Shakira's Viral Super Bowl Tongue Moment Was Actually a Nod to Her Cultural Heritage
While the night was filled with a spectacular display of music and dance, one moment in particular captured viewers and the internet.
As the iconic singer — who also celebrated her 43rd birthday on Sunday — launched into her hit song “Hips Don’t Lie,” she turned to a camera recording from below the stage at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and wagged her tongue while letting out a high-pitched cry.
The moment quickly went viral, as viewers reacted to the unexpected performance, many wondering what it meant or why the singer did it. Within minutes, footage of the moment had become a gif and a meme.
However, several people familiar with Middle Eastern culture recognized that her action may have been “zaghrouta” — a traditional Arabic expression of joy and celebration, commonly used at weddings and parties.
“Quit the stupid jokes. This is called zaghrouta (a.k.a. ululation in English). It is a joyful sound Arabic speakers make when cheering & celebrating. #Shakira #ShakiraXJLoSuperBowl,” one user shared on Twitter.
Another added, “This is called zaghrouta. It is a way to express joy or happiness in Arab culture. Elements of it can also be found in other cultures even as far as music in the Balkans.”
Other fans pointed out that the “tongue flicking” could also have been a “cultural reference to Barranquilla’s Carnaval and a celebration of Colombia’s culture.”
“For those who did not understand the significance of why shakira made those movements with her tongue. She made them because they are part of traditional dance of the carnaval of barranquilla,” one fan shared.
Shakira hails from Barranquilla, where she was born to her Colombian mother, Nidia del Carmen Ripoll Torrado, and Lebanese father, William Mebarak Chadid.
The singer — whose name translates to “thankful” or “grateful” in Arabic — has been vocal about her Colombian and Middle Eastern heritage, highlighting both in her music and dance throughout her career.
In a cover story with Faze back in 2002, the mom of two called herself a cultural “fusion” between her mother’s Spanish and Colombian background as well as her father’s Lebanese heritage.
“I am a fusion. That’s my persona,” she told the outlet. “I’m a fusion between black and white, between pop and rock, between cultures—between my Lebanese father and my mother’s Spanish blood, the Colombian folklore and Arab dance I love and American music.”
And she brought that fusion to her halftime performance alongside fellow Latina superstar Jennifer Lopez. The two co-headliners included several tributes to their cultures throughout the show.
“You really have to understand how huge Shakira’s performance was for the Middle Eastern community,” one fan tweeted. “She had belly dancing, a mijwiz and a derbeke [sic], performed ‘Ojos Asi’ which was one of the few Shakira songs to have Arabic in it, did a Zaghrouta, all love on the biggest stage.”
A mijwiz and darbuka are two Arabic instruments, the first made out of two bamboo reed pipes and the latter a goblet-shaped drum. Shakira also incorporated two Afro-Colombian dances into the performance, the Champeta and the Mapalé, according to Billboard.
Meanwhile, Lopez, 50, paid tribute to her Puerto Rican descent, waving the nation’s flag on stage during part of the performance when she was joined by her 11-year-old daughter, Emme.
In a post following the show, the “Dinero” singer shared a post on Instagram in Spanish that read, “Puerto Rico and Colombia are sky high today.”