When music sets the passion running

When music sets the passion running

Music has been known to accentuate the excitement surrounding a mega-event, and the Football World Cup is no exception.

Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti (Nessun Dorma, Italy 1990), the British band Queen (We Are The Champions, USA 94), Colombian pop sensation Shakira Ripoli (Hips Don’t Lie, Germany 2006, Waka Waka, South Africa 2010 and La La La, Brazil 2014) and Puerto Rican popstar Ricky Martin (Copa de la Vida, France 98) have all sung exclusively for the tournament or have had their songs used as themes for the quadrennial event.

However, one of the most accomplished names in the music industry to have composed a theme song for the tournament remains Ennio Moricone, who you might come across in a Sergio Leone Western classic, when he put out the ‘Anthem’ for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

It all started with Los Ramblers’ ‘El Rock del Mundial’ (Rock of the world) before the World Cup finals of Chile in 1962.

In the early years, there was more emphasis on lyrics with the music coming a poor second – the importance placed on libretto to ensure that people viewed the sport as a vehicle for change, as the ultimate joie de vivre was paramount.

While the Ramblers didn’t hide their jingoism with, “Take it, put it in, get the rebound, goal, goal by Chile,” they had established the essence of a World Cup song by urging their people to “rock and roll irrespective of Chile’s results.”

Words and phrases such as victory, football, world, passion, joyous night and celebrate were a recurring theme in most of the World Cup songs but it wasn’t until 1982 when Spain hosted the Finals, that a singer (Placido Domingo, El Mundial) from the host country crooned for the first time.

The background music began to gain credence and more people started to listen to the numbers after the tunes changed with Arrow’s ‘Hot Hot Hot’ for Argentina 86. Italia ‘90 went with ‘Notti Magiche’ (Magical Nights) – a song that actually inspired future World Cup winner Marco Materazzi to take up the sport.

A lot of singers had their marquee moments elsewhere before coming onto the World Cup but Martin’s value went through the roof with The Cup of Life – even though his ‘Maria’ was the one which brought him into the limelight.

The song was also a watershed moment for all WC songs/ anthems as it stayed on top of the chartbusters list in many countries long after France had lifted the Cup in Paris.

While ‘Waka Waka’ captured the imagination of people with Shakira’s dance sequence attracting special interest, it was K’Naan’s reggae-inspired ‘Wavin Flag’ which became the alternate anthem with lines such as – Born to a throne, stronger than Rome, A violent prone, poor people zone, But it's my home, all I have known, Where I got grown, streets we would roam – that was symbolic of a continent’s struggle and its fight to break free of the shackles.

Then there are some songs created just to take the mickey out – and that’s what happened when Del Amitri sent off the Scottish team with this for the 1998 WC: “Don’t come home too soon, Don’t come home too soon.” True to form, the Scottish players did go back home without winning a game.

The official song for this year’s Finals is ‘We Are One’ (Ole Ola) sung by Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte but the Brazilian public have already expressed their dismay to it. Though most songs come with their own set of interpretations, the broader meaning fits one common narrative that Martin used in 1998: “Tonight’s the night, We are gonna celebrate, The Cup of Life, Ale Ale Ale .”

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