Waka Whack-ah?

Four days after the electric kick off of the first major sporting event in history to happen on African soil, and the one thing that I still find myself disappointed by (besides the Ghana loss), is Shakira and the Waka Waka song. Sure the song is catchy, and throughout the course of my excitement, I became immune to my initial annoyance, but my issues are; 1) The spin on the Cameroonian military song, “Zangaléwa”, performed by group, “Golden Sounds” (see clip below), and 2) The overall aesthetic that was constructed to go along with it – from the specially designed Roberto Cavalli outfit for the opening concert, to the music video and closing ceremony.

In 2010, how do we not yet have a critical eye for the blatantly manufactured primitivism associated with contemporary Africanism? Surely we cannot expect FIFA (and their western gaze) to be anything but deliberate about their choice to feature non-African talent as the headliner for the official African World Cup song (keeping in mind that they barely wanted a majority African roster for the concert to begin with). I can see the slick European execs brainstorming the likes of Beyonce, and deciding that they may even be able to go further by choosing the blonde Latina who looks whiter with just as much booty. And alas – Shakira! Let’s throw the hip shaking, tribal yoddling Colombian (really of Lebonese decent), barefoot with leopard print and a grass skirt on the stage with Freshly Ground (who should really have made it a solo act), and then have some American choreographers manufacture some “ethnic” dance routines in Los Angeles for the official dance.

When preparing for three years to host this major event in South Africa for the first time in history, was it not possible to make more authentic choices about dress, dance, and artists? I’ve only been living in South Africa for less than a year and could have pulled together an aesthetic that felt more relevant than the lions, and tigers and bears ambiguous primitivism that was displayed from start to finish concerning this project. All is not lost though, as the truly deserving Freshly Ground finally got a bit of the global exposure that they’ve worked so hard for. K’naan’s “wave your flag” should have been the official song if you ask me though (besides the fact that he’s Somolian, the song just feels more like a genderless anthem).

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