When Somalian rapper K'naan took the stage, he held the demeanor and dignity of an artist not just performing, but rather sharing something unique with the world. The set was short, but powerful, and made all the more so because of its brevity. He didn't rely on pre-recorded beats; he had a full backing band and a scorching guitarist playing wailing lead on "If Rap Gets Jealous."
K'naan performed "Somalia," a strong and chilling song from his new release Troubadour, as a spoken word piece. The audience hung off every word, and erupted in applause between the stanzas.
I was on my third Jack Daniels by the time Matisyahu took the stage and, sure, it may have been the lulling effects of the whiskey, but for me, Matisyahu's set seemed comprised less of individual songs and more like one flowing session with the music and intensity waxing and waning in a continuous stream. Like K'naan, he was fully immersed in the delivery. Matisyahu's songs often blended together without beginnings or endings, sometimes grooving reggae beats and rhymes, sometimes drawn out instrumentals of trippy effects as Matisyahu showed off his vocal prowess by flawlessly combining rasta with contemporary hip-hop. In tribute to Michael Jackson, who died earlier that day, Matisyahu performed "Billie Jean," going off onto a long jam. Looking out across the floor, the room ebbed and flowed as people danced. Not being prone to more than a foot tap myself, even I swayed to the beat. Again, maybe the whiskey. Toward the end, K'naan joined Matisyahu on stage. They started with "Waving Flag," then transitioned into a freestyle together: "Idaho don't you know / it's the K'naan and Matisyahu show."
I walked away from the show satisfied, content and feeling at peace. The possibilities of what music can achieve reach far deeper than just entertainment and K'naan and Matisyahu prove this. In the words of K'naan: "And any man who knows a thing knows he knows not a damn, damn thing at all."