K’naan ready to embrace a movie career.

Halkaan ka akhri

PARK CITY, Utah — For most first-timers, the Sundance Film Festival is an entirely surreal experience, as it splices the Fellini-esque elements of the film world to the very bosom of the American frontier. But for Canada’s K’naan, the very notion of reality has an entirely different scale.

The Mogadishu, Somalia-born, Juno-winning musical artist who became an international force in the wake of his World Cup anthem, Wavin’ Flag, has seen the very worst of the human animal, which is why he sees Sundance as a “beautiful reality” — and one he’s eager to embrace.

As one of a handful of music acts invited to participate in the ASCAP cafe, a showcase for emerging and established talents who have a desire to do more work in the world of film, K’naan performed to a small room on historic Main Street this week, making it his second appearance at a headline film festival. The platinum-selling artist behind Troubadour also played the Bell Lightbox opening at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

“I love movies,” he says. “I grew up watching Bollywood movies. They were wonderful, because they lack the cynicism of the intellect that affects a lot of (First World) films. You can really dream when you watch them,” he says.

K’naan says he’d like to be more involved with film, and he has friends, such as Oliver Stone, who could help him break into the business. The only problem is that he’s not too sure what element of film he’d like to explore.

“You always want to get involved with the things you love. And I love movies — all kinds of movies.

“I also love playing for people. I have friends who are filmmakers and producers. Some of them are here. And I was saying to them last night that it feels like we are at camp, except we are here to show our creativity.”

Ask K’naan what creativity means to him, and he says, quite simply, “survival.”

“Creativity gets the leech off my back, you know? It lets me breathe. It gives you relevance. If you think about it, why else would you be creative? We are creative souls and, we were, you know, created.”

Soft-spoken and beanpole tall, K’naan is something of an anomaly in the world of commercial music. He’s a bestselling rap artist who advocates peace and non-violence. He has addressed the UN, and he feels a deep need to give back — even though he comes from a part of the world that’s still, as he sings in his inspired pop ballad Take a Minute, “draped in the mess.”

Moreover, he’s not bound to one genre. Though he’s catalogued under rap/hip hop, K’naan fuses forms and brings African scales and instrumentation to American rock ‘n’ roll, as well as rap.

“The only process I have for creating is to be there. I am in my life and I’m there for all my experiences. I don’t use drugs or drink, because those take away from the experience. I’d rather be there, because that way, I can learn about myself in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

Escapism is not liberation, he says. “It’s more liberating to be yourself. Even pain is important to experience, because it’s like rain. We neglect so much of what rain gives us, but without it, we would have no fruit. I think pain is very similar to that.”

Other than committing to the moment with honesty and sobriety, he says he has no idea how he comes up with the sounds and beats that ripple the grooves of his recordings.

“It’s a mystery to me. I feel so fortunate that I find these things and I don’t like to put pressure on the finding process, so I try to stay naive about it. I don’t arrive at the studio thinking I’m a professional at this,” he says.

“To be a professional carries with it a kind of arrogance, like you know what you are going to do and you know the result of what you are going to do, but real creativity is bigger than you. And if it’s bigger than you, you can’t know what the results are going to be.”

Walking into the studio without attitude or expectation means he can also abort a creative impulse if he feels it’s not going to live up to his own standards. “If it’s going to disappoint me, then why bring it into the world?” he says.

“I’m touched that people like the music I make, because I make it for myself and I’m constantly surprised that people react the way they do, that they relate to it the same way as I do,” he says.

“I’m always trying to be honest. But sometimes, you wonder, ‘If they liked that, what else would they like?’ And then you have to really ask yourself where the creativity is coming from,” he says.

“It’s not about self-doubt, but about self-exploration, and to cheat yourself from that experience would be a disappointment.”

That said, K’naan says he’s not afraid of failure. “What’s the worst that can happen? They won’t play my record? After Somalia, I’ve realized that’s nothing to fear.”

Source: Vancouver Sun

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