World Cup Songs: Waka Waka, Zangaléwa and Waving Flags

I didn’t really understand the prominence of music during the World Cup until I lived in Ireland. Typically, each World Cup has its own song–here, for example, is Ricky Martin’s song for France ’98–and many nations produce a song for their team as well. This is England’s song from 2006. Surprisingly, England’s Football Association opted not to produce a song for 2010.

This year is no different. I’ve been a little confused, because I’ve heard two songs prominently associated with the event. First, there’s “Wavin’ Flag”, a song by Somali-Canadian artist K’naan.

It’s been made an unofficial anthem of this year’s World Cup courtesy of Coca-Cola’s marketing campaign. Here’s a quieter version, recorded on CBC’s Q. I’ve heard K’naan sing live a couple of times on TV, and, charitably, he’s struggled.

And then there’s the official official song, “Waka Waka”, performed by hip-wielding Colombian superstar Shakira:

Interestingly, this song is a remake of a 1986 Cameroonian hit, “Zangalewa”. From Wikipedia:

“Tsamina” or “Zangaléwa” is a 1986 hit song, originally sung by a makossa group from Cameroon called Golden Sounds who were beloved throughout the continent for their silly dances and costumes. The song was such a hit for Golden Sounds that they eventually changed their name to Zangaléwa, too. The song pays tribute to African skirmishers (a.k.a tirailleurs) during WW II. Most of the band members were in the Cameroonian Army themselves and used make up, fake belly and fake butt for comic relief.

The song is still used today almost everywhere in Africa by soldiers, policemen, boy scouts, sportsmen and their supporters, usually during training or for rallying. It is also widely used in schools throughout the continent especially in Cameroon as a marching song and almost everyone in the country knows the chorus of the song by heart. The song was also popular in Colombia where it was known as “The Military” and brought to the country by West African DJs.

“Butt” probably doesn’t belong in Wikipedia, but never mind. Here’s a video of the original song:

Neither of the new songs are classics–they’re catchy bits of pop bubblegum which ought to last for the tournament, and then be scooped up by the Ghost of Pop Culture Past.


  1. Shakira has an irritating voice and I can’t stand her songs. This song is a piece of drivel that non-music fans seem to go crazy just because it has some funny sounding words like Waka Waka (funny to non-Africans) and you’re right. A few weeks after the World Cup ends, they’ll change the song from the ring back tone list and completely forget what the fuss was all about.

  2. Yarr, music for the world cup is really important — take the england song from back in the 90’s, it’s all about how england sucks and is going to blow it!

    here’s a cover of it by a local british girl:

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