Shakira’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance Sets Internet Tongues Wagging

Published on February 3, 2020

Leave it to Shakira to confused a brand new generation of football fans everywhere. During this year’s Super Bowl halftime performance, the Grammy-winning pop star made an eccentric noise with her tongue for a camera and fans. Twitter wasted no time starting in on making the moment into a meme. Nevertheless, it may have still been a wink to her Lebanese roots. Just like maybe this is just Shakira being Shakira.


The NFL seems to have enjoyed the moment, as they went ahead to describe it on Twitter as the “greatest moment in Super Bowl history.” And although it is believed to be a tribute to her Lebanese roots, the world wide web decided to do what they do best: waste no time. I don’t believe I’ve met anybody that disapproved of that moment, otherwise the memes wouldn’t exist.


In this day and age, you can be certain that the righteous side of social media is out there, hiding. Lurking into your handles to make sure nobody says anything out of line. Sounds creepy, I know. But there are benefits to it. Such as encountering the side of the Internet that believes we shouldn’t make fun of cultural things.

To make matters more educating, the actual name for the praised Super Bowl occasion is Zaghrouta, a noise used in the Arab world to express joy at events. The American Tunisian Association explains that:

“It is a form of a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound representing trills of joy. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue.”

The act might have been an allusion to her father, whose Lebanese culture has been described as an important element to the singer’s creative process.

Cultural (Con)Fusion

Users have pointed out that Shakira’s performances–mainly the one on the Super Bowl–usually infuse elements belonging to the Arab world. The best example can be found in her use of belly dancing throughout the years, found in songs such as: Ojos Así (1998), Whenever, Wherever (2001), La Tortura (2005), Hips Don’t Lie (2006), Gypsy (2009), and Loca (2010). Out of these songs, Ojos Así is one of the few ones to posses a verse in Arabic. As well as including instruments such as a Mijwiz.

Shakira explained to Faze Magazine how she describes her talent as:

“I am a fusion. That’s my persona. I’m a fusion between black and white, between pop and rock, between cultures — between my Lebanese father and my mother’s Spanish blood, the Colombian folklore and Arab dance I love and American music.”

“I was born and raised in Colombia, but I listened to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Cure, the Police, the Beatles and Nirvana. I was so in love with that rock sound but at the same time because my father is of 100 percent Lebanese descent, I am devoted to Arabic tastes and sounds.”

Columbian to the Core

It is inspiring to fully comprehend all of the backgrounds the Colombian-Spaniard-Lebanese Goddess uses as part of her craft. The Zaghrouta can also be seen as a homage to the world-famous Carnaval de Barranquilla, which is held in Shakira’s hometown in Colombia. It is also described as the most important cultural folkloric event in Colombia. As fun as it was, I do not believe it was in the internet’s best interest to make memes out of Shakira’s culture. Yes, she knew what she was doing. Yes, she knew some memes were meant to come out. But she did it for her culture. Besides, it’s Shakira. Tongue out or not, it is still safe to say that we all enjoyed Shakira’s and J.Lo halftime performance. And the game.

Argenis Ovalles is an Editorial Intern at Grit Daily. He currently writes at Vocal Media and Theater Pizzazz.

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