Towards the end of her Super Bowl Halftime show performance, Shakira looked into the camera and let out a cry that became an instant meme. Twitter, as it often does, had a lot of fun with this.
As it turns out, there was some deep cultural significance to what she did. Per Arab America, “‘Zaghrouta’ is best described in English as ‘ululation.’ It is a form of a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound representing trills of joy. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue. Ululation is usually used by women in the Middle East and North Africa and is commonly performed in weddings, parties, celebrations and sometimes in funerals to honor someone and to express strong emotions.”
“The origin of ‘Zaghareet’ or Ululation dates back to the pre-Islamic era, as it was a traditional ritual of idolatry practiced collectively by women asking the idols for relief, mercy, rain…etc. In addition to drumbeats, they also used ululation to stimulate excitement on battlefields.”
The sound is made at lots of different occasions, including at weddings and engagement parties, at the birth of a baby or after an election has been won, according to Arab America.
Shakira was paying tribute to her roots: per Fast Company, her father was born in New York City to Lebanese parents and later immigrated to Colombia where she was born. Shakira’s name is actually Arabic for “grateful” or “full of grace.”
The gesture clearly meant a lot to the Middle Eastern community: