LEWISTON — K'Naan, the Somalian-born rap artist whose single "Wavin' Flag" was an international sensation, will perform Saturday, Dec. 1, at Bates College.
"Love is harder than war," A&M/Octone recording artist K'Naan said, explaining the direction he takes on his new album, "Country, God Or The Girl."
"I've had the chance to write about my experiences in a difficult and violent life. But when the suffering and the pain is something that comes from within me, it's harder to react and to write about that," he said.
With his new songs — including the album's first single, "Is There Anybody Out There?" featuring Nelly Furtado — the Canadian-based singer and MC turns his attention to personal relationships.
At the same time, though, he never loses the greater sense of the world that has defined him as an artist. On "Country, God Or The Girl," K'Naan attempts to address "the internal wars, rather than the external ones, which I'd been preoccupied with on my previous albums."
The album is K'Naan's first full-length work since his multiplatinum single, "Wavin' Flag," a version of which was selected as Coca-Cola's theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.
The exposure sent the song to No. 1 on iTunes in 18 countries and opened up countless doors for K'Naan. That's reflected by the caliber and range of guests who appear on "Country, God Or The Girl," from Nas on "Nothing to Lose" to Bono on "Bulletproof Pride," plus appearances by Will.I.Am, Keith Richards and B.O.B.
But, K'Naan said, the the greatest impact on his music came from the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour of 86 countries. "I went to 22 countries in Africa, back to back. Seeing Africa to that degree freed me from having a narrow message in my music."
"A friend told me about working in refugee camps during the Rwandan genocide," K'Naan said. "When people settled into the evening, though, nobody talked about the horrific tragedies that were happening.
"They were talking about their lost loves. And that hit me so deeply — how human beings are having the same conversations everywhere, even in times of war and famine. Their favorite songs are always love songs. And I wasn't speaking to them in the place that was most important to them."
K'Naan fled Mogadishu with his family at age 13. After learning English, partly by immersing himself in the classic hip-hop albums of the 1990s, he came to prominence in 1999 with a spoken word performance at the United Nations that caught the attention of Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour.
K'Naan's debut album, 2005's "The Dusty Foot Philosopher," won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year. He signed with A&M/Octone and released the follow-up, "Troubadour," in 2009, winning Junos for Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year.
The concert will be at 9 p.m. in the Gray Athletic Building, 130 Central Ave. Tickets, $30, are available at www.batestickets.com. For more information, call 786-6305.