A Kenyan band claims responsibility for the phrase “hakuna matata.”
While an outpour of anticipation and excitement have come attached to the live remake of The Lion King, Disney is also facing renewed backlash over the use and trademark of the Swahili “hakuna matata” phrase. In 1994, the company trademarked the phrase and now many have once more issued an outcry over what is perceived to be cultural appropriation and exploitation with opposition citing that Disney cannot trademark something it did not create.
Now a new element has been tossed into the mix as Kenyan band Them Mushrooms have prominently come forward by asserting that they popularized the use of the phrase “hakuna matata” 14 years before Disney ever filed for a trademark. While the melody isn’t the same, “hakuna matata” is used in the group’s 1980s track “Jambo Bwana.”
“Disney’s first registration, as we’ve come to learn, was in 1994. This is 14 years after we had recorded the song. This song went platinum in the country. This is our national tourism anthem in Kenya,” frontman John Katana said. “[…] We were a bit surprised, you know, because we said, ‘Hey, these guys are have taken our phrase, but they’ve changed the tune.'”
Katana explains that as he and his bandmates were not as well versed in copyright law when the song was first recorded, they weren’t fully aware of the options they could explore in order to take legal action early on. However, TMZreports that the band plans to seek legal action against Disney now.