The mystery of Fabindia’s Jerusalema Challenge

Ethnic brand Fabindia had launched the Jerusalema Dance Challenge in the middle of February 2021.

What is the Jerusalema Challenge? See the end of this post for the background context.

The ask was simple – dance to the song playing in the background but in a uniquely Indian style.

Share the video by tagging Fabindia on social media channels and get the chance to win the prize money.

Quite a few people enthusiastically participated and shared their video too!

But suddenly, all the posts by Fabindia on every single platform vanished. There was no trace of any dance challenge by Fabindia and the only remnants were on a Google search result. When you click any search result, you get an error!

Even the 3rd party articles, from publications like Elle, announcing the contest, have been removed completely.

It’s almost like we imagined in our heads that Fabindia ran the Jerusalema Dance Challenge contest!

So what happened?

The most likely explanation is this: Warner Music, the record label that owns the rights to the original song (that plays in the background while people dance) has started seeking licence fees for the use of the song!

This is only my guess – I do not know why Fabindia removed the contest overnight. The only fact in front of us is that the contest is no more live and all remnants of it have been scrubbed clean on Fabindia’s social media channels. And that the music label that owns the song is going after brands and institutions that are using the song without legal permission.

As the song’s owners, they are perfectly justified in seeking royalty for usage. The label even clarifies that individuals are free to use the song but if “there is an advertising or image-promoting effect in favor of an institution, organization or company”, then that organization has to enter into a formal licensing agreement with Warner to be able to use the song.

Ironically, the time period Fabindia announced the Jerusalema India Dance Challenge contest was also the same time when Warner started creating noise about the licensing requirement to use the song – mid-February 2021!

While I do understand the enthusiasm by Fabindia towards Indianizing the Jerusalema dance challenge, running online contests for brands involves basic checks and balances. These start from the simplest of things – using a screenshot/video clips from a film/song… to using a song in the background for an online promo video! When individuals do this, it barely passes muster, but when brands do it, the social media/digital teams need to be extraordinarily careful!

I personally know of a LOT of agency and brand-side teams bearing the brunt of copyright/royalty claims and coughing up lakhs and crores behind the scenes after the rights owner threatened to sue either the agency or the brand team.

This is a good lesson for most brand-side and client-side teams to be very, very observant and cautious before planning any campaign or even a piece of content on behalf of the brand, particularly if there’s no legal oversight to such content creation processes. No matter how small or big your brand is, it could be the subject of legal action if you used any copyrighted material without official permission.

‘Jerusalema’ is a massively viral hit gospel song by the South African DJ and record producer Master KG (original name Kgaogelo Moagi) and sung by Nocembo Zikode.

The song was released in late-2019 and the challenge took off in February 2020 when Fenómenos do Semba, a group in Angola, recorded themselves dancing to the song while eating and without dropping their plates!

From then on, the challenge went global with tons of groups and organizations adding their versions!

Here are some examples:

Austrian Airlines

Swiss Police

Irish Police

The Masaka Kids (that a lot of people shared in India too).

Hiranandadni Hospital!



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