Music Monday: K'Naan Concert

Last week I went to a K'Naan concert. Sometime people are surprised I really like K'Naan, mostly I like folk music, alt country stuff, banjos, fiddles, stuff like that. K'Naan came out of nowhere in 2006. We saw him at folk fest that year, and were mesmerized. I saw him twice while I was living in the UK at two different festivals, and I saw him again at a concert theatre shortly after I returned home to Edmonton.

All of the times I've seen K'Naan live, it was just him and 3 other guys on stage. There was a guitar, a laptop, and a bunch of African drums. And it was awesome. The drum beats mixed with the touching lyrics to move my heart and soul.

Take a look at this photo from last week's concert:


Things have changed. Gone are the African drums. Instead there's a drum kit, an electric guitar and a light show. And all of this because of the fame K'Naan has attracted after his song Wavin' Flag as part of not only the Young Artists For Haiti fundraiser, but also for this year's World Cup in South Africa.

This is how it used to be:


(I was at that festival, there were people weeping during his set. True story.)

And this is how it is now:


I've followed K'Naan's career from relative obscurity to international fame. I'm not saying the old days were better than the fame days, it's just...different now.

This concert was bittersweet for me. First, there was a venue SNAFU (which was not K'Naan's fault of course). Slash didn't sell enough tickets for his show so they moved him to K'Naan's (all ages, ends at a civilized hour, no drunk losers) venue and then K'Naan had to move to a night club (drunk losers, ends really late for a work night, and don't forget the drunk losers). That's not what I paid for, and that made me really angry.

Fortunately all that anger did dissipate as soon as K'Naan took the stage. What can I say? I like the message. I like the music. I like the man. I think his music is honest. And yes, the plugged-in light show atmosphere is contagious and fun. So I danced and sang and waved my hand in the air like the rest of the drunk teenagers and hipsters who surrounded me.


It was a great show. But I can't help but think it might be my last K'Naan concert. I'm too old for hanging out with drunk youngin's in bars. And the whole plugged-in light show, well, I miss the African drums.

It will be interesting to see how K'Naan manages his career henceforth. His Wavin' Flag fame is HUGE. Can he maintain his message, his honesty, his heart? Or will the plugged-in light-show-pull-for-$$ win him over. I sure hope not, he stands for the opposite of that and that's why I like him.

But I'm worried about K'Naan. I wonder if he's still having fun. How is he coping with the fame? Is his heart still in performing? Or is he still going through the motions? Follow him on twitter (@iamknaan) and read between the lines and you'll see what I mean.

I hope K'Naan takes a break after the Wavin' Flag wave-of-fame is over. I hope he comes back energized. I hope he comes back ready to share his message and have fun with his fans.

And I hope he brings back the African drums.

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