K’naan: A pirate, a guitar

June 16, 2009 at 11:04 am 6 comments

Dressing the part
K'naan

I was hoping somebody would bring this subject up and I’ll be allowed to give my distinguished opinion about it ;). Nobody did, so i decided to do the dirty work myself – with, ofcourse, some help from npr.org. For, as the Home Depot commercial would tell you, doing it on your own doesn’t mean doing it alone.

For those of you who don’t know who the guy on your right is, his name is K’naan Warsame. He is a Somali-Canadian poet/musician/rapper born in the district of Wardhiigleey (“The River of Blood”) and brought up in “the meanest streets in the universe”, or ‘the risky zone’ as he calls it, “full of pistols and russian revolvers”.

His mission:
Seeing to it that the “average Somalis”, the “most forgotten people in the world”, have a voice other than all the voices that talk about them & drawn their’s. Voices of “violent warlords, or pirates hijacking ships off the coast”. He’s made it, the above mentioned website reports, L.A. Times’ “an artist to watch” list after:

His first album, 2006’s The Dusty Foot Philosopher, was a hit with critics here and abroad. His latest, Troubadour, features Mos Def and Damian Marley .. The Guardian called him “powerfully low-key, theatrical [and] witty.”

And what was it about him I was hoping a reader would bring up & i comment?!
In a word copyright. In two words, copyright violations. This up and coming Somali rapper has been accused by Ethiopians of violating international copy right laws; in the form of copying/stealing/taking without permission or acknowledgement some beats that are rightfully ours. The beats he allegedly copied/stole/took with neither permission nor acknowledgement are “the original composers and singers of Ethiopia namely Tilahun and Alemayhu eshte”. A special attention has been brought, both by Nazret.com and Jimma times, to this song.

I, being one of those who give more attention to the ‘giTim’ instead of a rhythm of a song ( although my Introduction to Poetry teacher at AAU, one Wondwossen Adane, another genius on his own right, repeatedly said a song won’t be a song without the beat), am no more bothered by it than I would by anyone around my age “kilil” winning the celebrity status. And he’s an awesome geTami, this ‘weriha’, of an experience most of us went through back home and continue to [go through] abroad, as this poem here amply proves. [Did i just add myself to the list of “most of us abroad”?! You’d think i’ve been “affer meGfatting” for 30 years, instead of 3 months; well.. the first 6 months are supposed to be the hardest :cool:].

More importantly, I believe in giving credit where credit is due. For it’s no secret to us how if there is something the Somalis are good at, it’s piracy. It’s not bringing their issues to the table and thrashing it out, it’s not having ambitions that are realistic by nature (Barre’s outrageous day dreamings and Aweys’ blabberings come to mind), it isn’t even going without “chaat” for a couple of days. It’s piracy. Taking what doesn’t belong to them and making profit out of it. [And ..oh yeah.. renting a room in groups that has a landline telephone; making long distance calls to their various relatives in the UK and Canada, talk for hours on end and disappearing when the bill shows up. They are good at that stuff!] Not to mention how “counterfeiting” is “tirsachewin neQlewu yaDeGubet muya”. But a friend of mine has been pretty chocked up about it, to the point of asking me to do a post on it [which I, loyal to my loyalty to the “Dusty foot philosopher”, refused], then giving VOA’s Amharic Service a call and alerting them of the theft. Then alerting me of the call. [I know, it’s pretty confusing :)]. “Well..”, I said to self last night (while pacing the room with a sleeplessness that bordered with insanity), “he’s been a ‘lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’ these past few months, giving me pointers on what to do and when — to make the American transition easier. He’s also been my source for any mischievous act Meles or his government has committed lately :). Lemme google the songs and give the post a try”.

Here are my findings. I’ll start with 15 Minutes away, which just became one of my favorite songs of all times. [Tiny Western Union office on “Global Hintsa”, biresash Qegne yirsagn!!]. America, ABC’s and I come prepared.

You tube and The Official K’NAAN Website has a lot more.

