Language Variation (Data Interpretation)

The song “Waka Waka” is sung by Colombian pop-singer Shakira and South African Afro-fusion band Freshly Ground. It became hit in 2010, as the song had been chosen as an official song of football World Cup. According to the lead singer Shakira (www.songfacts.com), the World Cup delineates an event that can “unite and integrate every country, race, religion, and condition around a single passion”. So, the main focus of the song is the vigour that is able to connect all of them. Primarily the “Waka Waka” is in English, however there are some cases when Shakira shifts to Spanish and African languages. As the part which is sung by band Freshly Ground, a lead vocalist Zolani Mahola (2010) states that it is in Xhosa language. It was noted by Coupland and Schilling-Estes (cited in Jaspers, 2010) that people mostly change the style in reply to the public or their partners rather than the attention they pay to their speech. It might be the same with the change of languages. Singers may represent their song in different languages, as they have listeners from all the parts of the world, and their main aim might be to make it comprehensible for each person, who listens to the song. In this paper, reasons for the different language usage in the song will be analysed. Qualitative analytical approach is applied to describe principles that influence singers’ shift to different languages.

The title of the song “Waka Waka” means “a flame that’s getting higher and higher” (Mahola, 2010). The reason for why the song is predominantly in English might be that English is considered as a “global language”, which means “a language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognized in every country” (Crystal, 2003, p. 3). So, even English is not their mother tongue, people learn it as a foreign language. Therefore, it may be possible that they have an opportunity to speak and understand speech in this language, in this particular case they are able to comprehend the meaning of the song. Also, the line in Spanish – Y vamos por todo, which is translated as “we will follow others” – can be found in the middle of the song. Cameron (1995) noted that “who you are depends on how you act” (p. 16). The use of Spanish language may be the case that Shakira (singer) wants to show her national identity, as she is a Colombian and her mother tongue is Spanish. She adds (acts) Spanish language to the English song, and makes it clear she is from Spanish speaking country (who she is). In terms of the last part of chorus, it has African and English languages shift.

Tsamina mina zangalewa
Cause this is Africa

Tsamina mina eh eh
Waka waka eh eh

Tsamina mina zangalewa

This time for Africa

It was borrowed from the hit “Zangaléwa”, which is by makossa (Cameroonian popular urban musical style) group Golden Sounds. According to the information given on the website www.hubpages.com (2010), there is an argument that in Fang (African) language “Tsamina mina zangalewa” means “Who sent you?”, so it might serve as a question “Where are you?” or “Why are you here?” in this song, since footballers come from all over the world to the football World Cup. Another version can be found on this website that “Zangaléwa” is from Ewondo (another African language) “Loé wa za anga?”, which is translated as “Who called you?”. The original song might have been devoted to soldiers to encourage them to the battle, therefore “Loé wa za anga?” is a question that one may be asked if they complain about the harshness of the military life. However, in this song it may have the same meaning as in Fang language.

There is also another part which is in Xhosa language (also African), sung by the band Freshly Ground:

Ame la mejole biggi biggi mubbo wa A to Z
Asi tsu zala makyuni biggi biggi mubbo from East to West
Asi waga waga ma eh eh waga waga ma eh eh
Tendency suna tsibuye ’cause this is Africa (Africa, Africa Africa)

This part might be possible to have a meaning of invitation of all players to come to Africa and take part in the World Cup.

Overall, the different languages in this song might have been used for a reason. English has a global language status and is comprehensible for most of the population of the world. Spanish reveals the main singer’s national identity. As for the use different African languages, it emphasizes the fact that the football World Cup takes place in Africa and adds African style to the song.

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