In a year that has been both challenging and depleting, South Africans have managed to come out dancing, and have inspired the rest of the world to join in.
This is all thanks to music producer Master KG and his international hit, Jerusalema, which quickly became a lockdown anthem both for South Africans and people all around the world.
The song that speaks about not being left behind without hope, and asks God to take the singer to Jerusalem, is sung proudly in Zulu to an uplifting beat that’s easy to move to. When the song was released earlier this year, although South African’s proudly promoted the beat, it was a group of friends in Angola who helped the tune go viral and kicked off the international dance challenge.
“It is a dance that was done by people from Angola, then Portugal followed, and it just went viral from that point,” Master KG, whose real name is Kgaogelo Moagi, told Sowetan Live.
The dance spread like wildfire around the globe, everyone from firemen in Romania to wildlife conservationists in Zimbabwe took part in the dance craze.
South Africans certainly rose to the challenge and soon enough the entire country was dancing in unison, from the Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, and his department, to judges and lawyers in Cape Town’s high court, to frontline workers at South Africa’s hospitals and schools, and even factory workers and truck drivers.
At the peak of the pandemic, Jerusalema managed to uplift people who were in lockdowns all around the world, and encouraged them to find a reason to celebrate life.
This positive impact was important to help boost mental health during the lockdown. Recently Pharmaceutical company, Pharma Dynamics, interviewed South African adults about their health status during and after the lockdown. Their research revealed that 56% of adults are currently experiencing higher levels of emotional and psychological stress.
The study concluded with a reminder to citizens to look after their well-being. The Jerusalema dance challenge has been welcomed as a source of brightness in a difficult time and has managed to lift moods in spite of pandemic-related emotional stress.
The challenge inspires togetherness even when the pandemic has called on us to isolate as much as possible, and it has brought joy to a year that has been defined by loss and hopelessness.
The song has since become the most Shazamed song in the world, and has earned over 200 million views on YouTube — with Master KG winning the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act on Nov. 8 for his efforts.
“It means a lot to me. It validates the path I’m on,” Master KG told Sowetan Live after the song broke Shazam’s records. “It means the world is moving to Jerusalema and they want to know more about the song and the artists behind it.”
When explaining why “Jerusalema” was a finalist for South Africa’s word of the year — a title ultimately won by “lockdown” — Ntombenhle Huluhulu from the Pan South African Language Board described how the dance challenge truly tells the story of South African people.
“This is just who we are, it is being South African. We always find joy in the toughest of times and it just speaks to the resilience of our spirit,” she said.
Meanwhile, in September, President Cyril Ramaphosa even praised the song, and encouraged all citizens to take part in the dance challenge for Heritage Month, in the same speech that he announced the end of the national lockdown.
He said at the time that taking part in the dance challenge was an opportunity to “reflect on the difficult journey we have all travelled, to remember those who have lost their lives, and to quietly rejoice in the remarkable and diverse heritage of our nation”.
Here are a few of our favourite contributions to the international dance challenge.
1. The Masaka Kids Africana in Uganda
2. Nuns and Priests in Italy
3. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in South Africa
4. Slingeland Hospital in the Netherlands
5. And finally, the original challengers in Angola
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