What is a zaghrouta? Shakira's meme-inspiring Super Bowl tongue wag is an Arabic tradition

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Shakira during her Super Bowl performance. [Photo: AP]

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”.

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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.

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.

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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.”


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.

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.

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