Shakira’s tongue waggle during the Super Bowl has sparked countless internet memes, but what exactly was she doing?
The 43-year-old singer’s energetic Super Bowl half-time performance together with Jennifer Lopez, 50, has been widely praised by critics.
During a pre-game press conference, Shakira described the show to come as “an all-inclusive party, a party that integrates cultures and diversity”.
And while the music and dance performance itself featured just that – everything from reggaeton and belly-dancing to Afro-fusion music – the singer provided an unexpected cultural twist.
During a performance of her hit song ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, Shakira performed a high-pitched noise made by wagging her tongue closely to her microphone.
What is a zagrouta?
The “tongue thing” and accompanying cry has been pegged as one of the most memorable moments of Shakira’s performance, judging by the response on social media.
Shakira at the halftime show with her tongue pic.twitter.com/YExscsMvvS
— Jason Mariani (@PajamaCaniac) February 3, 2020
Trying to learn that tongue thing Shakira did pic.twitter.com/2abXagRDEO
— Nate (@NastiiN8) February 3, 2020
While some have parodied the tongue waggling, others have pointed out its Arabic cultural significance – as a sound to express happiness, known as a zagrouta.
The zagrouta, according to the Arab America website, is a “form of a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound representing trills of joy [...] produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue.”
Shakira is part Lebanese. Her “tongue-flicking” is something she has done for years at her concerts. One of her most famous songs features her singing in Arabic. Just cause the rest of the world is getting that moment wrong doesn’t mean you should too.
— Meesh Zambrana (@meeshsparks) February 3, 2020
debated whether to chime in, but so many disrespectful memes: Shakira wasn’t just being funny with the “tongue thing.” what she did is called a zaghrouta, an Arabic tradition used to express joy, excitement, celebration. typically heard at weddings. FYI, she’s part Lebanese.
— Diana Elbasha (@DianaElbasha) February 3, 2020
What you think is a meme, is actually a cultural act 👇🏾
NOTE 📝 Shakira’s tongue expression is called zaghārīt, a way to express joy in Arab culture (she's half Arab)
It also aludes to the dance “Son de Negros” at the “Carnaval de Barranquilla” where she is from in Colombia 🇨🇴 pic.twitter.com/QFBPve1RiJ
— The Nikki Diaries (@thenikkidiaries) February 3, 2020
It is often performed at weddings, parties and other celebrations.
Shakira’s paternal grandparents were Lebanese – so it is believed this move was a nod to her heritage.
It’s also performed during the “Carnaval de Barranquilla” in Barranquila, Shakira’s Colombian hometown.
I want to thank Colombia for giving me the mapalé, the champeta, the salsa and the Afro-Caribbean rhythms that allowed me to create the Super Bowl Halftime Show that I dreamed of more than a decade ago. pic.twitter.com/KlBb94vJfL
— Shakira (@shakira) February 3, 2020
Shakira also paid homage to her Colombian background with her performance, thanking the south American country for its musical legacy in a tweet shared afterwards.