Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The Kilimanjaro Song" (information, lyrics, and videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases six videos of the KiSwahili song known as "The Kilimanjaro Song". Lyrics for this song are included in this post.

Information about Mt Kilimanjaro and a video about the porters and other support staff for that mountain's climbers are included in the Addendum to this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Special thanks to Mt. Kilimanjaro guides, porters, and chefs.
Thanks to the composer/s of this song and all those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to the producers of these videos, and the publishers of these videos on YouTube. In addition, thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

It appears to have become part of the tradition of a successful climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro for "The Kilimanjaro Song" to be sung for the climbers by Mt. Kilimanjaro guides, porters, and chefs after the successful ascent of that mountain.

As documented by YouTube videos of that song, there appears to be two main parts to "The Kilimanjaro Song". The first part of the song is probably older than the second. I've not been able to find out who composed this part of the song and when it was composed. The words to that song, as given online, refer to Mt. Kilimanjaro itself and likens the mountain to a snake that tried to devour those who climb it. My guess is that this part of the song may be sung or may have been sung in a bragging or at least self-congratulating manner by those who were celebrating the fact that they conquered the mountain instead of the mountain conquering them.

The words to the first part of the song were shared online by Kemmi Kamugisha (2011) in the discussion thread for the video given as Example #1 below. Those lyrics refer to Mt. Kilimanjaro:

Leader: Kilimanjaro
All: Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro mlima mrefu sana (Kilimanjaro the really tall mountain)

Leader: Na Mawenzi..(And Mawenzi).. PS: Mawenzi is higherst peak
All: Na Mawenzi, Na Mawenzi mlima mrefu sana.. (sam[e] as above)

Leader: Ewe Nyoka.. (You snake)
All: Ewe Nyoka Ewe Nyoka, Mbona wanizunguka (You snake, why are you circling/sorrounding me)
Leader: Wanizunguka (You are circling me)
All: Wanizunguka, wataka kunila nyama (u want 2 eat me!)
Kemmi Kamugisha wrote that she (or he) would try to give the words to that song (in response to queries from other bloggers). This transcription may not be correct, might not be all of the words to (the first part of) this song and/or might not the way that the song is always sung. For instance, it appears from some of the videos shown below that there are other words for this song or a repeat of the words given below before the second part of the song begins.

The second part of "The Kilimanjaro Song" consists of an slight adaptation of the lyrics for the hit Kenyan song "Jambo Bwana" ("Hello Mister"). "Jambo Bwana" was written in 1980 by Teddy Kalanda Harrison, the leader for the Kenyan hotel band "Them Mushrooms" and recorded by that group in 1982. (Source: video summary by manosha52, June 23, 2009)

Since 1982 "Jambo Bwana" has been recorded by many others, particularly in Kenya, East Africa and in Tanzania, East Africa where Mt. Kilimanjaro is located. Here are the lyrics for "Jambo Bwana" that were posted in the YouTube video summary whose link is given above:

Jambo - Hi
Jambo bwana - Hi sir
Habari gani? - How are you?
Mzuri sana - Very fine
Wageni mwakaribishwa - Visitors are welcome
Kenya yetu - 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
The adapted lyrics for "The Kilimanjaro Song" are given in the summary statement for the video given below as Example #2 and Example #5.

These videos are presented in chronological order according to their publishing dates with the oldest dated video given first.

Example #1: Kilimanjaro Song


stanleyeng, Uploaded on Sep 18, 2007
A commenter Stanley Eng (2014) wrote in 2014 "It's Mweka camp"

Example #2: The Kilimanjaro Song

22riley88 Uploaded on Aug 6, 2008

A song our Tanzanian porters and guides sang to us on our last day on Mt. Kilimanjaro! Jambo & Hakuna matata!
Selected comment from this video's discussion thread [lyrics for part of this song]
Regan Alt, 2013
"Jambo, Jambo bwana Habari Gani, Mzuri Sana. Wageni, Mwakaribishwa. Kilimanjaro, Hakuna Matata"

Example #3: The Kilimanjaro Song

FlyByWireUk Uploaded on Sep 19, 2010

The Kilimanjaro Song, performed by our team of 20 porters, 3 guides and a chef. They did a fantastic job lugging all our gear, tents, food, etc over the mountain. In the end all 8 of us made the summit. On the way down they performed the song at Mweka Camp on 23rd August 2010 just before 5pm.

Example #4: Kilimanjaro - hakuna matata

kilimanjaroteam2011's channel, Uploaded on Jul 12, 2011

The Kilimanjaro song, sung in Swahili by the porters and guides, the incredible people who make climbing Kilimanjaro both possible and comfortable. Please follow us on and contact us for information on how we intend to help individuals in the stunning country of Tanzania. Email:

Example #5: Jambo Bwana - the Kilimanjaro song


Andrew Luyten Published on Sep 18, 2012

The chorus lyrics are...

Jambo, Jambo Bwana (Hello, Hello Sir)
Habari gani (How are you?)
Mzuri sana (Very fine)
Wageni, mwakaribishwa (Foreigners, you're welcome)
Kilimanjaro yetu (to Kilimanjaro)
Hakuna Matata (There is no problem)

I suspect that there is some improvisation in the verse!


Kibo Published on Feb 17, 2015

KILIMANJARO - MARANGU GATE 11.02.2015. - our support from "Mocha climbing tours": guides, porters & chefs - "stomac engineers" - traditional Kilimanjaro song after a successful ascent
It's clear that the porters and other support staff singing "The Kilimanjaro Song" for their visitor climbers has become a tradition. I wonder if Kenyans sung this song for themselves (without the "Jambo Bwana" verse) before the custom began of singing it for visiting international climbers.

From Mount Kilimanjaro National Park
"Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don't even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa.

Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).

Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman's Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates.
And their memories."...

The Porters of Kilimanjaro

portersofkilimanjaro Uploaded on Jun 9, 2009

Each year, nearly ten thousand tourists travel to Tanzanias Kilimanjaro National Park to summit the worlds tallest freestanding mountain. The journey from the base to the summit can take up to a week of navigating dangerous conditions, from rock slides to freezing temperatures and altitude sickness. There are no facilities on the mountain, so each climbing team is responsible for supplying its own food, shelter, and safety equipment. As most climbers on Kilimanjaro are amateurs, the National Parks mandates that each climber is accompanied by at least one porter to help carry these essentials. It also has guidelines for a minimum daily wage, the maximum weight each porter can carry, and the type of equipment each porter should be outfitted with.

Porters are primarily local villagers from the slopes of Kilimanjaro who can earn a living wage working on the mountain. However, because they are usually uneducated and have little or no other means to earn a living, they are regularly exploited by the tour operators who employ them. The porters are often poorly fed, given no warm or waterproof clothing, and according to National Parks guidelines, are grossly underpaid and made to carry loads far heavier than is regulated. Porters are regularly injured due to the poor working conditions and each year porters die working on the mountain.

In most cases, tourists interact solely with their climbing guides and have little to no interaction with the porters themselves. Therefore, they are almost completely unaware of these exploitations even whilst on the mountain. 'Porters of Kilimanjaro' hopes to directly improve the living and working conditions of the porters who help thousands of tourists summit Kilimanjaro each year by empowering tourists to make an informed decision when choosing a tour operator. Porters are employed by an unregulated group of tour operators, of which only a handful practice proper porter treatment as mandated by Kilimanjaro National Parks.

To learn more about how to climb Kilimanjaro responsibly go to

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment