K’naan Waves His Flag

Friday, May 21, 2010 - 11:47 am

K’naan Waves His Flag

Some of the best story lines coming out of this year’s World Cup aren’t about sport at all. They’re about people rising above their circumstances, creating something new, defying their genre, being recognized for their talents.
Such is the case with K’naan. The poet and hip-hot artist’s song “Wavin’ Flag” is now the official theme song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
A Somali-born Canadian who grew up in Mogadishu before immigrating to North America at the age of 13, he takes an unexpected tact tack when writing lyrics. K’naan doesn’t see much sense, he says, in glorifying the violence and strife that surrounded him in his childhood like many American rappers:

“There wasn’t a voice that understood the, ya know, the gratitude that comes from survival. There wasn’t a voice in music that was doing that.”

There’s much more to K’naan’s story, his art, and his approach to life. Here are three strong pieces I found helpful in learning more about him. Over at Sound Opinions, he demonstrates some Somali poetry styles to Greg and Jim and talks more about his responsibility in addressing the violence and reality he witnessed.
Also, this 2005 profile piece by Sue Carter Flinn in The Coast covers a lot of ground. And it’s fair and thoughtful in the language chosen and scenes described. It has just a little bit more. For example, read Eliott McLaughlin’s description of a story K’naan often tells:

“At age 11, he accidentally blew up his school with a hand grenade he mistook for an old, dirty potato.”

Now read Carter Flinn’s account:

“One day after school, at age 10, during the daily ritual of washing the Qur’an lessons off an ancient wooden slate, he uncovered a live grenade that exploded and destroyed half of his school.”

And, giving CNN its props, check out the video to the right. I enjoyed watching K’naan just actually sit and talk about his work and how he’s processing his recent success, especially his song being honored at such a big event.
I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday video snack.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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