Rafiki is the old but sagacious mandrill from The Lion King. In the musical based on the film, the character of Rafiki the baboon went through a minor change. Because director Julie Taymor felt that the story lacked the presence of a strong female, Rafiki was changed into a female mandrill. The role was originated on Broadway by Tsidii Le Loka, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 1998 for her performance.
Rafiki's role is expanded in the musical. She sings the song, "Circle of Life" and her painting scene is extended. She also sings a song called "Rafiki Mourns" in which she mourns Mufasa's death in the Zulu language. She also has a brief role in Nala's song "Shadowland", blessing Nala on her journey to find help. Instead of finding Simba's scent on dust, Rafiki hears Simba's song "Endless Night" through the wind. Rafiki meets Simba and shows him that his father lives on inside him through the song "He Lives in You". Along with that, Rafiki's "Asante Sana" chant is completely changed. She is present during the battle, fighting a hyena using hand-to-hand combat. She then appears adorning Simba with the king's mantle, and presents Simba's newborn cub at the end of the musical.
Before journeying to the Pride Lands, Rafiki lived with his troop in Grass Walls. For unknown reasons, he departed from his homeland and became a wanderer, learning as much as he could from the savanna lands he encountered.
Once he stumbled upon the Pride Lands, he was attacked by the hyenas at Five Stones but saved by Ahadi and his two sons, Mufasa and Taka (then named Scar). After hearing about Rafiki's mission, Ahadi invited him to spend the night at Pride Rock, and the two talked for hours about the plights of the kingdom. That night, Rafiki befriended Mufasa and saved him from a cobra, impressing the young lion.
The following day, Rafiki overhears Taka plotting with the hyenas to get Mufasa in trouble. The baboon attempts to warn Mufasa, but he arrives too late, for Taka has already set an angry buffalo named Boma against Mufasa. The two run from Boma, and Mufasa orders Rafiki to climb onto his back. While running, Mufasa tricks Boma the water buffalo into falling into a ravine.
Later that day, Mufasa and Rafiki return to Pride Rock, where Rafiki accepts an official position with Mufasa's father, Ahadi, as the royal adviser of the Pride Lands.