Friday, April 23, 2010

Kudos to K'naan!

[EDIT: reposted minus the offending mp3 links.]

Junos were last weekend and I was completely oblivious to the fact they were even happening until I saw the newspaper the next day with Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé brandishing wins in four of the six categories that he was nominated for. The two he did lose were both to K'naan who won Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. Just a couple months ago, some friends and I saw him do a phenomenal show at the Orpheum as part of the Cultural Olympiad (2nd row seats!). He's definitely a must-see if you get the opportunity to see him live. He's such a powerful and moving performer, I can guarantee even the uninitiated would come away impressed.

I'm not really sure how the "Songwriter of the Year" category works, but his nomination specifically mentions three tracks from his Troubadour album: Wavin' Flag (co-written with Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, and Jean Daval), Take a Minute, and If Rap Gets Jealous (co-written with Gerald Eaton and Brian West). As I'm sure you may know by now, Wavin' Flag was chosen by Coca-Cola as the official song of the 2010 World Cup. Amusingly, K'naan chose to alter the lyrics for this "Celebration Mix" of the song and it was actually Coke that was worried about messing with the original song. I learned this from his in-depth interview yesterday on Q with Jian Ghomeshi, in which he discussed Wavin' Flag, his aversion to being labelled "political", his arrival in Canada from war-torn Somalia, and his life as a teenager in a Toronto gang where he arrested 15 times and spent time in jail(!). Listen to the full hour-long interview uncut on the Q website. [EDIT: you can watch it on Q's youtube channel too]

Wavin' Flag was also re-recorded as a charity single for Haiti relief efforts with a supergroup of Canadian performers (billed as Young Artists for Haiti) including K'naan himself, Nelly Furtado, Sam Roberts, Avril Lavigne, Emily Haines, Serena Ryder, Hawksley Workman, Broken Social Scene, and tons more. Receiving a plum role with the final line of the song is this Justin Bieber character I keep hearing about these days, though I'm not so sure we'll be calling him freedom when he gets older. I'll admit I find it hard to be too cynical while listening to this all-star version even though it shares all the trappings of an overproduced charity single. Another guest on the single with a featured rap solo was Drake who actually won the Juno for Rap Recording of the Year over K'naan while also taking New Artist of the Year (over Bieber, natch). Of course, you can find this single on iTunes where it's been number one on the Canadian charts since its release last month.

Eric Ayotte - Wavin' Flag [originally K'naan]
Eric Ayotte offers up soothing acoustic guitar rendition on his free self-titled album, which is available from the music site If You Make It.

Bedouin Soundclash - Fire in Freetown
Fellow Canadian artists Bedouin Soundclash covered this Troubadour track for The Voice Project, in support of women in Northern Uganda who have banded together in song as part of a peace movement in a country that has been ravaged by war for over two decades. Read more about The Voice Project here. Incidentally, Bedouin Soundclash's Jay Malinowski was also part of the chorus of singers on the Wavin' Flag Haiti re-recording.

Jarvis Church - One [featuring K'naan] [originally by U2]
Seems like so long ago when I first heard K'naan rapping on the tail-end of this U2 cover (one of my all-time faves) from the War Child compilation Peace Songs released in 2003. Jarvis Church (AKA Gerald Eaton of The Philosopher Kings) went on to produce K'naan's 2005 debut The Dusty Foot Philosopher and parts of Troubadour.

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