K’naan, honestly

K’naan, a Somali-born musician known worldwide for his 2010 World Cup song, “Wavin’ Flag” (among others), wrote a brutally honest op-ed in last Sunday’s New York Times. It is rare to read someone who bares themselves so nakedly to the world — startling, searing, and awesome (a word I am afraid has lost its power with overuse). Most of us are too afraid to face the harshest critiques of ourselves, let alone announce them publicly.

SO I had not made my Marley or my Dylan, or even my K’naan; I had made an album in which a few genuine songs are all but drowned out by the loud siren of ambition. Fatima had become Mary, and Mohamed, Adam.

I now suspect that packaging me as an idolized star to the pop market in America cannot work; while one can dumb down his lyrics, what one cannot do without being found out is hide his historical baggage. His sense of self. His walk. I imagine the 15-year-old girls can understand that. If not intellectually, perhaps spiritually.

I come with all the baggage of Somalia — of my grandfather’s poetry, of pounding rhythms, of the war, of being an immigrant, of being an artist, of needing to explain a few things. Even in the friendliest of melodies, something in my voice stirs up a well of history — of dark history, of loss’s victory.

So I am not the easiest sell to Top 40 radio. What I am is a fox who wanted to walk like a prophet and now is trying to rediscover its own stride.

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