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The Legend of TangaTanga Toe and His Gorilla Band

By Dorothy A. Bell

In a Congo land there lived a king, a lion by the name of Miway Sam.

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He stood four-foot-three at the shoulder and ruled with an iron hand. He loved his music though, said it soothed his inner beast. Without his music, he claimed, he couldn’t sleep and stayed up all night playing hide-and-seek. He had to have variety, he decried, and sent his servants far and wide scouting for the newest sound.

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Deep in the jungle, at a place called the Swinging Vine, young musicians could take the stage, if they didn’t mind playing to a creepy, slithery, fractious crowd. The proprietor of this shady establishment went by the name of Eightfisted Pete, a tarantula of the wiliest kind. Eight never put out cash but you could have your fill of the swill he served, a disgusting drink of dead flies and overripe bananas floating in jungle juice.

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 TangaTanga Toe had formed an all gorilla band. His little band could play everything from war-dances, to rain-dances, to famine-breaks, to mating-dance blues, jungle-jives; and when called for, they could crank out a hop-poh-potamus waltz. His group came up with new stuff all the time.

Tanga had heard of the Swinging Vine, but it was a long way from his home in the Want-ta-be Mountains. He’d heard the Swinging Vine paid in dead flies and bananas floating in jungle juice, which suited the young, hungry-for-fame gorilla right down to the ground.

Half starved, soaked to the skin, Tanga and his four companions lugged their gear down the Want-ta-be Mountains and along the Gang-green River, arriving at the Swinging Vine late one Saturday night. They stood outside, the five young gorillas, their noses pressed against the slimy dirt wall, black eyes peering over the muddy barricade that surrounded the stage and the crowd that had gathered to listen to the wild, disjointed, jungle beat.

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It’s now or never, boys,” Tanga whispered, combing his fingers through his wet mane. “We got to walk in there like we own the place. Play like we’ve never played before. I feel it, this is it, it’s make-or-break time. If we don’t, we won’t get any bananas, and I think that python serving drinks behind the bar might have us for breakfast.”

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With Tanga taking the lead, the gorillas weaved their way into the throng and took the stage without so much as a blink to the tarantula, Eightfisted Pete. Tanga set up the rhythm on his kettledrum, BaldyJo joined in on his bamboo flute, Wingears flashed his sticks across his Congo-xylophone, Tummyred strummed his coconut-yuke and Billyfly slapped his freshwater-shell tambourine on his hip.

In no time, they had the joint jumpin’ to their jive tunes. There were monkeys swinging from vine to vine, doing flips and double tumbles. Snakes coiled up in quads, hanging, grinning, swaying from the limbs. Lizards danced with toads, warthogs snugged in cheek-to-cheek with leopards—it was a swinging scene.

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In the dark tree tops, above the stage, sat a weary soul, Shut-eye Snoreowitz, a sloth, and King Miway’s talent scout. He’d been half asleep, drunk on the fermented bananas floating in the jungle juice. With all the laughter and clatter, he came awake, his feet tapping, his fingers tickling the tree trunk. He took a long swig of his sticky jungle juice and wiped his lips dry with the back of his hairy hand.

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Shut-eye sat for quite a while, listening as the gorillas played one new sound after the other. Unable to resist the beat, he slid out of the tree, grabbed a partner, a deer by the name of Camuleadeer O’sweet, who’d been giving him the come-hither eye.

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As he twirled her around and around the floor, he knew at last he’d found the perfect group. He’d take them back to the palace and, with any kind of luck, never more would he be sent out a’scouting. Never more would he be forced to play hide and seek all night long…these kids were great.

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Peace came to the kingdom in the Congo land of the lion, King Miway Sam. He settled down, no more restless nights, no more hide-and-seek now that he had music to sooth his savage beast. He even took a wife, and had some kits.

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TangaTanga Toe and his gorilla band became famous. Every year they toured the jungle route, stopping in at the Swinging Vine to reminisce with Eightfisted Pete on their way to the Want-ta-be Mountains for the summer to visit their kin. They lived happily ever after in their Congo Land in the kingdom of Miway Sam.

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