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K’naan

Keinan Abdi Warsame – K’naan is a Somali Canadian poet, rapper, singer, songwriter and instrumentalist. Born in 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. He is Muslim, and his name, Keinan, means “traveler” in the Somali language. When he was 13, K’naan, his mother, and his three siblings left their homeland and joined relatives in New York City, where they stayed briefly before moving to Canada, to the Toronto neighbourhood of Rexdale. There, K’naan began learning English, partly by listening to hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite the fact that he could not yet speak the language, the young K’naan taught himself hip-hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style phonetically. He is married to Deqa, a pharmacy technician and they have two sons, born in 2005 and 2007. Hip hop and rap almost always conjure up badass black boys, bitches and bling, an indulgence in a half laughable, half scary gangsta aesthetic. When you meet K’naan, the adjective that first comes to mind is languid—even if you know something of his criminal past. He remembers Magool singing songs to him as a boy while he sat in her lap. He has spoken often of those years, though it is painful for him. He is the child of an oral culture, where language seems to resonate in ways that beat at the very doors of your soul (Somali did not have a universally accepted written form until the adoption of the Roman alphabet in 1972). In oral cultures, eloquence, not posture or muscle, is the way to arrive at manhood. A remixed version of K’naan’s single “Wavin’ Flag” was chosen as Coca-Cola’s anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup also in the commercials in the pre-game, held in South Africa.  In December 2009, K’naan performed the song live during the sponsor’s FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, which took him to 86 countries around the world.

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