“Wakanda Forever” by Sho Madjozi

Pan-African vibes, after my own heart.

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So I’m just gonna spend these next few paragraphs convincing you why this song is the 2019 Anthem for Pan African Power. It’s a single by Sho Madjozi, a mixed white and Tsonga girl from South Africa, featuring Nigerian artist YCee.

Part of the reason I love Sho Madjozi is because of the unique way she mixes lots of languages and nuanced references in her music. English, Tsonga, Zulu, Swahili, and in this one even Spanish!

It’s a shame because I didn’t find the full lyrics to “Wakanda Forever” anywhere online (not even in the trusty YouTube comments section), so I listened carefully and have reproduced them below myself. Unfortunately I don’t speak Tsonga, so help me out on that one if you do (definitely open to any corrections!)

Some of my favorite references and word play:

  • “Hey Wena!” in the hook takes “wena”, meaning “you”, from Zulu, so it’s basically “hey you!”
  • “Madiba stay in my pocket” — Madiba is a unique, Zulu tribal name for Nelson Mandela that is used out of respect; few non-Africans know this.
  • “Even Cesar couldn’t control me” — couldn’t help but smile at this one.
  • “Madjozi is the real-life Okoye” — I think it maybe says something about Madjozi that she picks Okoye out of all the female characters in the film (she’s definitely a Gryffindor, at least). Also, in the last verse, Sho uses English, Spanish, and Tsonga all in one, and this is why she’s probably my favorite artist of 2018 ❤
  • “Blue tick! Return to the sender.” — it never ceases to amaze me that WhatsApp, an American company, has a much larger footprint across Africa than in North America, but anyway, for my fellow Americans, the “blue tick” is a reference to the delivery symbols in WhatsApp — clock symbol for pending, one tick for sent, two ticks for delivered, and then the two tick marks turn blue when the recipient has “seen” your text (so this references a feeling sort of like being “left on read”).
  • [Verse 1 in general] — I’ve always kind of wondered if Sho Madjozi identifies as bi. In both this verse and a verse in a more obscure song from her earlier days, “Amadoda” by She’s Drunk, she has lyrics which make it seem like she is dating or crushing on another girl, and in “Dumi Hi Phone” there’s some pretty great LGBT representation (although that doesn’t say anything about her personal identity, just that she’s maybe supportive). Would be just another reason to add to the list of why I love her ❤

“Burst the bubble” is, to me, one of the most interesting lines because it references the force-field bubble around Wakanda in the movie, but at the same time, it carries a double meaning. The fictional Wakandans would never want to “burst” their bubble; it’s their protection. But in this case, a South-African and Nigerian artist collaborating on a single desperately want to burst the bubble. The bubble is Western media — preventing the world from seeing the real-life Wakanda that, for reasons I will never understand, they keep insisting does not exist. Addis Ababa is a hub for artificial intelligence now and entrepreneurs in Nigeria are capitalizing on greater connectivity, however a Google image search will still show you pictures of huts…

The “bubble” could also be a ceiling in the entertainment industry for African artists (and non-American artists in general) that so far only Wizkid has flirted with, and only through collaboration with American artists. If there’s anything I have learned from living abroad, it’s that even if American power is waning, its cultural hegemony is still very intact. Top charts in countries around the globe still feature mostly American artists, even when the national language is not English.

In a somewhat similar vein, I also liked “Know yourself, pick your struggles” — Africa is experiencing a renaissance the likes of which the rest of the world has never seen before. The energy can be felt by anyone plugged into African and African-diaspora social networks, especially young people. But we are just getting started, and the path forward is going to be long and difficult. Are you ready?

Maybe the only thing I disagree with here is that “SA is the real life Wakanda” because, with all respect to South Africa, the real life Wakanda is obviously Ethiopia #nevercolonized #dont@me

(jk, the original inspiration for Wakanda was actually the Congo because this comic was written in the 60’s. The Congo discovered many uranium reserves around that time, and you know, atomic bombs…) (BUT Ta-Nehisi Coates drew inspiration from Ethiopia for Black Panther and he’s been a main or contributing writer for the comics issued since 2016 sooooo….. 👀👀 ) (this is a joke ok I am all about #panafrican unity and y’all already know that 😜)

SO FINALLY, here’s the official audio from Sho’s YouTube channel, and the full lyrics that I transcribed below (again, corrections more than welcome!)

And let me know if you would like to join my listening party for her first album, Limpopo Champions League!!!!! Dropping on 12/14, y’all!!!!!!!!

[Update 12/14/18: there is now a Genius Lyrics entry for this song, which may or may not contain the right lyrics in various non-English South African languages. I’ve edited some parts that were pointed out to me as local references by South Africans but still left out any Tsonga/other parts because I have no way of confirming it’s correct or providing an English translation— if you know and would like to translate that’d be great!]

[Verse 1 — Sho Madjozi]
I mean what kind of a level,
Would make you want to forget her,
We watch Black Panther together,
Now we Wakanda forever.
Break up! Or never,
You leave me under the weather,
Blue tick! Return to the sender,
Move it! Return to the center,

[Pre-Hook]
Know yourself,
Pick your struggle,
Hey wena,
Boys they hustle,
Show yourself,
Burst the bubble,
Who will be?
Wakanda forever!

[Hook]
Wakanda forever (ever) x4
Say Wakanda forever,
We kinda forever,
Wakanda forever,
Wakanda forever!

[Verse 2 — YCee]
We say Wakanda forever
We shine like diamonds forever
We make it rain any weather
Only into the cheddar
Everyday we be litty,
Yeah that weekend forever,
Madiba stay in my pocket,
Rest in peace Nelson Mandela,

So I ride like what,
Pull up in the 911
When I go call 911
Look what I done,
Hope you know the 411,
And you know we go all night long

Sho Madjozi my girl-a,
We get it lit like Coachella,
Burn that loud vuvuzela
You know khaki don’t be leather (?)
Ay wena!

[Pre-Hook]
Know yourself,
Pick your struggle,
Hey Wena,
Boys they hustle,
Show yourself,
Burst the bubble
Who will be
Wakanda forever!

[Hook]
Wakanda forever (ever) x4
Say Wakanda forever,
We kinda forever,
Wakanda forever,
Wakanda forever!

[Verse 3 — Sho Madjozi]
(Madjozi!) SA is the real life Wakanda
Go out and I’ll see you mañana,
Cause (Tsonga/other)
(Tsonga/other)

Madjozi is the real life Okoye,
Lips shine like Zam-Buk makoye,
I could never be left by a boy-ay,
Wa-la, Even Cesar couldn’t control me,

YCee is the real life T’Challa
And I met him on the streets of Wakanda
Hey fresh, kicks on some other
One day, insh-insh-sha-allah,
(Tsonga/other)
(Tsonga/other)
Blue tick! Return to the sender,
Move it! Return to the center.

[Pre-Hook]
Know yourself,
Pick your struggle,
Hey Wena,
Boys they hustle,
Show yourself,
Burst the bubble,
Who will be?
Wakanda forever!

[Hook]
Wakanda forever (ever) x4
Say Wakanda forever,
We kinda forever,
Wakanda forever,
Wakanda forever!

Written by

MIT grad, robotics engineer, mixed. A place I write.

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