Tag Archives: Kenyan

Jambo Bwana Song

Background: Informant is a 19 year old of Kenyan heritage. Their parents immigrated to Los Angeles from Kenya and the informant wears a bracelet to feel connected to their heritage. 

Me: Where did this song come from? 

Informant: When I think about a song in Swahili the first song I think of is what I learned when I was four or five because my Kindergarten for graduation they wanted to do a whole cultural thing. So, they asked my mom and another girls mom who was Indian to come and teach us songs. So they taught us songs in Hindu and Swahili. The song we learned in Swahili is… 


Jambo, Jambo bwana, 

Habari gani, Mzuri sana.

Wageni, Wakaribishwa,

Kenya yetu Hakuna Matata.


Hello, Hello sir,

How are you

I very fine

The visitors are welcomed

To our Kenya, don’t worry.

Reflection: I loved hearing the informant sing this song. It was interesting how they knew this song due to their schools’ emphasis on diversity, and how their mother shared her culture with the class through music. I find it so amazing how music can be used to bring people together in the sharing of cultural heritage. This also reflects the use of folklore in children’s education, with folk music being something that mainly children know today. 


If Kentai Can Tie a Tie


Interviewer: “Do you know any Kenyan riddles or jokes?”

Informant: “I don’t know about jokes, but there is this one tongue twister my parents learned in Kenya.”

Interviewer: “That’s perfect, let’s hear it.”

Informant: “Okay.. haha. They learned this in primary school in Kenya I think, from their instructors. Here it is: If Kentai can tie a tie, then why can’t I tie a tie as Kentai can tie a tie?”


The informant learned this tongue twister from his parents, who learned it in school in Kenya. He is unsure that it has any significance beyond the play on words between “can tie” and “Kentai,” which sound especially similar with a Swahili accent.


This conversation occurred when the informant and I were speaking about the class’ readings on the Maasai tribes since he is from Kenya. He mentioned he might know some Kenyan or Maasai folklore since he grew up under Kenyan parents and has visited the country before. At this point I started recording and asking him probing questions.


I thought this example was particularly interesting because the informant’s parents learned this tongue twister in primary school. I personally cannot remember being taught a tongue twister during any of my schooling years, except for maybe encountering one from a fellow student during recess. Also interesting is the fact that the informant’s parents learned an English tongue twister in Kenyan school. Perhaps tongue twisters such as these were employed in English classes in Kenya to familiarize students with speaking in English in a potentially fun way. Because there is far less emphasis in US education on learning a new language, especially in elementary school, we are not as familiar with the same strategies.