Visit K’naan’s Youtube channel. Click here.

Early Life:

Keinan Abdi Warsame was born in 1978 in Mogadishu, which is a part of the Banaadir province in Somalia. His father lived in New York City and worked as a taxi driver during his childhood, meanwhile, Keinan lived with mother and two siblings. When Keinan was 12, the Somalian Civil War broke out. While he was still young, three of his friends were shot. One day, Keinan was nearly killed when he picked up a grenade, thinking it was a potato, and through it away. Life was very difficult for him and his family members living in Somalia.

Banaadir Province, Somalia.



Exit from Somalia:

Keinan’s mother was worried about safety, so when he was 13, their family moved to New York. After a year, they relocated to Toronto, Canada. Keinan learned English by listening to hip hop and rap, including musicians such as Nas and Rakim. He practicing mimicking various phonetic sounds in the music. He had come from a very musical family background and rhythm/poetry had been an important part of his upbringing. His grandfather back in Somalia was a famous poet and his aunt, named Magool, was a famous singer who had often sang to Keinan.


Toronto, Canada, Where K’naan lived as a refugee from Somalia

Life in Canada:

Keinan grew up in a neighborhood called Rexdale in Toronto, where many of his friends were murdered, committed suicide, imprisoned, or deported. At one point, he was married to a woman named Deqa, and had two sons, born in 2005 and 2007. Keinan got divorced in 2006

K’naan and his ex-wife, Deqa Warsame. Image address click here.



Road to Fame:

Keinan changed his name to K’naan, and from there, his musical careen took roots. He gave a spoken word poetry performance in 1999 before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where he criticized the UN for failing to keep peace in Somalia. In the crowd, a Senegalese singer, Youssou N’Dour, was listening, and invited K’naan to tour the world with him in 2001. He worked with various Canadian producers, and also recorded with many famous musicians including Damian Marley and will.i.am, Nas, and Nelly Furtado. His first appearance on American television, while participating in the 2008 BET Awards Cypher, boosted his popularity, and soon-after, he released his hit single, ABC’s, from his album which had tracks featured in video games such as Madden NFL 09 and FIFA 06.

K’naan’s hit single, ABSs led to widespread popularity after his release of the album “Troubadour”

Loss of Identity:

In 2012, K’naan made a public apology in an article published in the New York Times:

“My lyrics should change, my label’s executives said; radio programmers avoid subjects too far from fun and self-absorption,” recounts K’naan. “So I began to say yes. Yes to trying out songs with A-list producers… I had not made my Marley or my Dylan, or even my K’naan; I had made an album in which a few genuine songs are all but drowned out by the loud siren of ambition. Fatima had become Mary, and Mohamed, Adam.”

K’naan’s Music:

K’naan performing at SXSW in Austin, 2009. Image: Seher Sikandar/Rehes Creative/Wikicommons

Jim Welte states that K’naan’s sound mixes Bob Marley with American hip hop and brilliant poetry. His songs focus on the situation in his homeland, Somalia, and calling for an end in violence and bloodshed (Setterington). He claims his music is a “mix of tradition and [a] kind of articulation of my own life and [..] my past experiences” (Desrosiers). K’naan says his music is largely influenced by Somali music, including traditional musical instruments of Somalia, and some of his music also has Ethiopian influence.

Wavin’ Flag:

K’naan wrote a children’s book about his hit song. Click here to learn more from CBC news.

K’naan gained a global audience when Coca-Cola chose a remixed version of K’naan’s song, “Wavin’ Flag” to be the anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa. The song was also chosen for the EA Sports 2010 FIFA World Cup video game. The version used by Coca-Cola left out some of the important lyrics included in the original version, including statements possibly critiquing colonization in Africa.

Click here to view Coca-Cola’s youtube video of Wavin’ Flag

Click here to listen to K’naan’s original version of Wavin’ Flag

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 Waving Flag,
And then it goes back, and then it goes back,
And then it goes back”

Activity Since:

K’naan and Justin Bieber, Image: TinyPic

K’naan has collaborated on music with popular artists including Adam Levine and Jason Mraz, and has preformed with both Justin Bieber and Drake. Apart from music, K’naan made efforts to raise awareness for the 2011 drought in Eastern Africa, preforming for the cause. He also promoted the Canadian Bill C-393 to help increase medical assistance to countries in Africa.

K’naan and Drake, Image from here. to view webpage, click here.



Blair, Elizabeth (6 January 2009). “Somali Rapper K’Naan Schools American MCs”. NPR. Retrieved 2011-02-21.

Cowie. F, Del.“The Beautiful Struggle”, Exclaim!, February 2009.

Evans, Pat. (28 April 2011) C-393. Policyalternatives.ca. Retrieved on 2012-06-06.

Desrosiers, Kendra (15 June 2007). “K’Naan Interview”. The Source. Retrieved 26 June 2007.

Evans, Pat. (28 April 2011) C-393. Policyalternatives.ca. Retrieved on 2012-06-06.

Infantry, Ashante (15 February 2009). “Success lies close to home for K’Naan”. The Star. Toronto.

Jim, Welte (7 August 2006). “MP3.com Live: K’Naan breaks out”. Mp3.com. CNET.com. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 10 June 2010. With a sound that fuses Bob Marley, conscious American hip-hop, and brilliant protest poetry, the Somalian MC was the most promising artist at the 2006 Reggae on the River festival.

“K’naan, on Censoring Himself For Success”. The New York Times. 8 December 2012.

“K’naan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%27naan&gt;.

Kristof, Nicholas (24 September 2011). “A Son Returns to the Agony of Somalia”. The New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2014.

McKiernan, Kathy. “Bono and K’naan meet with Somali Minnesotans to discuss Crisis in Horn of Africa”. ONE.

“RapReview Feature for May 13, 2008 – K’naan Interview”. Rapreviews.com. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 2011-02-21.

Setterington, Joanne (17 March 2007). “K’NAAN – If Rap Gets Jealous”. South by Southwest. Retrieved 26 June 2007.

“Soccer and song: K’naan’s passport to global exposure”. CBC News. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2010.

 “So many wars, settling scores,

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