Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Jambo" - Ella Jenkins (Lyrics, Sound File, & Video)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I in a three part series of posts on songs other than the Broadway show or movie Lion King that contain the word "Jambo" and/or "Hakuna Matata".

This post showcases the lyrics, a brief sound file, and a video example of Ella Jenkin's song "Jambo".

For Part II of this series, click

For Part III of this series, click

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, aesthetic, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Jambo" is a shortened form of the KiSwahili greetings "Hujambo" that is used for tourist.
jambo - hello
(reply) jambo -hello"

(Ella Jenkins, 1974)

Jambo (echo)
Jambo sana, jambo (echo)
Hello everybody,
Hello (echo)
Jambo (echo)
Jambo sana, jambo (echo)

Jambo (echo)
Jambo watoto, jambo (echo)
Hello children, hello (echo)
Hello my good friend, hello (echo)
Jambo (echo)
Jambo watoto, jambo (echo)

Words and Music: Ella Jenkins
© 1974 Ellbern Publishing Company (ASCAP)
Ella Jenkins is a children's music performer,educator, and composer.
"Jambo" (pronunced jahm-boh) is included in Ella Jenkins' 1974 record "Jambo and Other Call and Response Songs and Chants". That record was also reissued in 1996.

A brief sound file of Ella Jenkins singing "Jambo" and other songs on those records/cds can be found at

In the context of Ella Jenkins' "Jambo" song, "sana" is usually translated as "everybody". However, that's not the Swahili meaning of "sana". "Sana" is a Swahili word which is usually translated in English as "very much".

I believe that the Swahili word "sana" [sah nah] in the phrase "Jambo sana" is an either a purposeful or accidental (folk etymology) replacement for the Swahili word "bwana" [bwah-nah] whose English translation is either "sir" or "mister". "Jambo Bwana" is the title of The Three Mushrooms' song that is the basis of Ella Jenkins' song "Jambo".

Here's a Swahili greeting using the word "sana":
Greeting: "Habari gani. (How are you?)
Response: Mzuri sana. (Very fine).

Here's my attempt at a phonetic English translation: hah-bah-ree gah-nee. Here's my attempt at a phonetic English translation: m-zur-ee (with "zur" pronounced very much like the English word "soar" meaning "to fly".)

In contemporary Standard American Englsh, "mzuri sana" would be translated as "[I'm] very well". The common practice would be for the person saying to add "thank you" and you?" after saying "Very well".

Here's another common Swahili phrase that includes the word "sana":
"Asante sana" (Thank you very much)
English pronunciation- ah-SAHN-tay sah-nah

Note: The response to "Asante sana" is "Asante Sana".
Click "Greg's Useful Swahili Phrase Book" for information about this.

Jambo New London Third through Fifth Graders

Uploaded by rattypajamas on May 10, 2010

The New London 3rd-5th grade elementary students presented their Spring Sing program on the evening of May 10, 2010 at the high school auditorium in New London, Iowa, directed by Hannah Reth, accompanied by Alyssa Katsion.
The children in this video are singing an adapted version of Ella Jenkins' call & response song "Jambo" with Swahili, then Spanish, then Japanese, and finally English words.

Here are those words to Ella Jenkins' song "Jambo". The echo (response) word is given in parenthesis and an English translation of those words is given in brackets:

Jambo (Jambo)
Jambo sana Jambo. [Hello, hello, hello very much, hello]*

Hola (hola)
Hola mis amigos hola [Hello, hello. Hello my friends, hello.]

Hoya (hoya)
Hoya Konnichiwa, hoya [Yes, yes. Yes good afternoon, yes]**

Hello (hello)
Hello everybody, hello.

Lyrics reposted from

*Read my comments about the word "sana" in the section found above.

"Hoya hoya" is Japanese and means "hai" (yes) or "so desu yo" (that is true).

Also, konnichiwa = "good afternoon"

Thanks to Ella Jenkins for composing this song and for composing and introducing people throughout the world to so many other wonderful song.

Thanks to those whose comments and transcriptions I quoted and thanks also to the uploader of this video and the children featured in this video.

Finally, thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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