Helele Mama


A South African Mbube (Lion Song)

I learned this song from Ubuntu choir leader Emile Hassan Dyer in the Goldenbridge Choir. There are many versions, and many explanations for what it means. The most common ones are that it’s saying “Hail Mother” or “Oh Mama!”

In this arrangement, the lowest part comes and goes, allowing the ways the different parts fit together to be highlighted. The “io io! Mama!” high part is Emile’s creation, and proves to be a keeper.

The photo above is a still from the YouTube video of Olusola Adebiyi, a facilitator and mindfulness coach, teaching Helele Mama at a PYE (Partners for Youth Empowerment) Global gathering. Olusola learned it from Black Umfolozi (a traditional group specializing in Mbube music and Zulu dances) and brought this adaptation to PYE Global, which may be how it found its way into the Ubuntu Choirs Network. The version we do is a little different, and is closer to the one I learned directly from Emile and his co-leader, Maggie Wheeler.


Helele Mama (HUH) Mama

Helele Mama, Helele Mama


Helele, Helele, Helele Mama,

Mama, Mama


Io Io, Mama

Io Io, Mama