Canada, North America, Toronto

K’naan – Jammin’ on John Street


Canadian rapper K’naan performed a free concert yesterday afternoon at the corner of King and John Street as part of the  Toronto International Film Festival.

I hadn’t realized that K’naan was such a great story-teller. As I expected, Wavin’ Flag was his finale, but probably my favourite part of the concert was when he told us the story behind it.

He began his story by talking about his family’s journey to Toronto from Mogadishu. He talked about getting off the plane in NYC and moving to Harlem. His family only lived there for a few months before they snuck across the border to Canada. The whole story rhymed.

At this point, K’naan asked if we wanted to hear what had happened to him before he got off the plane. As he went into his story of growing up in Somalia, we started to realize that the words he was saying sounded familiar. It wasn’t until a good two minutes into the song that I realized he was actually speaking the first verse of Wavin’ Flag.

By the time he reached the chorus of the song though, the music had pick up and he was singing it at the proper tempo. At this point, the audience joined in.

Like everyone else in the world, really. I’ve heard the song several hundred times already, but he was singing too quickly for me to really appreciate his choice of words. He is a true poet laureate.

I’ve pasted the lyrics to Wavin’ Flag below:

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag

When I get older, I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
A violent prone, poor people zone
But it’s my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait for that fateful day
It’s not far away, but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say ‘love is the way’
‘Love is the answer,’ that’s what they say

But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
‘Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

But we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering, when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait for that faithful day
It’s not far away but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then is goes

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then it goes
And then it goes

And everybody will be singing it
And you and I will be singing it
And we all will be singing it

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then it goes

When I get older I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

When I get older, when I get older
I will be stronger just like a wavin’ flag
Just like a wavin’ flag, just like a wavin’ flag
Flag, flag, just like a wavin’ flag