“The people of Somalia just do not have a voice….They are to me the most forgotten people in the world.” ~ K’Naan
In ancient times Somalia was a land of riches, the main suppliers of frankincense, myrrh and spices, highly valuable trade in those days. Today Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world after decades of civil war, warlords, poverty, and international neglect. After my post on Haiti, I became really interested in the countries listed on the US Department of State’s travel warning website. I felt strongly that I must be a voice that highlights the beauty, strength and culture via music of these countries to be a counterpoint to the mainstream media coverage that mainly focuses on violence, terrorism, and wretched misery. This will be my first of many future posts exploring the music of the countries on the travel warning list. May we not forget our brothers and sisters living in these lands who need our support and love.
K’Naan is a Somali born (now living in Canada) rapper from the capital city of Mogadishu, dubbed “the most dangerous city on earth” or as he calls it “the meanest streets in the universe.” I have to give a shout out to my brother Troy for introducing me to this extraordinary voice. K’Naan’s second album, Troubadour, came out last year with major label distribution and to critical acclaim. His first album’s title is poetry to my ear, The Dusty Foot Philosopher. I love that. K’Naan’s music features traditional and roots oriented sounds, whether its his use of poetry, traditional instrumentation, rapping in the Somalian language, or incorporating various African styles including Ethiopian jazz.
“America” off of Troubadour features K’Naan rapping in Somalian and Ethio-jazz influences:
Here is a song off of Dusty Foot, entitled “Hoobaale” featuring a stripped down poetic style with backing percussion:
K’Naan’s aunt, Magool was called by Somalians, Hoyadii Fanka or “Mother of Artistry” and was a famous and beloved singer throughout East Africa. Her career started playing with a well known ensemble band in the late 50s, Waaberi, who sang poetic love songs. Later as a singer she went on to sing more politically tinged songs, protesting the repressive regime of the late 70s. Here she is singing a song called “Mahiigaan (Storm of Love)”:
Here is K’Naan interpreting one of Magool’s songs. It’s absolutely gorgeous:
Links & Resources
K’Naan ~ official website
Somali Music Lab: traditional Somalian music page ~ listen to hundreds of Somalian songs for free including many by Magool
J. Period & K’Naan The Messengers Mixtape ~ Free Download
Brief overview of the history of Somalia
Music of Somalia
“War & Beats” ~ article about K’Naan from 2005