It seemed that everywhere we travelled in Kenya, we came across a silly little song called ‘Jambo Bwana’. It was sung when we were greeted at a hotel / resort, when the waiters came with a birthday cake for a guest and almost any other situation that was happy.
It has a funky tune and lyrics that are common Swahili words and phrases. However, once you have heard it a few times, it becomes very repetitive and is one of those songs that annoyingly stays in your head all day!
We thought that it must have been a Kenyan Folk song, but in my later research, I found out that it was made famous by the Kenyan hotel band ‘Them Mushrooms’ in 1982.
The song, written by band leader Teddy Kalanda Harrison in 1980, has become widely popular in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2001 the Safari Sound Band released the album Mambo Jambo, which featured the song (aka Jambo Jambo) as the title track. The song was also covered by numerous local artists and is heard throughout Kenya and Tanzania.
Play the following video at your own risk of having this tune locked into your brain all day!
When translated from Swahili into English, the Lyrics mean:
Jambo – Hello
Jambo bwana – Hello sir
Habari gani? – How are you?
Mzuri sana – Very fine
Wageni mwakaribishwa – Visitors are welcome
Kenya yetu – (In) our (country) Kenya
Hakuna matata – (there are) no worries
Kenya nchi nzuri – Kenya is a nice country
Nchi ya maajabu – A beautiful country
Nchi yenye amani – A peaceful country
Kenya yetu – Our country
Kenya wote – All Kenyans