Shakira is making headlines — and memes — for her Super Bowl performance. The Latina singer’s tongue wagging during the 2020 halftime show left some viewers perplexed, but others schooled them on the cultural significance of the move.
During the Super Bowl halftime show performance at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Shakira and co-headliner Jennifer Lopez incorporated Middle Eastern themes, belly dancing, and Latin culture into their routines. As Shakira churned out a medley of her hits, including “She Wolf, “Empire,” “Ojos Asi,” “Chantaje,” and “Waka Waka,” the camera panned in for a close-up as she frantically wagged her tongue and made a high-pitched noise right before she segued into her megahit “Hips Don’t Lie.”
The move instantly became the meme of the evening, with viewers taking to Twitter to immortalize the moment.
— Omar M. Khateeb (@OmarMKhateeb) February 3, 2020
But it turns out, Shakira’s tongue wagging wasn’t just the making of a meme. The seemingly random mouth move had a deep cultural significance to the singer, according to The Washington Post. The sound and gesture was actually a traditional Arabic expression of joy called a Zaghrouta. The Post notes that Shakira’s use of the expression may have been a reference to the famous Carnaval de Barranquilla that is held in the singer’s hometown in Colombia.
A Zaghrouta is a sound that is produced by emitting “a high-pitched loud voice accompanied by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue,” according to Billboard. The gesture is often used by Middle Eastern and North African women as a way to express joy at weddings, engagement parties, and upon the birth of a baby.
On social media, some fans were quick to point out the cultural significance of Shakira’s tongue wagging as others posted memes poking fun at it.
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
Shakira’s father, William Mebarak Chadid, is Lebanese.
In addition to her now-viral Zaghtouta, Shakira further honored her Colombian heritage by incorporating the Afro-Colombian dances Champeta and Mapalé into her Super Bowl performance.
Shakira had several reasons to celebrate on Super Bowl Sunday, so it’s no wonder she was emitting joy. In addition to her historic halftime show, the singer turned 43-years-old on February 2. On Instagram, the singer thanked her fans for their support.
“The best birthday gift has been the support of all my fans and the most amazing and hardworking team an artist could wish for,” Shakira wrote. “We Latinos climbed Kilimanjaro and made history tonight and we couldn’t have done it without all of you!”