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The Lion and the Dominatrix

“The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” (1984), one of the great electronic dance numbers of the ’80s, is essentially a technopop deconstruction of the melodic line from the Token’s classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (1961), to which the title coyly alludes.

The brilliance of the song lies in its juxtapositioning of organic imagery appropriated from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with the hard rhythms of electronic drum-machines and scratch techniques which reek of the urban.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was a Zulu folk song from the ’30s, recorded as “Mbube” by Miriam Makeba in 1952 and as “Wimoweh” by the Weavers on The Weavers at Carnegie Hall. The Tokens added English lyrics about a lion sleeping near a jungle village. The melody and vocals blend perfectly into a poignant tale that returns man to a more primal setting than can be found anywhere in the Western industrialized world.

The wonder and awe of nature as an authentic setting for human life, as opposed to a place to go to for escape or recreation, links the song with the countless millennia when people lived in small disconnected bands. They sang then to comfort each other and to express joy of life in the face of all the dangers of untamed nature. It is easier to take life for granted in an environment where wild beasts don’t await your every misstep with open jaws and razor-sharp claws.

Therefore, the unabashed joy expressed by the singers over the fact that the village is safe for the evening because the lion is snoozing is not cloying or artificial.

The creator of “Dominatrix,” Stuart Arbright, appropriates all of this imagery, then twists it by substituting “Dominatrix” for “Lion” in the title and lyrics. The word “dominatrix” is significant not only for what it means, (a domineering woman) but for the images that it conjures: whips and chains, leather, Mary Woronov in Eating Raoul – a tall, lean, mean, merciless woman, woman as castrator.

The paradox of placing the Dominatrix in the jungle is that she of neccessity must be an urban creature – only in an urban setting can the Dominatrix find enough willing subjects to satisfy her rapacious needs, and only in an urban setting can she find the anonymity to pursue them.

But that doesn’t mean she won’t try: through the supple electronic grooves we can feel the predator slink through the jungle, seeking prey, adapting by devolving, blending the organic and the inorganic, the natural and the artificial.

It’s a great song – check it out.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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