• Lydia Kiros

South African Hit “Jerusalema” is Inspiring Joy in a Global Pandemic

Nothing can compare to the feeling good music and dancing can bring the soul. In the midst of a bleak global pandemic, South African hit “Jerusalema” has inspired thousands around the world from all walks of life to get up on their feet and groove to the smooth up-beat song. Almost a year after its release, the song went viral traveling from country to country as nurses, priests, police, and everyday people posted videos of themselves dancing to the tune.

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings)


The 2019 hit song, featuring singer Nomcebo Zikode and produced by Master KG, went viral after a group of Angolan friends posted a video of themselves performing a self-choreographed dance routine to the song back in February. In the video, the first group shows the dance to the second group who stop their house chores to join in. From there, the video found its way to Portugal, the rest of Europe, the United States, and South America sparking a trend under the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge tag. In the Zulu-language track, the singer asks God to take him to the heavenly city of Jerusalem. The gospel inspired groove has provided a moment of relief across borders and languages in the midst of the global pandemic. With confirmed global coronavirus deaths passing the grim milestone of one million, and lockdowns and social distancing measures weighing on societies, the song has provided an outlet to inspire joy.


The song’s producer Master KG, whose real name is Kgaogelo Moagi was in disbelief over the recent popularity of the song. “Early this year around January, I thought the song had reached its peak,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “And then out of nowhere the song came back.” Indeed, the track had topped South African charts last December before going viral. Since being brought to the spotlight by the Angolan friends, the song has been posted by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Janet Jackson, and South African actress Connie Ferguson. The track has been streamed more than 60 million times on Spotify and is the world’s most popular track on Shazam. Variations of the challenge have been posted from a group of Italian nuns in tunics and priests in robes to nurses in scrubs at a Swedish hospital. In Zimbabwe, even wildlife joined the challenge as staff at Zimbabwe’s Wild Life sanctuary posted videos with elephants, giraffes, and other animals.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa also challenged the nation to participate in a televised address announcing that the country was moving to the lowest level of lockdown restrictions. Sure enough, many South Africans took the call in honor of Heritage Day. “There can be no better way to celebrate our South African-ness than to join the global phenomena that is spreading across the world, that is the Jerusalema dance challenge. The Jerusalema song that I love so much,” said President Ramaphosa.



The South African film and television industry have begun to create a mini feature film centering on the “Jerusalema” dance trend making waves across the globe. Hundreds of South African actors and crew members came together to create the film over the course of two days at Cape Town Film Studios. It will consist of a scripted narrative as well as a mass dance sequence. The official video of “Jerusalema” has gained over 160 million views on YouTube since its premier in December.

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend has shown the power of music and dance to unite people despite color, race, country, and language. The simple joy that is found in it was the happy pause the world needed in this time. “It’s so beautiful to see how “Jerusalema” has taken over the world, to see how far it has gone,” Master KG said in an interview with South African newspaper Sowetan. “The song did amazing at home. It ruled the streets and people created memories of that song.” As some countries experience a second wave, emotional videos of healthcare workers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Italy, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.S., Australia, and Puerto Rico have become an uplifting source of hope for patients fighting Covid-19.

In a video healthcare workers from Netcare Alberlito gathered together to join the challenge and honor those who had passed from the virus, and those who were still fighting it. To them, it is more than just a dance, it is a celebration of survivors, and a unity formed like never before of national and international people. One health care worker delivered an inspiring speech saying,“[In] Jerusalema the words are saying we are coming from ruthless times, we are not perfect, we are struggling to survive but save me do not leave me. And we declare today that we are not leaving anyone behind”


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