The football loving world – players, trainers, and fans alike – are following closely with interest the opening ceremony on June 11, next year and the Official FIFA 2010 World Cup song performance by a 31 year old dark, slim artist from a country notorious for violence and suicide bombers. That country is Somalia, and K’naan is the artist whose song “waving flag” was chosen to be the FIFA World Cup song.
What a world of contrast between 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 9th Olympiad in 1936 Berlin, Germany. The Nazis used that event to promote the myth of “Aryan Superiority.” “Non-Aryans” – Jewish and Gypsy athletes and performers were systematically excluded from the opening ceremony. Different also than the South Africa of John Vorster who in his opinion even “the words of a black man are black”. What color is K’naan’s song: “When I get older, I will be stronger. They call me freedom, just like a waving Flag.” It is a world awakened!
In recent months K’naan has come in for frequent mention in the press and at least one reporter in Johannesburg indeed hastened to label him as a “Muslim Rapper who supports Pirates”. David Smith of the Guardian ignored K’naan’s mastery performance and his campaign against poverty and Aid for Africa. In a recent article he accused K’naan of being honesty and thoughtful artist who feels he has no right to stand aloof from the urgent problems of dumping Toxic Waste and looting of fish in the ocean of his ancestral land. Perhaps it is this that imparts to his analysis of present-day western reality an insight and accuracy many a white journalist based in South Africa might envy. It is world awakened!
Highly symptomatic was the statement K’naan made to a CBC reporter about the blight of the East African fisherman. “The western powerful nations watched as all countries great and small swarmed in the Somali waters to loot fish and dump dangerous chemical waste.”
K’naan (in Somali means: one who is always on the move) was born in Mogadishu, Somalia; a metropolitan city by the Indian Ocean. There was nothing remarkable about his childhood. A relatively well-to-do but not too prosperous family of poets and singers; and from age seven a lover of American rap music.
Unremarkable too perhaps was his romantic dream culled from books of famous and great men from Genghis Khan to Michael Jackson. What a teenage with a fondness for great men has not cherished similar dreams? An avid reader to this day he keeps a private library of these great men and empire builders.
K’naan did not finish high school. His education was interrupted by civil war in his country. He immigrated to Canada with his mother and siblings in the early 1990’s. A new country, a new culture and a new language it became very hard for the teenaged boy to finish his schooling – he dropped it. But when peers in his neighbourhood were falling victims to dope, crime and violence he looked straight to his dreams. He found it ultimately in the street corners of Toronto’s west-end. His inherent will to succeed proved no less durable than his talent. The rest is history!
K’naan is concerned with the problems of hunger and the environment. He does what he can to help the practical solution of these problems. He is angered by the looting of fish and dumping of toxic waste in his lovely Indian Ocean, and so he regularly speaks out against it. He sharply criticizes powerful nations of their indifference to those problems. K’naan is a great artist and no true artist can live without his opinion. He doesn’t defend piracy, neither did he support it. He understands the cause of piracy in East Africa and the effect of polluting the oceans.
K’naan today is an artist at the peak of professional mastery and a man deeply concerned with the most burning issue of his country, of his people. It is this that gives such power to his art. He is a man always on the move.
Omar M Mohamed