Happy, Happy Kwanzaa by Bunny Hull is one of my favorite holiday songs! Performed by The Kwanzaa Singers, the song helps us to remember The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa with fun, upbeat rhythms and African percussion. The lyrics are in English, and the chorus is easy to learn for musicians and music lovers of all ages.
Many families don't know how to celebrate Kwanzaa. I was surprised to see many social media posts from friends over the holidays saying they really wanted their children to grow up celebrating the traditions and principles of Kwanzaa, but they had limited or no exposure themselves. I decided I would share some of my family and community Kwanzaa traditions.
In my family Kwanzaa tradition, an elder assists a child in lighting the candles to promote intergenerational unity.
Many teachers are hesitant to teach their students about Kwanzaa. While Kwanzaa songs and activities are encouraged in schools (along with other cultural traditions), some of my colleagues have shared with me that they lack the confidence to teach Kwanzaa traditions because they don't have African or African-American heritage. Music teachers of diverse backgrounds have asked me to share my Kwanzaa stories and experiences.
Photo of my dad sharing the red, black, and green Kwanzaa flag with our community (courtesy Jim-Ree Museum)
I decided to write this article to introduce parents, teachers, and friends to Kwanzaa through music. While there are many songs about Kwanzaa, including songs in Swahili, Happy Happy Kwanzaa by Bunny Hull is my all-time favorite because it is so fun to sing and easy to remember. I want to assure you that, as the chorus says, Kwanzaa can be celebrated by everyone!
"Kwanzaa teaches the importance of self and of family; and that in order to grow and flourish we must have purpose, use our creativity, self-determination and maintain belief in ourselves and in our connection to others." - Bunny Hull, Composer
The Happy, Happy Kwanzaa Chorus lyrics are:
Happy, happy Kwanzaa!
Light the candles one by one.
Happy, happy Kwanzaa!
Can be celebrated by everyone.
See, even the song says we can all celebrate Kwanzaa -regardless of our race, ethnicity, or cultural heritage!
Check out The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa to see if you agree! Quoting some language from the lyrics, the seven principles of Kwanzaa are:
Unity. We are one family!
Self-Determination. We make our own way under the sun.
Collective Responsibility. We work together joyfully!
Cooperative Economics. We support each other's businesses and buy from each other.
Purpose. Knowing whose shoulders we stand on helps us to grow.
Creativity. We beautify our world with our special talents.
Faith. Believe in yourself with all your heart!
This picture displays some of the symbols of Kwanzaa, including the Kinara (candle holder) and The Seven Candles.
Each night of Kwanzaa, we light a new candle to represent each of The Seven Principles. We celebrate Kwanzaa for seven days from December 26 through January 1, but we can remember to practice The Seven Principles throughout the year!
Photo of participants and attendees at my family's Annual Community Kwanzaa Celebration (courtesy Jim-Ree Museum)
Do The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa resonate with your own personal principles?
Although Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa may align with your spiritual and religious beliefs. The great thing about The Seven Principles is that they are intended to be universal principles we can all practice in our daily lives. The Seven Principles remind us of what we all have in common and help us to grow as individuals, families, communities, and global citizens.
Once we've learned the chorus and The Seven Principles, the Happy, Happy Kwanzaa song encourages us to dance and to visualize our dreams!
The Happy Happy Kwanzaa dance break lyrics and movements are:
After the chorus one last time, the song ends with a vamp on the phrase, Happy Kwanzaa. The soloists sing the meaning of each of The Seven Principles again, while the children shout out the numbers one through seven.
What's the best way to sing and play along to Happy Happy Kwanzaa with The Kwanzaa Singers?
During the verses, I like to simply enjoying listening to the beautiful lyrics. Listening helps you to learn the words and remember the meaning of The Seven Principles.
Finally, to keep it interesting, you can also play music during the verses with your sticks, shakers, drums, body percussion, or whatever your favorite unpitched instruments happen to be!
Photo of school children playing egg shakers and castanets courtesy Cypress Academy New Orleans Music Program.
Now that I've told you all about the Happy Happy Kwanzaa lyrics and movements, you may be wondering about the music and the recording. Let me tell you, that's another reason I love this song!
Bunny Hull composed a song with great lyrics, fun rhythms, and Afrocentric instrumentation and voices. On the recording, The Kwanzaa Singers really bring the music to life! I love the soloists' passion for The Seven Principles and the mix of children and adult voices. You can listen to the original recording of Happy Happy Kwanzaa on YouTube.
Photo of primary school students learning alto recorder, courtesy Crossfire Preparatory Academy Music Program
Best of all is the inclusion of young musicians singing and playing recorders on the Happy Happy Kwanzaa track. The recorder is a wind instrument similar to the flute in tuning, although shaped like a clarinet. Many children learn to play recorder in K-12 schools that offer music. Primary and secondary students also learn to sing at school or their place of worship. Other students take private lessons to learn to sing and play instruments like recorder. It's great to be able to share a "real world" performance of young recorder players and singers on a professional recording for Kwanzaa!
Photo of piano and percussion students courtesy April Hamm Piano Studio.
Want to share Kwanzaa with your students? The Kwanzaa Music and Culture Teaching Guide will be available on Teachers Pay Teachers soon. Follow Miss April's Musical Arts Studio to be the first to first to know when it's available!
Want to share Kwanzaa with your family? The Kwanzaa Music and Culture Family Guide will be available soon. Advanced copies will be available on my publisher's website soon.
Want to bring Miss April and other presenters to your next Kwanzaa program? Stay tuned for booking information!
Join my email list to stay in the know!
~ Ms. April
April M. Hamm, M.Mus is a musician, storyteller, writer, educational consultant, and wellness facilitator of 25 years. She is the founder of Center for Musical Development and Wellness, creating and serving musicians and music lovers of all ages and abilities since 1994. She serves on the Kwanzaa Committee at Jim-Ree Museum, where she enjoys sharing musical arts and cultural traditions with her hometown community and tourists from all over the world.