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The Globalisation of Ooga Booga

The Globalisation of Ooga Booga

by Andy Davis / 06.05.2010

Another FIFA Disgrace. The Official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is performed, wait for it, by a Columbian pop star who lives in Barbados. And while I think Shakira is both talented and hot, what is she doing singing the Official Song for the first World Cup on African soil? And while many of the World Cup optimists out there will point out that she’s backed by South Africa’s Freshlyground, all I’m saying is that, surely, it should be the other way around?

Now let’s dip into a bit of history. Blackface is that old school theatrical make-up popularised in the US in the late 19th century in theatrical minstrel shows, and came to represent and proliferate racist stereotypes about black people. It was the ultimate appropriation, exploitation and assimilation of African-American culture. It’s also the ultimate diss, that black people can’t even represent themselves.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that despite the marketing position of “the first blah blah on African soil” the FIFA World Cup is really just a pantomime of a celebration of everything African. So we’ve got a Columbian popstar singing the World Cup song and the FIFA PR machine has the audacity to say that, “with its rhythmical African sounds, the song represents the vitality and energy of the host continent.”

FIFA seems to have no real interest in allowing the World Cup to be a showcase for African and South African culture and talent. Rather, it’s more of the same bankable globalised shit. Take a look at the top down approach they took when selecting the artists for the Official FIFA World Cup Kick Off Celebration. Only 3 South African bands representing… And the most credible and representative amongst them, Vusi Mahlasela has apparently pulled out.

Then let’s look at the back story of how Freshlyground snuck onto the Official World Cup song. The way it goes is that FIFA bestowed upon Sony Music the exclusive rights to deliver the Official World Cup song, Sony being a big global sponsor of the soccer showcase. All the Sony artists get to pitch and put forward suggestions and these songs get presented to FIFA, who along with some execs at Sony, choose.

Freshlyground were in New York recording their latest album Radio Africa. They just so happened to be in the same studio complex as Shakira who was recording her attempt for the Official World Cup song… But something was missing, so Shakira’s producer popped downstairs to check out this unknown South African band that was producing some enticing sounds in the basement. So Freshlyground, the only thing that gives this track even a vague whiff of credibility, relevance or connection to the motherland, snuck into the production through an act of universal serendipity. Kismet. Chance.

The irony is not lost that the song’s oft repeated chorus has Shakira singing the words, “this time for Africa” over and again while she is, to paraphrase Bob Dylan “standing in the doorway and blocking up the hall”. Gobbling up the opportunity that should have been given to a deserving African artist.

But wait it gets better. The World Cup song “Waka Waka” is actually a remake of this old number from a band called Trafassi from Surinam in the Caribbean. Even though the FIFA website simply claims that Shakira wrote the song. Apparently, the Trafassi version of Waka Waka was a big hit in Columbia back in the day.

Now dig a little deeper and you’ll see the African connection. The Trafassi hit was a rip on the original version of “Waka Waka”, a song called “Zangalewa” which was an old marching tune from Cameroon made popular by a makossa band called Golden Sounds, who soon changed their name to Zangalewa due to the success of their song. The lyrics are in a Cameroonian dialect called Fang. Apparently the song has quite a pointed political message criticising black military officers who were in league with white colonialists to suppress their own people, and this explains why the band are dressed up like farcical, clownish soldiers.

And much like the old white American smearing his face with burnt chalk or boot polish, it’s pretty obvious that FIFA has no real intention of providing real opportunities for African culture and society through their World Cup. Despite Sepp Blatter’s supposed love affair with the continent, their “this time for Africa” shtick is face paint. Blackface. It’s a powerful analogy for what’s happening right now. There’s a white dude dancing around, appropriating, exploiting and misrepresenting Africa to the world. It’s a partially digested Disney vision of the continent like the Lion King. It’s exactly the same kak Hugh Masekela was commenting on when he titled his first album in exile The Americanisation of Ooga Booga. It’s an old story, really. A global showcase positioned entirely towards the rich and powerful markets of the first world. They just want some exotic shit to dance to. And FIFA and Sony were not about to take the “risk” on untested African artists.

And this is just one instance in a long list of bad decision making. Instances that have positioned this World Cup 2010 as both anti-poor and anti-African. From the 5km exclusion zones around the stadiums, that basically forcefully exclude informal traders from any financial benefit from the games, to the exorbitant liquor license fees for pubs with TV sets, to the internationally tilted line-up for the official kick off event… It’s patently obvious to anyone who wants to look that FIFA is not on our side.

