This past year has been challenging, frightening, sobering. Covid-19, political turmoil, high-profile police shootings of civilians, and much more has rocked our world.
We need solace, we need smiles. We need to be uplifted, and one endearing way to achieve that has been through dance. And while we cannot see dances on stage for the most part, due to social distancing constraints, we can still dance at home or find outdoor spaces for dance.
Around the world many people have been captivated and inspired by the song “Jerusalema,” especially because it has been the catalyst for videotaped dance challenges. These videos have been posted to TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and other media platforms. Individuals and groups have been filming their own dance routines to this extremely catchy (although slightly bittersweet) song.
The dance challenge, as well as music challenges, are nothing new. Films decades old show tap dancers challenging each other, for most elaborate and fascinating routines. In more recent decades, breakdancers, voguers and krumpers have challenged each other to go one-up. Jazz music has a long history of musicians challenging each other to do wilder and more difficult solos: sax players, trumpeters, pianists, drummers and others have gone mano-a-mano in a positive way. Heavy metal guitarists are well known for challenging each other, as well.
In a way, flash mobs are a kind of expressive, creative performance challenge as well. Groups of people “suddenly” amassing to sing a song in an unlikely locale, or musicians setting up together to “suddenly” perform a classical music piece: these are charming, enjoyable, and everyone knows these performances will be videotaped on cell phones and go viral on social media.
In that vein, “Jerusalema” has captivated lots of people around the world, but started in South Africa, and continues to be a touching testament to the human spirit.
The song is sung in Zulu and was created and produced by a South African DJ and record producer named Master KG. Since its release in late 2019, it has charted Top 40 in over 20 countries, and has set off multitudes of dance challenges in South Africa and elsewhere around the globe.
This hit has been covered widely in the press, with stories in CNN, the Irish Post, the Hindu and more. A particularly famous version stars a dance group from Angola, who dance to the song while balancing their plates of food.
There is a video compilation that shows bits of many groups (and some solo dancers) doing the dance or their own variations. These come from around the world and there are many contemporary elements: several groups dance with their face masks on. Groups of workers dance together, clad in their work uniforms: police uniforms, hospital scrubs, religious robes, school uniforms, sanitation worker outfits, as well as everyday clothing. Some people use props (plates, brooms, etc.) as part of their dance routine. Young children and older adults, single-gender groups and co-ed units, a handful of people and dozens together: they are all moving and being joyful around this addictive song. One video shows pink capped workers dancing, and an elephant seems to react with bemusement!
The basic dance is a line dance that at times resembles the “Cotton Eye Joe” dance, as well as “The Hokey Pokey” and “The Hustle.” You could reference “The Macarena” in this too.
Watch the videos of “Jerusalema” for both the music and the movement, and you will smile. You will realize that we all need the performing arts in our lives. This is a gift from South Africa to the rest of the world. Partake of it!