Meet K’naan FIFA World Cup 2010 Offical song composer & Somali songwriter/poet who is one of the rare voices speaking beautifully in the name of his homeland
Our Afrooptimist of the Month is K’NAAN whose name and World Cup Offical FiFA song “Wavin’ Flags” have blasted through our megawaves over the past two months of frenetic football competition in South Africa.
There’s more to K’naan than just the “Wavin’ Flags” song however, and definitely more to that song even than the version you hear on the radio..
For this month’s edition of “Afrooptimists in Action” I invite to discover K’NAAN, the man, what he stands for, his dream for his homeland Somalia, a dream that resonates for the Continent as a whole.
The following article is courtesy of: Good News Africa
Orirignal article can be found here
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
On the eve of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, an official kick-off concert was held at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium with a mix of local, African and international artists. As one of the highlights of the concert, the Somali-born rapper K’naan took to the stage to sing the song “Wavin’ flag”, an uplifting song about celebration and overcoming the odds that had become a global hit and one of the anthems of the 2010 World Cup.
K’naan, born Kanaan Warsame in Mogadishu, escaped Somalia at the start of the civil war in 1991. The artist, now based in Toronto, sang the song while waving the blue flag with a five-pointed white star representing a united Somalia. This added a whole new dimension to the lyrics of the song that had at that point mostly been associated with Coca-Cola’s World Cup campaign: “When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a waving flag.”
Ismail Abdi Adan, a young Somali who lives in Durban, South Africa, says that Somalis, scattered all over the world by civil war, were joined again in that extroadinary moment “to see their beloved flag flying” at an important World Cup event.
“He (K’naan) is the first Somali singer to show the Somali flag in the eyes of the world,” said Adan. “(Because of him) we are feeling as if we are among the great nations and teams in this competition.”
Little reason to celebrate
The Horn of Africa country is one of a third of African countries celebrating 50 years of independence this year, but has had little reason to celebrate. After the country fell into civil war in 1991, Somalia has seen an endless succession of tribal clashes and militia attacks, with an estimated 200 000 Mogadishu residents having fled their homes since the beginning of this year alone as fighting between government forces and al-Qaida linked militias have intensified.
A summit of East African leaders this week decided to send 2 000 additional troops to support the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), after an urgent plea for help from Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
The country has been voted top of the Forbes list of Most Dangerous Destinations, above Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to K’naan’s facebook page, “the name alone conjures up images of unbridled destruction, merciless warlords and ruthless terror.”
A nation of poets
But belying this image of Somalia constantly transmitted to the world is the famous words of British traveller Richard Burton who spent six months in Somalia in 1954, and described Somalia as a country of poets.
It is this part of Somali history and culture that K’naan has helped re-introduce to the world, with a pedigree linking him to this legacy of poetry. His maternal grandfather, Haji Mohamed, was a well-known Somali poet and his aunt, Magool, a famous singer in their country.
K’naan himself has on more than one occasion referred to Somalia as a nation of poets and artists. He has been making a name for himself as an artist since 2001, when he met and worked with well known Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour on a collection of songs by musicians with refugee backgrounds. His music mixes hip hop, reggae and traditional music with lyrics that have been said to reflect his background in war-torn Somalia and his longing for home as an immigrant.
Music and football
Although watching the World Cup is forbidden by Islamic militants in parts of Somalia as un-Islamic, along with music, Somalis living in South Africa have been relishing the football World Cup and the unlikely link to the historic event that music has provided for them.
Ismail Abdi Adan, like K’naan, escaped war torn Mogadishu as a child. Adan now lives in South Africa, and has been following the World Cup from the beginning and supporting African teams. In a country where Somali refugees have had to deal with sporadic outbursts of xenophobia, Adan feels that K’naan could contribute to changing the way South Africans see Somalis and help them learn more about the country.
“South Africans don’t know much about Somalia, most don’t even know whether it’s in Africa, Asia or America,” says Adan.
Another young Somali living in South Africa, Ahmed Saqa, agrees that K’naan could contribute to changing many negatives in the way the world views Somalis into positives.
“Many people think that Somalis only know how to fight and that’s all,” says Saqa. “He let the world know that Somalia does not only produce gunmen, but shining stars like K’naan.”
Saqa says that, as Somalis, K’naan is their hero. “We love him and are proud of him and we are happy about his success. He really made us feel like we are part of the World Cup – this is the first time that Africa hosts the World Cup, and we’re a part of it,” said Saqa.
“Wavin’ flag”, originally associated with a Coca-Cola advertisement about a victory dance by former Cameroon soccer hero Roger Milla, has had enormous appeal for football fans and music lovers alike. The anthem has been heard at official fan parks, public viewing areas and stadiums, and has received significant radio airtime. The single reached number 1 in 17 countries and also overtook the official World Cup anthem “Waka-Waka” by Shakira and local band Freshlyground as the most played song in South Africa.
While the FIFA World Cup in South Africa has helped the world see the potential of Africa to compete with developed nations and successfully host major international events, the contribution of a Somali rapper has reminded many that there is much more to Somalia than war and piracy: there is a proud people who love their country, and hope to one day rebuild it as a nation of poets.
By Linda Krige