Soccer Music Politics

By | June 19, 2010

By now, we have all heard Shakira’s edifying “Waka Waka,” the official theme song of the 2010 World Cup.

I promised myself that I would keep this post short, so please allow me just to note that I believe the majority of the conscious world has found this song to be, at various times, putridly abominable, horrifically terrible, terribly horrific, condenscending to Africans, ignorant, frivolous, foolish, a representative of the Gap commercial-ification of everything that used to be holy and complex and interesting, Exhibit A in the thesis that the Apocalypse is near, the death blow to optimism. Thank you, Shakira, you have done it again. And curses, you’ve already made me write a hundred words about you!

In this context of World Cup decay, I think it is important that we note there is another official theme song of this 2010 Cup. It is titled “Waving Flag,” by K’Naan.

By contrast with “Waka Waka,” I believe that “Waving Flag” is a work of genius. The version posted above is the official version of the song, which you have no doubt heard at some point in the last week and a half. While strikingly catchy and driving, this song is still to some extent a FIFA creation. It is commercialized, too big in its sound, somewhat banal in its lyrics.

This is, however, the watered down version of the original song. I beg that you listen to this song. It is powerful, naked, deeply felt, melodic, meaningful. K’Naan is a Somali born singer/songwriter whose family moved to New York and then Canada after the Somali civil wars of the 1990s. He learned English listening to Nas, Tupac, and Marley, and his body of work has elements of each of these masters. And while this body of work is varied and large and growing, many of its virtues are exemplified in “Waving Flag.” K’Naan is political without being grating, soft without being weak, a pure talent whose association with FIFA forms a contrast that greatly favors the artist. He is, in short, the anti-Shakira.

Happy listening. If you feel the urge, I’d urge you all to chime in with thoughts on the musical politics of the World Cup.

Category: Africa FIFA Music Soccer Politics Video Clips

About John Harpham

John graduated from Duke in May 2010, with an undergraduate degree in political theory and French. This summer, before applying to Ph.D. programs in political theory, he is stationed in Paris, where he is writing about the culture of French soccer on a Benenson grant from Duke. Although he has never been any good at it, John is a life-long fan of soccer. And although he will never be as chic, John is also a life-long fan of Prof. Dubois.

2 thoughts on “Soccer Music Politics

  1. Laurent Dubois

    Thanks, Tresor: That is certainly an important reminder! I appreciate the comment and the link, as I’m sure John Harpham will as well.

  2. Tresor

    Just to mention that you should always add the paternity of this song by Shakira is a remix version of the song “Zangalewa” by the music Band of the Cameroonian Army “The Golden Sound”. We are intellectual and we take offense for bad references.
    Here is a youtube link to the original:


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