If you put your ear to the underground and listen closely, every once in awhile, you hear something truly important. The world of hip hop music has had a pretty low signal to noise ratio in recent years — that is, there’s a lot of junk out there. But there are artists like Talib Kweli, Common, and K’naan, among others, who are using their music to reach out to people and spread a real message. This is what hip hop was in the beginning, and while the mainstream has degraded, the movement is still very much alive. It’s not to say that listeners should agree straight ticket on the opinions being expressed, but more often than not, I find that these opinions go largely unappreciated.
One such opinion of K’naan deals with the pirates off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. Honestly, my impression of them has been that of terrorists who are hijacking consumer and other private vessels for money. But K’naan recently released a single off of his forthcoming album Troubadour entitled “Somalia,” in homage to his home. In the song, he has a lyric, “So what you know bout the pirates terrorize the ocean / To never know a simple day without a big commotion.” The first time I heard this, I had to pause for a moment because it sounded like K’naan was defending the actions of Somalian pirates who have hijacked dozens of ships over the last several years.
I did a quick search to see if I could find out more about K’naan’s thoughts about the issue and came across this video:
According to K’naan, there is nuclear waste being deposited on the coast of Somalia, and the local fisherman mobilized in the absence of any governmental or international protection. He admits that it might have spiraled out of control from this mission to greed, but he falls short of condemning this behavior.
According to at least one report in Al Jazeera, the basic story likely has merit.
It bothers me that I hadn’t heard of this line of reasoning previously. While I certainly believe that there are probably innocent parties involved in this and the piracy is absolutely condemnable, I also believe in the sovereign right of the Somalis to secure their coastal waters from people who may be illegally dumping toxic waste.
“So what you know bout the pirates terrorize the ocean / To never know a simple day without a big commotion.”
Apparently not much, K’naan, but thanks to your outreach, here’s to hoping more people start to care. Perhaps all of this can be avoided.