hakuna mathata

Hakuna matata

Hakuna matata is a Swahili phrase that is literally translated as "There are no worries". It is sometimes translated as "no worries", although is more commonly used similarly to the English phrase "no problem".

In music

Jambo Bwana (Swahili)

In 1982, the Kenyan hotel band Them Mushrooms released the song "Jambo Bwana" ("Hello Mister") which became an international song. The song, written by band leader Teddy Kalanda Harrison, repeated the phrase "Hakuna matata" in its refrain.

Jambo - Hakuna Matata (English)

A year later, 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.

In comics

In the mid-1980s, the saying appeared in the Swedish comic book Bamse by Rune Andréasson. Bamse the bear's baby daughter Brumma's first words are "Hakuna matata," which no one understands except the tortoise Skalman. He later made it his and Brumma's secret motto, and the phrase has reappeared several times in the cartoon. Skalman gave readers several clues as to what language the phrase came from but never said directly that it was Swahili.

Worldwide popularity in film: The Lion King

In 1994 the American animated movie The Lion King brought the phrase international recognition, featuring it prominently in the plot and devoting a catchy song to it. A meerkat and a warthog, named Timon and Pumbaa respectively, teach the main character, a lion cub named Simba, that he should forget his troubled past and concentrate only on the present. In reference to the two characters, the phrase had the added implication of a complete lack of ambition. Timon and Pumbaa helped young Simba and encouraged him to leave memories in the past and live for the present. The song, like the rest of the soundtrack, was written by Elton John (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics). It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1995 Academy Awards, and was later ranked the 99th best song in movie history by the American Film Institute on a list of 100. Members of the production team learned the term from a safari guide in Tanzania.

Since The Lion King

Almost all references to the saying outside of Swahili-speaking areas, especially in the Western world, can be credited to the fame of the 1994 Disney film.


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