K’naan the Humanitarian

There were a number of good "folk" moments at this year’s festival. David Gray surprised. Cockburn was his stellar self. The Neville Brothers were tight, polished and took us to New Orleans. The Wailin Jennys, Baka Beyond, Sarah Harmer and others were great…not too many disappointments.

A personal surprise was K’naan, a young Somalian rapper. At a folk festival you say? Exactly my thoughts…but K’naan and his three band members fit the Fest perfectly. A line in one his songs sums up his philosophy. "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

As far as I can tell–I’m no expert–"gangster rap" is all about cursing the darkness. On the other hand K’naan’s rap, while jagged at times, is political, poetic, occasionally melodic, and hopeful.

Growing up in Mogadishu in a neighbourhood dubbed the river of blood he is fortunate to be alive. Neighbours, friends, and family have been killed in the prolonged violence among warlords. He was able to get out in the late nineties and settle in Harlem. Much quieter there. Since then he’s moved to Canada and is living in Toronto.

To come from such a place, witness what he witnessed and still exhale hope, reflects an indomitable spirit. To take his experience and work for peace through his own brand of self-deprecating protest songs, is light for us.

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