Looking for Song from Zimbabwe called “Guru Ndiani”

Michelle wrote me…

Hello! do you by any chance know of the song named Guru Ndiani from Zimbabwe? It is a children’s game song similar to a ring around the rosie type of song.

Thank you, I appreciate it.


If anyone is familiar with this song, please post it in the comments below.



This article was posted on Monday, July 24th, 2006 at 6:03 pm and is filed under African Children's Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Questions, Zimbabwe. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Looking for Song from Zimbabwe called “Guru Ndiani””

  1. Katie Says:

    I know the song from the book “Music in Childhood From Preschool through the Elementary Grades” by Patricia Shehan Campbell and Carolyn Scott-Kassner. In that book, the words are:

    Guru ndiani jong we
    Guru ndiani jong we

    Ha jong we guru
    Ha jong we guru

    In this book, it is listed as a two-part song, with half of the children singing the first two lines while the other half sing the lower two. The two lines overlap on “jong we” and “Ha jong”. The game I know that goes with this song is more like “Chicken” than “Ring Around the Rosie,” with two children hopping on one foot and trying to bump each other onto two feet.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for writing! I’m wondering if anyone would have an English translation for this song?

    I’m not sure what language it’s in. One language identifier said it’s Swahili. If that’s the case, I found the following translations:

    guru = unrefined

    we = you [derived from wewe]

    ha = s/he/it does not

    Those were the only definitions I could find if the words are Swahili.

    When I checked what the languages of Zimbabwe are, Swahili wasn’t listed. Shona and Ndebele are two of the main languages of Zimbabwe (English is the official language).

    If anyone can help identify the language and/or translate this song, I’d be grateful. Thanks! Lisa

  3. Lisa Says:

    Katie wrote me…

    It’s in Shona – the dictionary I used is a Shona-English dictionary, and that’s where I found the name of the game, as well.

    I don’t have an exact translation – I did find that “ndiani” means “who”, “jongwe” is “rooster”, and “Ha” is “I” but I don’t have a good translation for “guru” in this context – I’ve seen it translated as “earth,” but that doesn’t make much sense here. The game, in Zimbabwe, seems to be called “Jongweguru,” and is described as a game in which two children hop on one foot in imitation of chickens fighting. I usually translate the song for my students as “Who will fight the chicken?” for the phrase “Guru ndiani jongwe” and “I will fight the chicken” for “Ha jongwe guru”.

    Hope that helps!


    Thanks for all of your help Katie! If anyone can help with the rest of the translation, please add a comment. -Lisa

  4. Lisa Says:

    I’ve been able to find out that “guru” means “big/tall” in Shona.

    “Ha” may indicate the negative and it might be a (past?) tense marker in Shona. (There aren’t a lot of online resources for the Shona language. This was the most I could find and it was vague.)

    So, could this song be called Big Rooster? Perhaps, if you change “who” to “what”, it goes…

    Big Rooster

    What big rooster
    What big rooster

    No rooster big
    No rooster big

    All right, I might be grasping here, so I’d surely appreciate any help I can get. Thanks in advance!


  5. Lisa Says:

    Katie wrote me…

    The big part makes sense if you continue translating “ndiani” as “Who” and “Ha” as “I” – it could be asking:

    “Who is the biggest/tallest rooster?”

    And the answer could be:

    “I am the biggest/tallest rooster.”

    This would also make sense in the context of the game, since the two groups of kids are challenging each other.

    Every resource I’ve found is pretty clear on “ndiani” being “who,” but I’ve only found the one dictionary that is complete enough to have more than a couple words from the song in it.

  6. james Says:

    i remember playing this game as achild.the details were ;other children would form a circle.one would enter the circle balancing on one leg and hence hoping around with his arms folded over his chest.the rest would be singing mukuru ndiyani jongwe mukuru ndiyani jongwe repeated over and over again.it would be a challenge to another jongwe to enter the ring.one would then challenge by entering the ring in similar manner ,arms folded and hoping on one leg.the idea of the contest is to knock one another off balance and the last man hoping wins and challenges more to the same song.
    why jongwe,one may ask.yes a jongwe is a rooster and the game immitates the rooster’s habit of standing on one leg whenever its relaxing.

  7. Emily Says:

    Here is a video of culture bearers playing the game Jongwe Guru: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDDKoImqHbo

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