Think Before You Clap: Behind the Zaghareet

Helen Blondel | 07/14/2020

'zaghareet' 'bellypop' 'bellydance' 'shakira'

By now, I'm sure we've all seen Shakira's notorious performance this year during Superbowl Halftime. The songstress graced us with enchanting belly dance moves, powerful vocals, and... a tongue trill?! 

What if I told you that there is more to this newsworthy ululation than just a funny sound-effect that proves for good meme material on Reddit? What if I told you the "She Wolf" singer took the opportunity to display a historic Middle Eastern/ North African practice, right in front of the eyes of approximately 101 million American viewers? Well, that's exactly what happened.

'zaghareet' 'bellypop' 'bellydance'

The Zaghrouta (aka. zaghareet [pl.]) is a sound characterized by moving the tongue back and forth quickly while emitting a loud, high-pitched tone. This unique vocalization is used in North Africa, the Middle East, and certain parts of Europe during celebrations, often to express immense joy, powerful emotion, and sometimes grief. It '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.' (

If you go to a Middle Eastern celebration, such as a wedding or birthday, chances are you will hear zaghareet at such events. The Zaghrouta could be best described as what we use applause for, here in the western cultures. Since belly dance is a big part of MENAT cultures, don't be surprised if you also hear zaghareet used in place of clapping or cheering at the next belly dance event you attend!

Examples of Zaghareet

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