K’naan Waves His Flag
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Some of the best story lines coming out of this year’s World Cup aren’t about sport at all. They’re about people rising above their circumstances, creating something new, defying their genre, being recognized for their talents.
A Somali-born Canadian who grew up in Mogadishu before immigrating to North America at the age of 13, he takes an unexpected
tact tack when writing lyrics. K’naan doesn’t see much sense, he says, in glorifying the violence and strife that surrounded him in his childhood like many American rappers:
“There wasn’t a voice that understood the, ya know, the gratitude that comes from survival. There wasn’t a voice in music that was doing that.”
There’s much more to K’naan’s story, his art, and his approach to life. Here are three strong pieces I found helpful in learning more about him. Over at Sound Opinions, he demonstrates some Somali poetry styles to Greg and Jim and talks more about his responsibility in addressing the violence and reality he witnessed.
Also, this 2005 profile piece by Sue Carter Flinn in The Coast covers a lot of ground. And it’s fair and thoughtful in the language chosen and scenes described. It has just a little bit more. For example, read Eliott McLaughlin’s description of a story K’naan often tells:
“At age 11, he accidentally blew up his school with a hand grenade he mistook for an old, dirty potato.”
Now read Carter Flinn’s account:
“One day after school, at age 10, during the daily ritual of washing the Qur’an lessons off an ancient wooden slate, he uncovered a live grenade that exploded and destroyed half of his school.”
And, giving CNN its props, check out the video to the right. I enjoyed watching K’naan just actually sit and talk about his work and how he’s processing his recent success, especially his song being honored at such a big event.
I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday video snack.
Knowing Many Faces
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
I’m finally getting to reblog this photo and quote post from DMHA:
“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky” - Buddha
Ten minutes later, she posted this image, a perfect complement:
We read a lot of news that paints people, religions, political affiliations, communities, immigrants, and so on with broad brush strokes. What we lose in the process is an understanding of the one, of the individual. I know it; I feel it; I fight against it. But, it was a couple of months ago that Mona Eltahawy challenged my thinking.
Krista, Kate, Mitch, and I were invited to the Ford Foundation, one of our major funders, for a constructive critique of Speaking of Faith — our programming, topics we’re covering, voices we’re including, interviewing techniques, diversity of staff, etc.
Ms. Eltahawy, a columnist who writes about Muslim issues, was one of the panelists who attended. She hadn’t heard our show before being invited to participate in this group. She listened, and as we were talking she said something that surprised me — that she loved our Being Catholic show. She, as a Muslim, identified with the nine lay voices in that program. Why? To her, being Muslim is a splendorous outpouring of expression — from the ultraconservative to the secular, from the professional engineer to the counter-cultural novelist — and that, to some degree, Muslims themselves describe their faith and live it out at many different levels, in many different ways. They wrestle with their faith in much the same manner as those Catholic voices.
It’s serendipitous, and fortunate, that we have stumbled upon Ms. Hassan’s tumblog. This Somali student who describes herself as a “nomad studying Anthropology and Sociology in adopted Saint Paul” is one individual informing my cultural understanding of the many communities in which I live. She loves films, especially French ones. She has an eclectic music palette — Judy Garland and REM and Negramaro and…. She looks at the ground; she photographs it.
She hangs out at some of the same parts of St. Kate’s campus that my wife and I would hang out with our son.
And, she reminds me of the other communities we encounter that shape my understanding of identity and what it means to be human — and how to celebrate too.