Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wavin Flag

If we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed I’m a little excited about the World Cup. We’re one week, several celebrations, a few heartbreaks and many good memories in. It is a good time to be in South Africa, and I’m doing my best to be a part of the excitement.

If there is one thing that has been consistent throughout the past 12 or so years of my life, it is that I have been deeply tied to the music which surrounds me. For me, music isn’t just about a good beat to dance to or fun lyrics to sing along to (though I do enjoy both of these things), but often about the heart and soul that has been put into it. These aren’t just lyrics… they’re poems with powerful stanzas put to music that helps me to feel the words. Words on a page can be powerful… but there is nothing like the spoken (or sung) word.

I can tie most moments of my life to music. Or the reverse - when I hear songs from the last 15 years, I can usually tell you what year it is from simply by tracing the memories closely tied to it. Just like before, there are many songs that will forever remind me of this moment now - the World Cup. Earlier this week, two incredible young people in my life (7 and 11 yrs old!) gifted me a mixed CD titled “Prince and Pricilla’s World Cup Mix.” It has lived in our car since then, and I have probably heard it played 10 times over.

The second song on the CD (second only to Shakira and Freshly Ground’s Waka Waka!) is K’Naan’s “Wavin Flag” - the official World Cup anthem. I LOVE this song! It is overplayed, for sure, but it is so uplifting! Lyrics like,
    See the champions, take the field now,
    Unify us, make us feel proud!
    In the streets our heads are lifin’
    As we lose our inhibition.
    Celebration, it surrounds us,
    Every nation’s, All Around Us...

Hearing someone sing this song in South Africa is almost as common as hearing a vuvuzela being blown. Almost.

Earlier this week, I googled the full lyrics to this song. What I found was a huge surprise…

Did you know this isn’t the original song?

See full size imageEvidently K’Naan was approached by Coke - they wanted to buy rights of this song b/c the chorus and beat would be PERFECT for the official anthem! But the lyrics? A little down and harsh, and NOT what they were looking for. Knowing what this could do for his career, he volunteered to re-write the song for them. What resulted is this song I love.

So what about that old song? I looked it up. and downloaded it. and what did I find? An intense, powerful, meaningful few stanzas packed with truth, pain, stories of survival and hope. Filled with harsh realities I’m not surprised Coke wanted to get rid of - who wants to think about realities of suffering in our world today when we are trying to focus on a global celebration and sports event?

I’ll leave space for your own criticisms for the many variables here. The truth is - had he not re-written this song, I may have never found the old one - and I’m glad I did.

The intense verses and deep, painful truths lined with hope in the chorus draw me into this song. Its a keeper, and one I will continue to reflect on in days (or more) to come. For now, I invite you to consider the “original” lyrics of the official song of the World Cup - a song that has been made into a song of celebration, and started as something very, very different. The music and chorus are the same… the other words are all (very) different.

When I get older, I will be stronger,
They'll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag,
And then it goes back, and then it goes back,
And then it goes back

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
but Violent prone, poor people zone,
But it's my home, all I have known,
Where I got grown, streets we would roam.
But out of the darkness, I came the farthest,
Among the hardest survival.
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak,
Except no defeat, surrender retreat,

So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we'll be free,
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day,
It's not far away, so for now we say


So many wars, settling scores,
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor,
I heard them say, love is the way,
Love is the answer, that's what they say,
But look how they treat us, Make us believers,
We fight their battles, then they deceive us,
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us,
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers.

But we struggling, fighting to eat,
And we wondering, when we'll be free
So we patiently wait, for that faithful day,
It's not far away, but for now we say...

1 comment:

Leanne said...

Relevant started playing him a few months back, commenting on how it's the WC song but playing the original. So fantastic. He has a right to say things--harsh or not--being himself a refugee. Good stuff.