Mr. Tembo

Album: Everyday Robots (2014)

Songfacts®:

  • This is an ode to a baby elephant that Albarn met in a place called Mkomazi, in Tanzania. He recalled to Rolling Stone: "It was recently orphaned and walked onto this aerodrome; the people I know took it in and called it Mr. Tembo. I was there, and I met this little elephant, and he was very sweet. I sang it to him. It was recorded on a phone, and in a lighthearted moment, I put it on a list for Richard (Russell, co-producer). He said, 'I'd really like you to try that,' so I did."

    Asked how the elephant reacted to the track, Albarn replied: "To be honest to you, when I sang it to the elephant, it s--t itself. Because it was on milk, it was white elephant baby poo, if you can imagine that. It's quite something at close vicinity."
  • The song features backing vocals by The Leytonstone City Mission Choir. Albarn told Rolling Stone: "Back in Leytonstone, there was a Pentecostal Church at the end of my road that belonged to the city mission. I remember standing outside with my bicycle listening to the singing, but never being able to find an entry point. But it was a very strong childhood memory that I've carried with me. I got in contact with that church, and they've still got a small choir, so they very kindly agreed to sing on the record a bit."
  • Whilst we're on the subject of elephants – here's some trivia about the ivory tusked mammals:

    We have called elephants by that name since the 14th century. Before that, the word was oliphant.

    Technically, elephants cannot run as they can't lift all four legs off the ground at the same time but they move at up to 25 mph by walking quickly with knees bent and body lowered.

    Elephants are the only animals that can't jump.

    Elephants are so afraid of bees that the mere sound of buzzing is enough to make an entire herd flee.

    Elephants even have a particular call to use to warn others of bees.

    The daily methane output of an elephant can propel a car 20 mph.

    Dogs and elephants are the only animals that seem to instinctively understand pointing.
  • The video was directed by Giorgio Testi (James Blunt's "I'll Be Your Man," The Killers' "Miss Atomic Bomb"). The clip was filmed at the Pentecostal City Mission Church in Leytonstone and features the church choir that sing on the track, as well as footage of the real Mr Tembo.

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