“Waka Waka” turns five years

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It is five years since Shakira’s hit “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)”, the official FIFA 2010 World Cup song was released in May 2010. Yes, that song was an inspiration for the name of this blog.

“Waka Waka” turned out to be a huge international hit, topping single lists in several countries and selling over ten million digital copies to date. The song regained popularity last year, during the World Cup in Brazil, whistling out the negatively perceived “We Are One (Ole Ola)” by Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez.  

“Waka Waka” uses the chorus of 1986 song “Zangalewa” by Golden Sounds from Cameroon (not to be confused with a Kenyan band of the same name). The group members come from Cameroon’s presidential guard. The song “Zangalewa” became so popular that the band is also sometimes known by that name. This Youtube video says to be playing the original version (the familiar chorus begins at 7:30 minutes!). Zangalewa has since been covered by various African artists. Jean Paul Zé Bella, now-retired singer of the band said he was proud the song was used by such a big star as Shakira.  This despite the group was not contacted beforehand in terms of copyrights, but the issue was apparently settled soon after the release of “Waka Waka”. Hopefully original performers eventually got their share, even if the proceeding of the song were directed to the “One Goal” charity selected by Shakira.

Many South Africans were disappointed the song was not performed by a local artist, even though the South African band Freshlyground is rather incidentally being featured on it. However, World Cup is a global event, not African Cup of Nations. Official World Cup songs are often not performed by artist from host countries. For example at the 2002 Japan/Korea World Cup the song was “Boom” by Anastacia, four years earlier the France World Cup had Ricky Martin’s “The Cup of Life” as the official song. The 2006 song was performed by German Herbert Grönemeyer but who remembers ever hearing “Celebrate the Day”?

I’m not going to speculate how a song by any South African artist would have fared, but “Waka Waka” being such a huge global hit justifies its status as the official World Cup Song. Despite being performed by a Colombian, the song did well promoting Africa, the largely neglected continent in a positive way.

A couple of additional interesting links on the song:

* interview of  Jean Paul Zé Bella, former member of Golden Sounds (aka Zangalewa) in French

* a blog post by dibussi.com on copyright issues of Waka Waka and other African songs

One thought on ““Waka Waka” turns five years

    […] Then there was the international hit “7 Seconds” that saw Youssou N’Dour collaborating with Neneh Cherry. Another remarkable African-flavored hit was Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), that our blog borrowed its name from. […]


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