“They’ll call me Freedom, just like a Waving Flag”

Somehow, I missed the memo about the official FIFA 2010 World Cup song, which I had automatically assumed was going to be a fusion of “World in Union”, Special Star”, and “Doo Be Doo”, each of which will be highly familiar to any South African who has ever had to hold on for the next available operator on Telkom’s ADSL Support Line.

But then, by serendipitous circuit, I chanced upon this video of a Somali-born rapper named K’naan performing a song called “Wavin’ Flag”, just  guitar, djembe, and voice, in a Canadian radio studio.

I was hooked from the opening acoustic curlicue, a conscious echo of the intro to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, conscious because a little later in the song, K’naan manages to weave in a reference to Buffalo Soldiers too.

By paying tribute to Marley, he also wears his mantle, and on the evidence of this song alone, he wears it well. There is passion and ache and joy in his voice, a pride in roots, a wistful yearning to be heard across the world. So listen.

In these spare and simple lyrics lies the whole story of our continent, of the coming of the tall ships, of slavery and displacement, of missionaries with Bibles and soldiers with guns, of promises and betrayal, of war and survival, of the long walk, the long, patient wait, for the one day, someday, any-day-now victory of destiny over history.

This isn’t your typical FIFA World Cup theme song. It isn’t a mawkish song; it isn’t a chest-thumping song; it isn’t We Are the World.

It’s We are Africa, and the World is Coming to Africa, and although I’ll probably be sick of it by the time June 11, 2010 rolls around, for now it gives me goose-bumps, and I can’t think of a more moving, uplifting anthem of Africa that’s ever been written, unless you count the one we’ll be singing just before Bafana kick-off against Mexico at Soccer City.

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
A 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,
Accept 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

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

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

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

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One comment on ““They’ll call me Freedom, just like a Waving Flag”

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