"Jambo Bwana" (in Swahili "Hello Sir") is a Kenyan pop song also popular in Tanzania. It was first released in 1982 by Kenyan band Them Mushrooms, and later covered by a number of other groups and artists, including Mombasa Roots, Safari Sound Band, Khadja Nin, Adam Solomon, Mani Kollengode, and the German group Boney M.. Some versions come under different titles, such as "Jambo Jambo" and "Hakuna Matata".
"Jambo Bwana" has been largely adopted as a hotel pop song, targeting a tourist audience. Its lyrics includes several common phrases and greetings in Swahili, such as habari gani? nzuri sana ("how are things going? very well") and hakuna matata ("no problem"). The original version by Them Mushrooms also included lines celebrating Swahili language, reggae music, Africa, and "mushroom soup" (a reference to psilocybin mushrooms).
"Jambo Bwana" by Them Mushrooms was a huge commercial success, selling over 200,000 copies between 1982 and 1987 and getting platinum certification in Kenya. As a consequence of this popularity, many other bands covered the songs, in some cases with a similar success; the version by Safari Sound Band, in particular, is one of the most played songs in tourist venues in East Africa. The use of the Swahili phrase "hakuna matata" in Disney's "The Lion King" might be a reference to the chorus of the song.
Them Mushrooms released the song in several of their albums, and both their version and cover version of the songs are found in many compilation of African pop music, including those dedicated to parties and children (such as the African Playground CD published by Putumayo Kids).
The song was featured in the 2019 film Where’d You Go Bernadette, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Cate Blanchett.
Some of the covers of "Jambo Bwana" come under different titles and have modified lyrics. The Boney M. version, released in 1983, is entitled "Jambo - Hakuna Matata" and lyrics are in English and almost completely different; only the "jambo bwana" and "hakuna matata" lines have been preserved. The Safari Sound Band version "Jambo Jambo" has the central part of the lyrics changed, with references to reggae and mushrooms being replaced by other tourist-oriented common Swahili phrases such as Kenya ni nchi nzuri ("Kenya is a beautiful country"). In 2016, a cover was made by Kenyan musician Mani Kollengode.
Partial list of "Jambo Bwana" versions
|Them Mushrooms||"Jambo Bwana"||1982||Released on several albums, including Jambo Bwana and Songs from Kenya (Them Mushrooms) and African Playground (Putumayo compilation)|
|Boney M.||"Jambo - Hakuna Matata"||1983||Only released as a single, with lyrics in English|
|Mombasa Roots||"Jambo Bwana"||Msa Mombasa||1987|
|Bo Katzman & the Katz Kids||"Jambo Bwana"||Katz Kids Singed Wälthits||1990|
|Safari Sound Band||"Jambo Jambo"||Mambo Jambo (2001), The Best of African Songs, and others||1999||Simplified lyrics|
|Love Whip||"Jambo Bwana"||Bouncehall||2003|
|Adam Solomon||"Jambo Bwana / Hakuna Matata"||Mti Wa Maisha||2004|
|Klaus Hallen||"Jambo Bwana / Lala Salama"||Samba Collection|
|Khadja Nin||"Jambo Bwana"||Based on Safari Sound Band's lyrics|
|Mani Kollengode||"Jambo Bwana"||2016||An English rendition|
Boney M. version
|"Jambo - Hakuna Matata |
|Single by Boney M.|
|Length||4:06 (1st mix)|
3:39 (Final mix)
|Songwriter(s)||Teddy Kalanda-Harrison, Peter Bischoff-Fallenstein|
|Boney M. singles chronology|
In 1983, German group Boney M. released "Jambo - Hakuna Matata". Liz Mitchell provided the song's lead vocals, backed by Reggie Tsiboe, Frank Farian, Cathy Bartney, Madeleine Davis, and Judy Cheeks. The single was intended to be included in the group's untitled seventh album, to be released in the fall of 1983. Due to a poor chart performance (#48 in the German charts), the single ultimately was not included in the album (which was completely reworked and not released until May 1984 as Ten Thousand Lightyears).
Several mixes of "Jambo" were made. The 4:06 mix (as featured in the accompanying music video) was only released in Spain and Portugal. A 3:39 edit was released elsewhere. The full 7:44 version was only released on the Spanish and Portuguese 12" singles - the German 12" single (despite crediting the timing 7:42 on the label) was actually an edit of 5:35. In France, an even shorter edit 5:15 was released.
- "This Kenyan Artist, With Asian Origin- Can Sing "Jambo Bwana" Better Than You. - GhettoRadio 89.5 FM". GhettoRadio 89.5 FM. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
- "Jambo Bwana By Mani (Cover)". Mani Productions Ltd Kenya. September 21, 2016.
- Lyrics of "Jambo Bwana" by Them Mushrooms with English translation. There are several mistypes in the text, including "Africa" instead of "Afrika", and "kwell kwell" instead of "kweli kweli".
- Them Mushrooms at BigQ Unlimited Archived 2009-01-23 at the Wayback Machine