Did Shakira’s World Cup Anthem Miss The Mark?

shakira1By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

You gotta love the World Cup. It’s a time when America’s forced to acknowledge not only that other countries exist, but that they might be better and more passionate at some things. The Olympics? Maybe once upon a time, but not when NBC frames the event as the feel-good story of (x) teenage athlete.

Anyway, this year’s selection for the official Cup theme song – a team-up between Shakira and South African group Freshlyground – has a rather curious history. The video below for “WAKA WAKA (This Time For Africa)” is SFW and is actually rather catchy.

While it might seem odd to see the Colombian Shakira fronting a song for a tournament held in South Africa, Guanabee notes that the song’s inspiration, “Zangalewa,” by a Cameroonian band of the same name, was actually popular in her country as well as several others in Africa. Guanabee also says, “The song, music historians say, is a criticism of black military officers who were in league with whites to oppress their own people. Or at least, some of it was. Some of it, as far was we can surmise, is gibberish.”

The “gibberish” thing is questionable, but the fact remains that some of the lyrics do use some uncomfortable imagery:

You’re a good soldier,
Choosing your battles
Pick yourself up,
And dust yourself off
And back in the saddle
You’re on the frontline
Everyone’s watching
You know it’s serious
We’re getting closer
This isn’t over

At a time when popular media likes to depict Africa as little more than a confluence of civil wars – O HAI 24 & FLASHFORWARD! – are those really the words FIFA wants welcoming viewers to South Africa’s moment in the spotlight?

A more fitting choice might actually have been the song Coca-Cola picked to serve as the jingle for its’ Cup ad campaign, K’naan’s “Waving Flag.” (Full disclosure: I posted this version because the “official” video has an unnecessary cameo by Spanish reality-show alum David Bisbal and several annoyingly cheery “Latino” dancers, not to mention subtle product placements.)

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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