Music Video Relapse: "Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)" (2010) by Shakira

Posted by Adam Fairholm on December 12, 2013 in Music Video Relapse

Staff Post


Since the death of Nelson Mandela there has, of course, been a lot of focus in the news on South Africa. If you didn't know much about Mandela before, you're probably learning a lot as news organizations around the world recap his life.

One of the Mandela stories I wasn't aware of was his connection to the 2010 FIFA World Cup - the first World Cup that was held in Africa. Mandela campaigned heavily for South Africa to be the host country, and FIFA president Joseph Blatter even went as far as to call Mandela the "true architect" of those games. Simply put, it probably wouldn't have happened without him.

Although those games were played three years ago, they left behind a piece that was and continues to be incredibly popular - Shakira's "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" music video, the official anthem for the 2010 World Cup and currently the number 7 most viewed music video of all time. Let's take a look! It was released in 2010 and directed by Marcus Raboy.

I'm going to preface this by saying I know very little about South Africa and even less about soccer. But I do know that each World Cup has an "anthem" (like the Olympics have a song for each games). This song gets played over and over at the World Cup, is preformed live, and is used in promotions. In 2010, that anthem was "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)",  a Shakira track written for the games that features a chorus that is a sort of cover of a 1986 song called "Zamina mina (Zangaléwa)" by Golden Sounds. The track and video features South African band Freshlyground.

The video itself is a combination of a dance setup by Shakira and her dancing crew, as well as archival footage of soccer games. I'm told that if you know a lot about soccer, these are famous moments you'd be familiar with. If you don't know a lot about soccer, it's some cool footage of soccer so it's a win-win.

The heart of the video is the dancing, though, choreographed by frequent Shakira collaborator Hi Hat. For most of the video, Shakira stands at the head of a V in front of some background dancers, and they all do the waka waka dance during the chorus. I don't recall it being a huge dance craze, but it is recognizable as a dance and pretty easy to replicate if you have any dancing skill.

Shakira is great - we all know Shakira, but the best part of the video for me are the other elements around her like Freshlyground, the kids she dances with, and the soccer players that appear on the set (but not in the dance group). Freshlyground, a group definitely not familiar to most of the people watching this video around the world, appear late in the video, and both Kyla-Rose Smith and Zolani Mahola are front and center. They don't really do any dancing, but they are so fun to watch that they end up overshadowing the main dancers. Then there's the awesome kid dancers that are featured towards the end of the video as well. Marcus Raboy does a great job of making everyone seem like a big, happy family - even those crazy dragon looking things in the back seem to be really into it.

This is one of those videos that is meant to be viewed around the world, and to many people this is probably the thing that comes to mind when they think about the 2010 World Cup (or maybe even South Africa). So a valid question is, does this represent South Africa at all? I'm not qualified to answer that question, but the fact that Freshlyground look so comfortable in the video leads me to believe that even though Shakira isn't from South Africa, this video is not unrepresentative of South African culture. It certainly is trying to provide a wide view, as it literally packs in more and more people at the very end as Shakira chants "we are all Africa".

You also may remember that at the time that this video was made, people were absolutely nuts over 3D. Much of the 2010 World Cup was, in fact, broadcast in 3D. So, it's only fair that this video was shot in 3D, even though I don't really know where you'd watch it in 3D now. Thankfully there are no 3D gimmicks to date it - it's just as fun in regular old 2D.

So there we go - you didn't think we'd be able to get a Nelson Mandela music video connection in there did you?

Adam Fairholm is the co-founder and lead developer of IMVDb. You can find him on twitter at @adamfairholm.

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