If I knew how to download and send two Itunes songs to everyone in the world, (and if I could afford it) I would send two songs from last night's K'Naan concert at the Orpheum Theatre, because I think they have the power to change people's lives. "Wavin' Flag" and "Fatima" by K'Naan tell stories that strike a universal chord and illluminate the immense difficulties faced by people living in war zones and tell the story of obstacles overcome. They speak of human cruelty, while also giving hope.
K'Naan took time to make sure his audience at the Orpheum last night understood the words and the story behind both songs---the first of a boy leaving war torn Somalia with his refugee family, trying to find a home in Harlem, only to be discovered by the INS, fleeing to Toronto, learning English, to become the composite Canadian he is today. A deep Canadian anthem.
The second song wrenched the heart with the extreme longing it communicated for a life not realized, a love lost, a girl taken away by unidentified forces, perhaps murdered, perhaps stolen...the story contrasting with the upbeat melody.
"I fell in love with my neighbour's daughter, I wanted to protect and support her. Never mind I was only 12 and a quarter...Fatima, what did the young man say, before he stole you away on the fateful day. Fatima, did he know your name, or the plans we made, to go to New York City..."
Promising to set the Orpheum on fire, K'Naan kept the sold-out crowd on their feet for most of the concert, which reached its climax with "Wavin' Flag". Following the Canada women's hockey team's Gold Medal win early in the evening, Canada spirit was already crackling through the Orpheum, but K'Naan took the crowd higher, first with the poetic preface to the song and then by asking the audience to sing the chorus over and over without instrumentals. When at last the band started up and the music merged with voices, the atmosphere became euphoric as a few thousand people waved their arms above their heads and sang along with the rapper who looked impossibly slight on the stage for the strength he projected.
At the end of his last finale, K'Naan asked the audience to make the peace sign. Hundreds of hands raised in the familiar V. Peace morphed with the V in Vancouver. K'Naan sang:
"Christians, Jews, Muslims all war...No ones left to praise the Lord..."
Peace. Vancouver. Peace. Vancouver. The enlightened city. The ultimate goal. One symbol.
As a friend told me later: "That's the real Canada, on all levels from refugees fleeing horrible persecution to those being driven here by emotional pain and heartache...a country with arms wide open on so many levels. The future of Canada, it's not really about the priveleged white guys like me, although they are in control. For right now, that is..."