World-renowned for ‘Wavin’ Flag,’ Somali rapper K’Naan en route to Bates

World-renowned rapper K’Naan.

K’Naan, the Somalian-born rap artist whose single “Wavin’ Flag” was an international sensation, performs at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, in the Gray Athletic Building, 130 Central Ave.

The concert is sponsored by the Chase Hall Committee, a student organization at Bates. Tickets are $30 and available at

For more information, please call 207-786-6305.

“Love is harder than war,” says A&M/Octone recording artist K’Naan, explaining the direction he takes on his new album, Country, God Or The Girl.

“I’ve had the chance to write about my experiences in a difficult and violent life. But when the suffering and the pain is something that comes from within me, it’s harder to react and to write about that.”

With his new songs — including the album’s irresistible first single, “Is There Anybody Out There?” featuring Nelly Furtado — the Canadian-based singer and MC turns his attention to the most universal emotions and experiences: the personal relationships which everyone struggles with and rejoices in.

At the same time, though, he never loses the greater sense of the world that has defined him as an artist. On Country, God Or The Girl, K’Naan attempts to address “the internal wars, rather than the external ones, which I’d been preoccupied with on my previous albums.”

The album is K’Naan’s first full-length work since his multi-platinum global smash single, “Wavin’ Flag,” a version of which was selected as Coca-Cola’s theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.

The exposure sent the song to No. 1 on iTunes in 18 countries and opened up countless doors for K’Naan. That’s reflected by the caliber and range of guests who appear on Country, God Or The Girl, from Nas on “Nothing to Lose” to Bono on “Bulletproof Pride,” plus appearances by Will.I.Am, Keith Richards and B.O.B.

But it was the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, which traveled to 86 countries that, the singer claims, made the greatest impact on his music. “I went to 22 countries in Africa, back to back,” he says. “Seeing Africa to that degree freed me from having a narrow message in my music.

“A friend told me about working in refugee camps during the Rwandan genocide,” he continues. “When people settled into the evening, though, nobody talked about the horrific tragedies that were happening. They were talking about their lost loves.

“And that hit me so deeply — how human beings are having the same conversations everywhere, even in times of war and famine. Their favorite songs are always love songs. And I wasn’t speaking to them in the place that was most important to them.”

The product of a creative family, K’Naan fled Mogadishu with his family at age 13. After learning English, partly by immersing himself in the classic hip-hop albums of the ’90s, he came to prominence in 1999 with a spoken word performance at the United Nations that caught the attention of Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour.

K’Naan’s debut album, 2005’s The Dusty Foot Philosopher (BMG), won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year. He signed with A&M/Octone and released the follow-up, Troubadour, in 2009, winning Junos for Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year.

On Country, God Or The Girl, K’Naan offers a vision in which the personal is the political, but the personal is also the personal. “Being known for my consciousness and activism can be limiting,” he says. “I do care about the state of the world, but it’s no less true that I care about love and betrayal, heartbreak and pain and loyalty.

“It’s dishonest to ignore parts of yourself just to sustain the idea that people have of you.”

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