‘Jerusalema’ gets the world dancing

By Njange Maina
Monday, October 19th, 2020
Children in Masaka village of Uganda dance to the challenge. Photo/COURTESY
In summary
    • Jerusalema is a song by South African DJ and record producer Master KG featuring South African vocalist Nomcebo. The upbeat gospel-influenced house song was initially released on 29 November 2019, followed by a music video on 21 December.
    • It was later included on Master KG’s second album of the same title, released in January 2020.
    • It was eventually released on streaming services on 10 July 2020.  It soon went viral , garnering international reaction due to the #JerusalemaChallenge. A remix featuring Nigerian singer Burna Boy was released on 19 June 2020, propelling the song onto the US Billboard charts.

Njeri Maina @njerimainar

Although most Kenyans had mixed reactions after Members of Parliament announced they were taking a recess to shoot their version of the viral  Jerusalema hit song challenge, it is unanimous that the song has united different communities globally and given hope to millions across the world. 

Jerusalema, a gospel song by South African singer Master KG featuring Nomcebo Zikode, was released last December off an album of the same title. 

The song, however, peaked in June with millions recording themselves doing the song’s four step hop and dance from varying continents including China, Asia and Europe. 

Nuns and priests, blue-chip company executives, frontline healthcare workers and the police from across the globe have recorded themselves dancing to the song and posted online, causing a stir on  social media.


While both Palestinians and Israelites claim Jerusalem is their capital city, both communities hopped onto the trend with Palestinians inviting the artistes for a concert in Palestine once things normalise.

While the popularity of the song could be attributed to more free time among netizens due to the Covid-19 restrictions effected across the globe, its infectious beat and emotive lyrics played a major role in its fast spread, too. 

The Zulu lyrics are a rallying call to a deity for them to take the singer home and not to leave them “here”.

For millions who were grappling with despair and hopelessness as Covid-19 destroyed livelihoods and what we considered to be normal life, the song struck a chord across different generations and populations.

Numerous Kenyan brands have piggybacked on the Jerusalema challenge, with Naivas Supermarket being the first to do it. Other brands such as Nairobi Women’s and Coptic hospitals, Britam, Simbisa Brands, and Fly Safarilink hopped onto the dance challenge with workers who showed stellar execution of the dance moves being pinpointed and celebrated by netizens.

While the #JerusalemaChallenge videos were celebrated regardless of the brand or people who posted, the move by the National Assembly to do the same and post snippets of the practice videos on social media before the official release on Mashujaa Day rubbed Kenyans the wrong way.

Many castigated the lawmakers as being united in executing trivial matters while thousands of students learn under trees, millions of Kenyans cannot access affordable healthcare and thousands more die from starvation or the annual floods.

There have been a few other dance challenges that have united the world in the past few years, chief among them being Kiki do you love me dance challenge in 2018. 

Canadian rapper Drake even attributed the popularity of the song  In my Feelings to the dance challenge that was started by Shiggy, an American comedian who posted a video of himself dancing to the chorus. 

The challenge went viral with reports claiming that Drake paid Shiggy $250,000 (Sh25 million) for popularising the song.

The other dance challenge that went viral was the Malwedhe challenge, where people would record themselves falling during the chorus of the song recorded by King Monada.

Many video editors choose to edit famous people and animals falling into the chorus of the song, much to the glee and hilarity of netizens.

Dance challenge

In 2014, Pharell William’s song Happy reached near cult status with netizens across the world recording themselves dancing to the song in the streets. 

Six Iranians were even arrested for dancing to the song and posting online. They were released after netizens started an online campaign to free them.

In Kenya, Safaricom did the challenge with then chief executive officer Bob Collymore (now late), making an appearance in the video, which was celebrated by communication experts and wananchi alike.

Although none of the songs above have reached the level of impressions that Jerusalema has, this reminds us of the uniting power of art and just how music and dance transcends geographical barriers and language constraints to effect a feeling of serenity and peace among the world’s billions of people.