World Cup rapper K'Naan defends Somali pirates
Fifa, football’s world governing body, loves to present the sport as a means of bridging cultural divides. Even so, there are bound to be raised eyebrows at the news that the voice of next year’s Soccer World Cup belongs to a Muslim rapper from Somalia who believes that its notorious pirates are just misunderstood.
His name is K’Naan and the song, Wavin’ Flag, will be the anthem of the 2010 finals in South Africa. With lyrics such as “See the champions take the field now/ Unify us, make us feel proud”, the track will be played in 150 countries, feature in TV and web adverts and be conspicuous at every match during the showpiece event.
Past football numbers have included Ricky Martin’s La Copa De La Vida at the 1998 World Cup in France and Nelly Furtado’s Força at Euro 2004.
Perhaps the best known remains tenor Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma for the BBC’s coverage of the Italia 90 World Cup.
But Canada-based K’Naan, born Kanaan Warsame, has some unconventional political views that Coca-Cola, an official 2010 sponsor that chose him for its global marketing campaign, may be reluctant to promote. He has courted controversy by speaking out in defence of Somali pirates, whose recent activities have included the kidnapping of British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler and the seizure of the US-bound supertanker Maran Centaurus. One of his lyrics asks: “So what do you know about the pirates terrorise the ocean/to never know a simple day without a big commotion.”
The child refugee turned rapper argues that the pirates have widespread sympathy in his war-torn country because they represent a backlash against western companies illegally fishing and dumping toxic waste in the Indian Ocean.
“A lot of people don’t like me for saying this but I’m in support of the pirates,” K’Naan (31) said in a radio interview earlier this year. “Massive Western companies would come to Somalia and dump nuclear toxic waste containers on the shore because there was no government controlling the shorelines. So these pirates initially went into the ocean to make them pay for that sort of thing. So they just take everything for ransom. That actually helped us clear our environment.”
K’Naan has expressed similar opinions elsewhere. He told the Los Angeles Times: “The West is completely ignoring the basis for piracy in Somalia. The pirates are in the water because there is a nationwide complaint about the illegal mass fishing going on in Somali waters. And nuclear toxic waste is illegally being dumped on our shores. People in Somalia know about this.”
As a boy, K’Naan was sent hip-hop tapes from America by his father. At the age of eight, he fired his first gun and, at 11, blew up half his school when he accidentally detonated a hand grenade; he also saw three of his friends shot dead. He fled the Somali capital, Mogadishu, with his mother in 1991, just as the country sank into civil war. But he once declared: “I don’t go around doing interviews about how my history is more violent than 50 Cent’s.”
K’Naan has collaborated with Nelly Furtado, Mos Def and the Roots, and his three albums have received strong reviews. Rolling Stone described him as someone who “thinks like Bob Marley, flows like Eminem and mixes African music with conscious hip-hop, unabashed pop and even metal”.
He has performed in 15 African countries while accompanying the World Cup trophy on its tour of the continent, culminating in a street concert at Friday’s draw in Cape Town. A new version of Wavin’ Flag is released next year. - guardian.co.uk