Tuesday, April 13, 2010
K'NAAN THE RISING ICON FROM SOMALIA
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, K'naan spent his childhood in Mogadishu and lived there during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia's most famous singers. K'naan's grandfather, Haji Mohamed, was a poet. He is a Muslim, and his name, Keinan, means "traveler" in the Somali language. He spent the early years of his life avoiding death and listening to the hip-hop records sent to him from America by his father, who had left Somalia earlier. When he was 13, K'naan, his mother, and his two siblings, older brother, Libann, and younger sister Sagal were able to leave their homeland and join relatives in Harlem, where they stayed briefly before moving to the Toronto, Ontario neighbourhood of Rexdale, where there was a large Somali Canadian community. His family still lives there. In his new country, K'naan began learning English, some through hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite the fact that he could not speak English, the young K'naan taught himself hip hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style phonetically. He then also began rapping. He dropped out of school in grade ten to travel for a time, rapping at open mic events, and eventually returned to Career
Leaving Somalia at the age of thirteen on what turned out to be the very last commercial flight to ever do so, amidst a crumbling society and the end to this day of any form of central government, K'naan carried with him a very strong sense of purpose. It is this sense of purpose as well as his amazing lyrical gift, which has made him a beacon for other artists as well as those dedicated to global change. K'naan became a friend and associate of Canadian promoter Sol Guy, who helped him secure a speaking engagement before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1999, where K'naan performed a spoken word piece criticizing the UN for its failed aid missions to Somalia. One of the audience members, Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, was so impressed by the young MC's performance and courage that he invited him to contribute to his 2001 album Building Bridges, a project through which K'naan was able to tour the world.
This project led to his work at other UN events, as well as the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Halifax Pop Explosion. It also helped him meet Canadian producer Jarvis Church and his Track & Field team in 2002, who produced his debut album The Dusty Foot Philosopher, which was released in 2005 to critical acclaim. In 2006, it won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year, and was nominated for the 2006 Polaris Music Prize. It also won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the newcomer category for 2007. The Dusty Foot Philosopher was re-released and re-packaged as a "Deluxe Edition" featuring new mixes and a bonus DVD in the United States (and various international territories) by the emerging media company and record label iM (Interdependent Media, Inc.) in 2008.
Since then, he has been on tour promoting his album and working on his follow-up release, "Troubadour," his debut album for new label A&M/Octone Records. He has also been working with artists like Nelly Furtado, Mos Def, The Roots, Dead Prez, and Pharoahe Monch on tours such as Live 8 and Breedlove Odyssey. He also collaborated with Damian Marley on the "Welcome to Jamrock" touring session.
He released The Dusty Foot on the Road, a collection of recording made during his world tour on Wrasse Records.
K'naan rose to mainstream popularity by participating in the 2008 BET Awards Cypher, This was his first appearance on American television. His second studio album, Troubadour, was released on February 24, 2009 on A&M/Octone Records, and will be distributed through Universal Music Group worldwide. The album's first single, "ABC's", was released to radio in late 2008. K'naan has featured in several video games such as Madden NFL 09 with his song ABC's, and FIFA 06 with his song "Soobax". The song "If Rap Gets Jealous", a rerecording of a track of the same name - with different verses - from The Dusty Foot Philosopher, features Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. K'naan was also the first featured artist on X3, a collaborative project between CBC Radio 3, Exclaim! magazine and aux.tv to promote new Canadian music.
A remixed version of K'naan's single "Wavin' Flag" has been chosen as the Coca-Cola anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to be held in South Africa.
Style and influences
Critics have said K'naan has "a sound that fuses Bob Marley, conscious American hip hop, and brilliant protest poetry." His voice and style have been compared to Eminem, but his subject matter is very different; according to K'naan, he makes "urgent music with a message", talking about the situation in his homeland of Somalia and calling for an end to violence and bloodshed. He specifically tries to avoid gangsta rap clichés and posturing, saying:
“ All Somalis know that gangsterism isn't to brag about. The kids that I was growing up with [in Rexdale] would wear baggy [track] suit pants, and a little jacket from Zellers or something, and they'd walk into school, and all the cool kids would be like, 'Ah, man, look at these Somalis. Yo, you're a punk!' And the other kid won't say nothing, but that kid, probably, has killed fifteen people. ”
This statement was made to explain his position on the world of difference which exists between where he grew up, and the ghettos of the first world.. Nonetheless, K'naan denies that he is overtly political, instead explaining that he "[shows] the state of the world [and] if you call it like it is you're being political.". His own opinion of his music is that it's a "mix of tradition and [a] kind of articulation of my own life and [..] my past experiences."
K'naan has said that he is influenced by Somali music and the traditional instruments of Somalia. His most recent album, Troubadour, also draws heavily from Ethiopian sources, particularly Ethio-Jazz by Alemayehu Eshete and Tilahun Gessesse.