Monday, May 17, 2010

Wacky Waka Waka Debate

There’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the Official World Cup song in South Africa this year. It appears that the winning song by Colombian sensation Shakira entitled Waka Waka (This time for Africa) has caused a problem for Africans, soccer fans and possibly for music fans around the world.

The most serious and blistering problem with the song is the fact that Shakira is not South African. Many people, not just from South Africa, find this offensive, as the World Cup should have a song that represents its host nation and pays tribute to their culture as opposed to Colombia. Fair enough. It’s not like we would want Beyonce to sing the World Cup song if it was being hosted, by, let’s say, Japan. We could always let that international Japanese pop star do it, you know, -yashi something, we all know her, right?

Well, this is likely the argument that a lot of corporate types are going to make. Even though this is an event focused on the love of the beautiful game and bringing the world together to compete in a convivial spirit, it’s also about making money and part of that means having identifiable people associated with it. South Africa’s most famous export at this time is the dishy Charlize Theron, who, even though she’s fiercely talented, also has the added bonus of being knock you on your butt and forget your first name beautiful. But she will be hosting and not singing, so the corporate types probably put all of their greasy heads together and dreamed up a comparable alternative, also dishy, also hot, who can sing and looks not too white.

While it is offensive, ignorant and small-minded of these types to dream up this sort of thing, it should hardly surprise anyone. Everyone loves to wave the Unity banner when it comes to international sporting events, but their end game is always about making a lot of money and attracting tourists to someplace that they may not otherwise go to. South Africa will benefit from the attention, the media spotlight and the grandeur associated with hosting such a prestigious event. They are not going to be losers in this deal. But so far, this deal hasn’t been without its problems.

Getting back to the Waka Waka debate, there’s actually nothing really wrong with this song. If you leave the origin and representation debate to one side, it’s actually quite catchy and along the lines of classic hip shaking Shakira fare. Regardless of how things turn out, there will be people singing, clapping and shaking to this thing come summer. It can’t be worse than the stuff that’s usually released in the summer (Umbrella, anyone?) or the songs that are used in other competitions of this type (I Believe was less good after the 1000th time it was played).

I guess the other side of this argument has to do with the Waving Flag song, which is a lot closer to what people were thinking of in terms of a World Cup song. It’s a rousing song, and actually has a dance to it that people can do. Unlike the Shakira jiggle that most of us should never even attempt unless we have complete health insurance and Robaxacet, you can actually wave your arms and dance along to Waving Flag and not feel dyslexic.
Not only that, this song is just better. It’s very catchy and it embodies the competitive spirit of the World Cup. Would you rather be stronger or waka waka? I think the choice is obvious.

It’s always disappointing when mass media and mass appeal trump cultural representation and fairness. Unfortunately, this is the ever growing trend with international events. Let’s hope that the Cup itself will give us more to cheer about.


  1. Remember maybe about 10 years back, Ricky Martin's song La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life) was chosen to the official FIFA World Cup song in 1998? Wasn't the host country France?

    Ricky Martin isn't French is he? Where was the brouhaha when his song was the World Cup song?

    People, I don't get people.

  2. Forget the songs ....... can't someone shut up that totally infuriating buzzing ?????? I am now watching the cup only on makes the head spin. What is up with the bee hive ????