Young, Gifted and Black: K’naan

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”



Born in Magadishu, Somalia, K’naan sings grounded and heart-felt music that reflects his journey as an African-born Canadian, and his perspective of injustice and inequality. He’s a hard-core rapper and pop chart-topper, with messages of peace, respect for elders, and social justice. K’naan’s grandfather was a renowned poet, and I heard that legacy in every song he writes.

knaan vid

From this video, my favourite line is this: “Still the thing that moves the human being, more than anything else, is their own hope for companionship, and for greatness and for accomplishment. Everyone in Somalia just wants a life in which they’ve done something significant, and felt something significant.” I think that line speaks to the base needs in all of us.

I’m a fan, and have been before his global breakthrough with Waving Flag at the Olympics. Here’s the second version of version of his song that raised money for the Haiti earthquake. And for our non-Canadian friends, yes! all these fab singers are Canadian.

His “Hurt Me Tomorrow” is all over the radio right now… such a great song!

Not all of K’naan’s music is kid friendly – pre-listen to what you download before you play it to your six year old. (Whoops! Oh, well, they don’t remember now…. lol)


What my kids do remember is K’nnaan’s story. You may not know that there is a children’s book about K’naan’s early life as a child in Somalia, and his experience as a young immigrant in Canada. It’s a beautiful book, but more importantly, a great discussion tool to talk to your kids about prejudice and hardship, as well as celebrating the joy in life.

In a CBC interview about the book, he said “… I wanted to contextualize the immigrant experience for children so that it doesn’t seem like it’s some ‘other.’ The idea of an immigrant to a child, it can seem like its own universe where ‘That’s what those people are.’ No one is inherently such; and immigrants have had their own language and their own family, and they were loved by their own grandparents. These are things, I think, that for a child need contextualizing.”

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