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Interview with K'naan

Aired May 24, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether he's being political or philosophical, hip-hop artist K'naan always manages to get heard.


ANDERSON: His name means traveler and it couldn't be more fitting. When he was a teen, K'naan fled wartorn Somalia. His family then settled in Toronto and soon afterward, the young musician achieved fame with his African influenced rap tunes.


ANDERSON: K'naan is being compared to both Bob Marley and Eminem. But he describes his work as urgent music with a message.


ANDERSON: This year, one of his songs has become the theme for the 2010 World Cup. He will be performing at the event's opening ceremonies.

K'NAAN, MUSICIAN: The World Cup is -- is -- is a moment of celebration where the world kind of puts their differences aside and gets together to do something. And I -- I wanted to be less selfish than I am in all of my music and -- and kind of try to, you know, do a tribute to that moment of celebration and happiness and joy and -- and unity.


ANDERSON: Connecting countries through songs, K'naan is your Connector of the Day.



ANDERSON: A little earlier, I spoke to your Connector of the Day today.

And I asked about performing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup, which, of course, don't forget, is June the 11th.

This is what he said.


K'NAAN: It's one of those moments that, you know, the world is looking forward to. And it's just kind of really immense for me to be a part of it and you know, I -- I don't know exactly what the idea is for the concert and what I'm doing exactly in it. I'm performing, but I -- you know, I still am gathering visual ideas for what I want to do.

So when I have to put something together, it will be that much more exciting for me.

ANDERSON: Good stuff.

All right, let's get some viewer questions.

Kaleem asks: "What made you pursue a career in music?"

K'NAAN: I was really in a depression. I was going through a very difficult emotional time in unraveling the past of my life in Mogadishu. And I -- I literally began to write music just to kind of -- kind of make sense of my -- my life. And yes, so that's what initially started it.

ANDERSON: Maryann (ph) from Canada says that you are a role model to her. And she asks: "How do you deal with the idea of being idolized?"

K'NAAN: I -- I don't know. I don't do very well with it. I -- I'm kind of just -- my interest has always just been to be honest in my -- in my songs and -- and make music. And I get all these comments of people who -- who, I would say, are very passionate about what I'm doing. And I appreciate it. But for me, just -- it's still just kind of trying -- trying to figure my -- my life out and -- and my identity. And that's why I write.

ANDERSON: This is fascinating stuff.

Shu from Abu Dhabi has written in: "There seems to be more pain and suffering in your first CD. And now the second one is -- it's a lot more uplifting and inspiring. What has changed?," he or she asks, "and how do you feel about that?"

K'NAAN: Yes, that's a good way to -- to see it. I actually haven't figured that out myself, so I'm glad to hear it. I think that the difference is probably that the first album helped. I guess that the therapeutic aspect of songwriting kind of works in that I'm -- you know, although there's still a lot of pain in the -- in the new album, I -- I feel -- I feel like maybe I'm -- I'm learning how to manage that pain now than I was before.

ANDERSON: All right. Esteban has written in. He says: "Who is the artist that you would most want to collaborate with that you haven't worked with yet on a song, if any?"

K'NAAN: I -- honestly, for me, I think collaborations are more sacred than -- than plans are. I -- I don't -- I'm not really -- even though I've worked with a lot of great artists that I love, I've never been one to kind of plan for those things. I -- I think when you -- when you plan music, you kind of tend to discredit what -- what the -- what the song could be. You kind of -- you can't manage music. You can't control music.

And so I -- I'm not really of the opinion that you can plan those things.

ANDERSON: Jurgen has written to us. And he says sijmply this: "Who do you think is going to win in South Africa?"

K'NAAN: Oh, you know, if I -- if I knew who was going to win, I -- I probably would -- would make a lot of money. And I get -- I get that question so often these days. It's like because I -- because I wrote this song that, you know, everybody -- everybody thinks I'm kind of like I have an inside look into it or something.

I -- I don't know. I want to African team to win, to be honest, because it would be so magical if it were the first time in history that it's being held in the continent of Africa and an African team kind of goes all the way.


ANDERSON: K'naan for your Connector of the Day.

Watch out for him June the 11th, of course.

And tomorrow's Connector was a member of one of the biggest girl bands of the 20th century. But that didn't stop her carving out her own successful solo career. Singer Kaylee Rollins (ph) fills us in on her humanitarian work and answers your questions.

So do get your thinking caps on, as ever.

What do you want to know from Kaylee?

Send us your questions. Remember, do tell us where you are writing in from. The site where you can do all that is