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The fairgrounds Michael, እንደ Ethiopia ዘመን አቆጣጠር

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tpeace  |  June 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    hi abesheet,

    I’ll be totally honest and say that I am actually very embarassed by the extent such accusations have been getting lashed out at the artist. Most times, and disappointingly here, sorry to be including your friend (i suppose?) without really doing the full homework required to make such accusations of checking if indeed credit was given or not where it was due. Respectfully, I also do not see the point in of discussing stereotypes of Somalis which he seems to fit into? based on some assumptions.

    so i have the digital booklet that’s the booklet that comes with the troubadour album

    Here’s what I found as part of the credits and descriptions under each song (i just copy/pasted from the pdf document):

    ABC’s: Song contains sample from “Kasalefkut Hulu” (Mulatu Astatke). Used courtesy of Buda Musique
    Dreamer: Song contains sample from “Tey Gedyeleshem“ (Alemayehu Eshete). Used courtesy of Buda Musique and CRC Editions.
    I come prepared: Song contains sample from “Shellela” (Getatchew Mekurya). Used courtesy of Buda Musique and CRC Editions.
    Somalia: Song contains sample from “Yene Mastawesha” (Tlahoun Gessesse). Used courtesy of Buda Musique.
    America: Song contains sample from “Lantchi” (Tlahoun Gessesse). Used courtesy of Buda Musique.
    15 minutes away: Song contains sample from “Yene Felagote” (Tlahoun Gessesse). Used courtesy of Buda Musique.

    this forum has a good discussion on the details:
    http://www.abesha.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=28417&start=15

  • 2. Daniel  |  June 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    selam abesheet ,

    Admittedly i’m the one who has been telling u to check out the copy-right issue and possible voilations in regard to K’nnan’s recent album.

    I must say i take back my comments if he gave credit to those ethiopian beats on his album,as it might be the case thanks to tpeac’s comment here.I don’t have his recent album so informed VOA amharic ‘to check’ the issue and raise the copy right issue.

    I must once again thank tpeace for his comment and it is no stereotypes ‘minamin’ here.I think it is worth discussing copyright issue and ,yes, i learned to work on my ‘homework’ better next time.

  • 3. Abiye Teklemariam  |  June 17, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Abesheet,
    Sorely missed your acerbic commentaries from Addis(except those which showed your bizarre fascination with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia) . Love what you still do, but it doesn’t remotely compare to the writings of the abesheet of pre-April.

  • 4. abesheet  |  June 17, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Thank you for clearing that up, tpeace. Now that we know K’naan has acknowledged the proprietors of those beats, we’ll “shinTachinin geTren meMoGet” those accusing him of the same sins we accused him with once. I still can’t help wonder why he couldn’t come up with beats of his own though. Atleast limit the biDir to not more than two. Would have made so many people less nervous, while creativity abounds.

    Respectfully, I also do not see the point in of discussing stereotypes of Somalis which he seems to fit into? based on some assumptions.

    True. But it makes for an interesting post. Or atleast bring most of us together on the basis of generally accepted biases — or sweet memories from back home.

    Love what you still do, but it doesn’t remotely compare to the writings of the abesheet of pre-April.

    Appreciate the honesty, Abiy. The change hasn’t been lost on me, either. Hopefully, when the worries of this world stopped weighing on me (not all of us are paid to go to school ;)), I’d get my groove back. BeAntess bekul, Addis Tibeb endet eyehedelih newu?. [Couldn’t resist asking, sorry :)]

  • 5. Abiye Teklemariam  |  June 17, 2009 at 7:48 am

    What? Still thinking about the “nursing thing”, and “Kuch Bilo Birr Mezaq”? You surely need to get you groove back! LOL

    BTW: our paper is going to partner with a very famous NY foundation to help Ethiopian writers get to wriite and publish books. We will announce the details soon. Are you still looking for publisher to your work which was turned down by Shama?

    One more point: The Abiy of Addis Tibeb is an acquaintance of mine. No Abiye Teklemariam he.

  • 6. Scooby  |  June 23, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    `I saw knaan’s interview on tv some weeks ago.,i wasn’t that impressed by his interview skills.On the other hand, his music is very expressive.H’es become the official voice of somalians against western worlds.

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