Wikipedia claims that Shakira wrote the WAKA WAKA World Cup 2010 Song, and, well, that’s not entirely true and I have proof (watch the Youtube Video below to see what I mean):

Scroll down for Shakira’s “version”

Since both Agency Zebra (my Agency) and Engage Brandcraft (Chris’s) are a short walk away from the Cape Town stadium, we’ve heard this song ad nauseam and I was very surprised to notice that the original version was so similar to Shakira’s. Intrigued, I investigated and here’s what I found:

The Cameroonese band “Golden Sounds” recorded the original Waka Waka song in 1986

The Golden Sounds were a band from Cameroon that was made of soldiers (members of the presidential guard to be precise) and enjoyed immediate and huge success across their country. Golden Sounds also enjoyed some international fame reaching out so far as Columbia (where our dear Shakira grew up and learned some of her killer dance moves).

An entire generation of cameroonese can attest to their popularity and place a date on their hit song, Zangalewa (also known, or re-branded, as WAKA WAKA).

To be entirely fair, Zangalewa was based on an hymn sang by Cameroonese “tirailleurs” or riflemen, during World War II. After extensive online research, there doesn’t seem to be a recording of the tirailleur’s original songs, so for copyright purposes we’ll agree to place a ©1986 Golden Sounds notice on the song. (since copyright basics teaches us that an original work must be reduced to material form to enjoy copyright protection).

Shakira’s Waka Waka was chosen as the FIFA 2010 official song

The source for this info is no less than Sharika’s official website, which claims that “it’s a brand new Shakira song“. Mmmh. If like me, you’ve seen the video above, I’m sure you’d disagree about the originality of said song.

I looked further down to see if any mention of the original creators of the song was made, and apart from a quote stating that “African music is so inspiring“, there was no credit, attribution, or mention that Shakira’s song was a remix sounding a lot like this 1986 track (with some original lyrics she added for good measure, but still…)

The copyright holders were not asked for permission prior to the song being chosen as the World Cup Anthem

(this info is also available on the song’s wikipedia page)

After the song was announced as the Fifa World Cup’s anthem, and to their surprise, the Golden Sound band members heard it on the radio, or were alerted by relatives who had also heard it being aired. Like you, I’m sure they never thought this could happen to them. In an interview with the Cameroon Tribune dating back to April 2010, Golden Sounds’s band leader Ze Bella states that he is actually very honored that Shakira borrowed his song, and that it might bring luck to the Cameroon soccer team “les lions indomptables” but he still expects royalties and will enter negotiations with Shakira’s agents at Sony.

Caught red-handed, Sony Music settles for an undisclosed amount

Considering that Shakira’s version of Zangalewa was poised to become one of the biggest selling songs this year, and probably to avoid massive negative publicity and a huge embarrassment for FIFA, Sony quickly settled for an undisclosed amount.

I do hope the settlement is enough to allow the Golden Sounds to enjoy a Golden Retirement – but that is still besides the point I want to make.

Closing thoughts about the importance of protecting Your Copyright

It’s a shame that may it be for writing, design or music, the very artists that are considered as role-models believe it’s ok to borrow other artist’s creative work and claim it as their own – only to get bailed out if they get caught.

Golden Sounds were fortunate to have so many people knowing their song throughout the world and a video that was also widespread and easy to pass on through social media, hence cornering Sony and Shakira.

For less mainstream recording artists, the risk of being ripped is the same, so make sure you protect your copyright with Myows before giving that demo tape away, you never know what song will be chosen for the 2030 Fifa anthem, it could sound very much like one of yours!