The 2020 Super Bowl Halftime performance by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez are generating countless mixed reviews. For some, it was just another botched lipsyncing disaster that featured two women trying to remain relevant. For others, though, it was a sign of two women, despite their age, showing that they still have the goods to perform on one of the biggest stages in the world. Regardless, of those two dissenting opinions, others have been rather confused by the high-pitched warbling that Shakira gave directly to the camera. A little history on the Colombian star, though.
Shakira is known for being from the country of Colombia, but her international roots go way beyond that. The pop star’s father was actually born in New York City to Lebanese parents before finally emigrating to Colombia, where Shakira was born. So, while she was born in South America, she very much has Middle-Eastern inheritance.
In fact, Shakira’s name actually has a direct Arabic translation meaning ‘full of grace’ or ‘grateful’. And it seems the artist hasn’t forgotten her roots. The sound she made, which was odd for Americans who didn’t know what she was doing, actually is common in the Middle East.
The warble in question is called zaghrouta, which is a traditional expression of happy emotions in the Arabic tradition. According to Arab America, “The origin of “Zaghareet” [pl.] or Ululation dates back to the pre-Islamic era, as it was a traditional ritual of idolatry practiced collectively by women asking the idols for relief, mercy, rain . . . etc. In addition to drumbeats, they also used ululation to stimulate excitement on battlefields.”
One social media user on Twitter described it in broader terms stating, “It is a way to express joy or happiness in Arab culture. Elements of it can also be found in other cultures even as far as music in the Balkans.”
This is called zaghrouta. It is a way to express joy or happiness in Arab culture. Elements of it can also be found in other cultures even as far as music in the Balkans. https://t.co/bixdVn34vF
— Bozi Tatarevic (@BoziTatarevic) February 3, 2020
For Shakira, performing on the main stage of the Super Bowl was a moment to honor not only her heritage, but also to empower women and young girls that look to her for inspiration.
Speaking with 60 Minutes, the pop star explained what this opportunity meant for her. “The message [of my performance] is gonna be ‘Listen, I’m a woman. I’m a Latina. It wasn’t easy for me to get to where I am. And being at the Super Bowl is proof that everything is possible,” she said. “That the dreams of a little girl from Barranquilla, Colombia, they were made of something of what dreams are made of and I’m gonna be there, giving it all.”
Despite not knowing the significance of her vocal ululation, people on social media instantly began to make memes and jokes. One user on Twitter likened the sound to a turkey that was getting pardoned on Thanksgiving posting, “the turkey who gets pardoned on Thanksgiving.”
Another Twitter user focused more on the physical aspect of the act, sharing that it resembled someone attempting to get the last bit of fruit out of a cup with their tongue. “Me trying to get the last peach out the fruit cup.”
All joking aside, though, the performance, whether you loved it or hated it, was a dedication by Shakira to her country, ancestry, and to the empowerment of women and young girls all around the world that were watching.