But hopefully there will be enough focussed international interest in what’s happening here, that like Freshlyground, other talented and original African artists can sneak onto the TV and computer screens of the global consciousness, through the backdoor. Because right now, that’s the only way in.

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RESPONSES (110)
  1. Mocha says:

    AT you couldn’t have said it better. The spirit of entitlement among black south africans is baffling. Take it from me, they can’t even stomach the thought of other africans (from outside south africa) who are more educated and more hard working. This song is fab and has a global appeal. They couldn’t have chosen a better person to sing it- great voice and great anthropologist. This is not a South African event, it’s not a zulu wedding– it’s the FIFA World Cup! With this kind of attitude from South Africans I fear the world cup will turn out to be a PR disaster for Africa.

    And for the record Shakira does not live in Barbados. I live in Trinidad, which is a stone throw away from Barbados, so I know. Not even Rihanna, the Bajan superstar lives there.

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  2. GLOBALGIRL says:

    Number one.. It’s COLOMBIA you ignorant… AT LEAST GET A MAP!
    And so what if she’s not african… since when do the singers have to be from the continent or even the country to be chosen for the world cup. EMPHASIS ON WORLD! ITS AN INTERNATIONAL EVENT FOR GOD’S SAKE.Just because this year it’s taking place in africa doesn’t make it theirs. It’s all about the music and who makes the best song not where you come from. Isn’t that the whole point of the world cup; bringing different nations together? Four years ago Shakira did an amazing job in Germany representing all the nations and 1. if you hadn’t noticed SHE’S NOT GERMAN (in fact she’s closer to being african than german) 2. The song from Germany’s World Cup even had african type tones in it and no one complained. Besides why is she less deserving. Just like african artist there are tons of latino artist and indian artist and asian artist trying to make it in the business. THATS LIFE. Deal with it!.. yes off course FIFA is thinking about the money, its the biggest event of the year. I’m not saying that the high cost of the liquor licenses and all that ins’t a bit shady but the fact that your taking it out on a woman who’s worked hard enough on her career to earn this is just ridiculous and petty. And yes we’d heard that song before in COLOMBIA but so what. many artist copy from each other for inspiration or simply to give us different (maybe even better) versions of songs. It happens everyday. They are called covers.. LOOK IT UP!

    All in all.. i’m looking forward to this world cup and have been counting down the days for months.. we shouldn’t be letting things like this ruin the spirit of the event!

    PS// I LIVE IN COLOMBIA and the hit in COLOMBIA (one more time so you get it right the next time your thinking of mentioning us) was the original zangalewa not the other version… unlike others we do appreciate and accept different cultures.

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  3. Realism Puh-leez says:

    Where did Doctor L and Zama go? Does a lack of response mean eventual agreement?

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  4. Moeg vir kak! says:

    Not everyone’s parents were a bunch of Nazi’s, Mocha and all your aliases!

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  5. Moeg vir kak! says:

    Your generalizations in painting everyone with the same brush are gonna get you sticking your foot in your mouth.

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  6. Waka waka fan says:

    Listen Andy Davies….are you from South Africa? Doesn’t sound like it. Do yourself a favour and come to South Africa and feel the South African beat and catch the vibes, come party with us. The World Cup is THE best thing that could have happened to us. It is breaking all barrier and bringing people together. If you are South African then shame on you….catch a wake-up and feel the excitement brewing in ALL South Africans and the worl (execpt you)

    Freshlyground is one of THE best group in South Africa

    And by the way, if I don’t have it miss, the waka waka song was also used in the animated movie Lilo & Stich…….

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  7. Andy says:

    it’s DAVIS. Now go wave your flag.

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  8. Waka waka fan says:

    HAHAHAHAHA The Davies was on purpose…..now you know how the COLOMBIAN people feel….. and by the way….I am a white South African that grew up in the previous regeme. I thought about everything for a long time and I am proud to be a South African. Today I’m wearing yellow and green and tomorrow I will wear my official Bafana shirt

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  9. Roseanna says:

    67Pg9a I’m not eaisly impressed. . . but that’s impressing me! 🙂

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  10. smbrjxrc says:

    3vibI9 avnbxkhwmffn

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