Vallery Jean | Mark Davis, Getty Images Fat Joe is wearing his heart on his sleeve…
- Posted on Feb 25th 2010 2:30PM by Richard Trapunski
Originally released on the Somali-Canadian rapper's 2009 album 'Troubadour' 'Wavin' Flag"'has since exceeded the bounds of K'naan's catalogue and taken on a life of its own. Last week in Vancouver, nearly fifty Canadian artists in town for the Olympics secretly piled into a studio to re-record the track as a fundraiser for Haiti.
"We wanted to create something like 'We Are The World' but for Haiti," the Toronto-based artist tells Spinner. "We wanted to do a Canadian version, but something that is more, I think, direct in that it addresses both sides of the catastrophe -- struggle as well as hope."
The idea came from legendary Canadian producer Bob Ezrin, probably best known for producing Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'. After pitching the idea to K'naan, the two began rounding up participants. He's pleased with the group effort, but unable to disclose the names of the artists involved.
(However, some of the musicians who have been in Vancouver for the Winter Games include Feist, k.d. lang, Metric's Emily Haines, Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams, Sam Roberts, Ron Sexsmith, Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and Jason Collett, Stars, Sarah McLachlan, Chromeo, City & Colour/Alexisonfire singer Dallas Green, and many more.)
"The spirit in the room was so powerful," he says. "It was amazing to be there with all those people and feel that energy. Any time Bob Ezrin produces something it's always big, but with all those voices singing that melody as a choir, it was epic. There's no other word for it. It was a monumental thing for all of us."
It may be K'naan's song that brought everyone together for the cause, but the artist does not see himself as the conductor. Instead he's just one voice in the choir. "To be honest, when we were all there in the studio, it didn't really feel like my song," he admits. "It genuinely felt like more than my own song, it's a song for a people."
"Billions of people put aside their differences every four years and get together to just play and enjoy themselves. At that moment, you don't want to place a blanket of gloom and melancholy over them. You want them to celebrate and feel joy. So I created a version that maintains the song's integral spirit of hope and humanity, but also really celebrates."
Together, the three versions of 'Wavin' Flag' form a sort of triptych in which each element -- struggle, hope and celebration -- are accentuated. Although originally written to reflect K'naan's personal struggle as a young man in Somalia, the song has since attained a level of universalism.
"When you speak from your heart and don't allow your ego to get in the way, the personal becomes the universal," he muses. "If you're open enough to be able to [voice] the silent conversation that's happening to humanity, then it reaches people in a way that transcends the personal."
"People sometimes tell me 'you said what I felt I couldn't say.' Well, in a way they are saying it, they just don't say it out loud."