these songs-for instance, the negative stereotype that Americans have about Black people eating watermelon, influenced how I-as an African American- viewed a scene in the Ghanaian "Congo Bongo" video, to the extent that I wondered if the producer had purposely added that scene and used the phrase "Congo Bongo" as a way of re-claiming those actions & words that have negative connotations. But then I realized that the negative connotations of Black folks eating watermelon & the "Bongo Congo"/"Congo Bongo" phrase were in the United States and not necessarily elsewhere.

Thanks to all those who published information & YouTube examples of these songs.

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Visitor comments are welcome.

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