Waka Waka

The first time I saw the music video for Shakira’s World Cup 2010 song, I grew teary without even really knowing why. I went on to use it in many of my ESL classes, usually playing it during our end-of-term class party, where people from Asia, Africa and Latin America were bound together in their love for the song (and soccer and beautiful women shaking what the good Lord gave them). We ate sambusas and cake and lukewarm orange soda, and we celebrated our small victories of grammar and friendship, all while Shakira danced in the background.

I am the student now, taking a Somali language class in my new city. I hear the song in the hallways of the elementary school where my little community education class meets. The janitors have the same rotation of songs every week–mostly latin pop songs and love ballads. When Shakira comes on, everyone in my class gets silent. My teacher, a young Somali man, talks wistfully about football, which turns into conversations about politics and Africa in general. I am reminded of how important all these things are, how identity is a fragile thing, especially in our fractured world.

The song still makes me cry, every time I hear it (and especially if I watch the video). I can’t really explain it. The shots of soccer victories and defeats, the people dancing from every tribe and nation, the repeated refrain “this time for Africa” being hailed as a joyous, prophetic truth. It’s an infectious song, celebrating a country who more often than not gets nothing but bad press in my world: a place of orphans and AIDS and crisis and corruption. A place where we send teams of people for weeks at a time, a place in constant need of outside saviors, mysterious and unfathomable, mired in troubles.

But this is only a part of the story. In the singing and dancing of the video I find so much articulated that I see every day: the men in the Somali coffee shops, huddled around the TVs, catching the latest soccer game. My Sudanese brother-in-law, reading the news in Arabic every day, his watchful eye ever on the politics of Africa. The women who blast tinny African music from their cell phones as they cook fish and rice and bread for me, the Somali teenager who knows more about the Kenyan president than I will ever hope to. I see it, every day, in my city of immigrants, a people in a sort of exile I can never imagine. Every day, millions around the world, are thinking the same thought to themselves: when will it be time for Africa?

Shakira, unlikely war photographer. You captured what so many of us already believe, even if we never knew how to say. Of course it’s time for Africa. It always was. The thought is so joyous and heartbreaking, the struggles so sharp and the continent so grand, I can’t help but join in.


For like all my friends, I believe it: this time for Africa.




Tagged , , ,

13 thoughts on “Waka Waka

  1. Sweetie, I am so old, I don’t even know who the heck Shakira is! (Heard the name but have never seen her until now.) But I LOVE that you’ve given us little peeks into your life just now, DL. Wanna know something funny? In 1966, we had never HEARD of soccer (to speak of) and suddenly, my husband became the sportsmaster at the boarding school in Choma, Zambia, where we lived and taught. We learned a lot (he did, especially) but somehow, we were the wrong generation to get ‘into’ the game much. Our kids played indoor soccer but never AYSO – primarily because we kept Sundays sacrosanct for church and family. So despite cheering for Choma Secondary, we’ve never gotten into all the hoopla at all. I think we’d be most out of place where you are! But YOU, however, are in the midst. You go, DL. You.Go.

  2. Mark C says:

    Shakira’s hips have been known to make people cry.

  3. Sarah T. says:

    I hear you! Being in Africa as this song became popular, now in Colombia where Shakira’s a bit of an icon, it helps me realize just how small and big my world really is.

  4. Y says:

    I hope all this passion can be channeled into organized change.

  5. Melissa G says:

    Ah! Yes! Thanks for this! I love Shakira… I love this song…. and I wanted to put my finger on something besides just her hot hot hips. She’s celebrating the battles on an interracial, international level. And she’s willing to be a pop star AND a serious humanitarian all at once. WAKA WAKA EY EY

  6. Greg Strannigan says:

    Thanks for the video post. Shakira? Who knew?

  7. Mark C says:

    Also, now this song is stuck in my head. Thanks.

  8. this is my kids favorite song… while in Burundi during the South African World Cup fever it was on endless loop throughout the city and our home. My kids choreographed a dance to the song with the help of their uncle and aunties and to this day, when we play the song, they dance. It is a song that champions Africa and harnesses our best hopes to Shine, Shine! It’s on my ipod, Claude’s, and the kids, too. We are a waka waka household = believing the best for Africa!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: