Editorials & OpinionFeatures🇷🇴 Romania

🇷🇴 Slideback Sunday: When Mandinga made us dance to latin rythms..

It’s Sunday again, which must mean it’s time for another slideback! This week, we’re going back to 2012 and Baku, Azerbaijan when Romania sent an uplifting latin inspired song by the group Mandinga.

About “Zaleilah”

“Zaleilah”, a bilingual love song performed English and Spanish has been described as Latin-influenced, with other inspirations including Balkanic, Cuban, Gypsy and salsa music.
Lyrically, it revolves around “a woman deeply in love with her ‘chocolate boy’, [possibly] someone who is merely sweet, or someone who is of African descent” its instrumentation consists of a bagpipe, marching drums, accordions and trumpets. 
Reviewers noticed similarities between “Zaleilah” and “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” (2010) by Colombian singer Shakira.

While some people praised “Zaleilah” for its catchiness and dance nature, some viewed it as mediocre and unoriginal. However, “Zaleilah” received a nomination in the Best Song category at the 2011 Romanian Music Awards.

Romania reached 12th place in a field of 26 in Eurovision Song Contest 2012, scoring a total of 71 points.
Commercially, “Zaleilah” reached the top 100 of various charts after Eurovision, and peaked at numbers two and six in Romania and Moldova, respectively.
It also reached the top 50 in Sweden and Billboard‘s Mexico Espanol Airplay chart, the top 60 in Austria and the top 100 in Germany.
“Zaleilah” attained lower success in Russia, where it peaked at number 157, and in Flanders, peaking at number 23 on the Ultratip chart.

Below the official video of Mandinga’s “Zaleilah”

Romania has several times sent bilingual (even multilingual) songs in other Romance languages (especially in Italian).
I think “Zaleilah” is an uplifting and fun song in it’s own way, it added diversity to the 2012 contest, and followed the trends of it’s time of several latin hit songs. It’s my second best Romanian entry after “Let me Try” (2005).
Lead singer Elena Ionescu gave a good performance, but in the end I think 12th place in the final was just fine in such a strong year.

Trivia: In the first years of the band, in particular between 2003 – 2006, the lead singer of Mandinga was Elena Gheorghe, Romanian representative of Eurovision 2009, before being replaced by Elena Ionescu.


Opinions from the rest of EscXtra team


I know that this was supposedly a trend back in 2012. And sadly, it still is… Trying to make things sound Spanish, Latin or whatever kind of direction you’d be looking for. As long as it sounds exotic and summery, you’d get somewhere. I didn’t quite get this at the time and I still don’t. The lyrics never really did much for me and it all came across as a collective bunch of randomly thrown together musicians. Romania can do so much better than this and they sure have done. You cannot fault them for creativity and diversity – and with that comes failure. You can’t hit the bull’s eye time after time!


Honestly, I had forgotten that this existed but I’m soooo glad to be reminded! This was and still is an absolute bop, I think it just scraped in to my top 5 for 2012. It’s so catchy, so fun, and so happy – the perfect song to pick you back up when you’re feeling a bit down, and I think this really deserved a much better placing than the 12th place it received. The only song ever from Romania to beat this for me is their 2005 entry, Let Me Try, but this is still more than a fantastic effort from Romania – I’d love to see them send something like this again!


Zaleilah is an absolute classic in my book. 2012 was an awkward but highly diverse and strong contest that captures Eurovision in transition to a modern cultural phenomenon. With this entry, Romania was ahead of the curve in terms of sending a song with legitimate domestic and international hit potential. It showcases Romania when it was at the top of its pop music game (Mr Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan came out just a year before). It’s always nice to see a country put forward an entry that genuinely represents its music scene, and more often than not it results in a better outcome at the contest. Light, fun, catchy, memorable and unmistakably Romanian – I sincerely hope Roxen gets an entry even nearly as good for Rotterdam. 


What can I say about Mandinga “Zaleilah”? One word: party! Maybe not the best song in the world and not the best entry of 2012, but when I hear it I just have to start dancing. This song is actually one of my best friend’s favourites who I got to know thanks to our passion for the Eurovision Song Contest.

That concludes this week’s Slideback Sunday! Let us know your thoughts on “Zaleilah” in the comments below.

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