This song was originally released on Somalia-born, Toronto-raised hip-hop artist K'naan's second studio album, Troubadour. It was the long player's third single and peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100, K'naan's first entry on the chart.
A remixed version was chosen as the official Coca Cola song for their FIFA 2010 World Cup program. It features revised lyrics with a new focus on soccer. K'naan told Billboard magazine about "The Celebration Mix": "We took something like 50 drums and did this crazy mix for it. It's about the one time that we all get together and the world forgets its conflict and its problems and we focus on this unity and celebration. That moment is connected now to 'Wavin' Flag.'"
Previous official World Cup songs have included the Toni Braxton-Il Divo ballad, "The Time of Our Lives," for the 2006 tournament, "Boom" by American pop singer Anastacia in 2002 and Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin's "La Copa de la Vida" for the 1998 World Cup.
A remake by a supergroup of Canadian artists credited as Young Artists for Haiti was released as a charity single in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. The song went straight to #1 on the Canadian charts, only the third tune to do so, after Eminem's "Crack a Bottle
" and Taylor Swift's "Today Was a Fairytale
" did so in February 2009 and February 2010, respectively.
Young Artists for Haiti won the Single Of The Year prize at the 2011 Juno Awards for their recording of this song.
"The Celebration Mix" version topped the singles charts in several European countries including Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
Coca Cola's entertainment marketing chief, Joe Belliotti, explained in The Daily Telegraph that the song was selected after a search involving hundreds of artists. "We went through hundreds of demos and recommendations for songs and artists that fitted the bill, and K'Naan ticked a whole laundry list of things," he said. "He has the connection to Africa, he is not a fly-by-night pop star, and his song is very indicative of celebration."
The song was originally written about K'naan's youthful dreams of escaping his troubled upbringing in the war-torn African country of Somalia. He told BBC News it was "about facing the odds and coming out of darkness - despair to hope, that kind of transition and transformation."
For the re-mixed World Cup version lyrics about "so many wars, settling scores" were replaced by lines about champions taking the field. And despite its new incarnation as a celebration of the beautiful game, K'Naan argued that the political message and spirit of the song still resonates: "The happier version contains some kind of melodic power that still pulls people into feeling something other than just a regular, mundane pop song," he said.
In an interview with CMU
, K'naan was asked what process he goes through when creating a track. The Somali-Canadian rapper replied: "There isn't a process as such. Other than paying attention to whatever is happening at the moment. Sometimes I will come up with a melody first, but sometimes it will be chords before the melody, or even just a sentence, or a phrase. I'll be like 'this phrase is beautiful' and then want to unravel that and write a song about it."
The song was co-written and co-produced by Bruno Mars. The Just The Way You Are
hitmaker recalled to Spin
magazine: "I had a lot of fun working with K'naan on 'Wavin' Flag.' That was a beautiful experience because we got to put in lots of African percussion. We rented a big ol' studio and a bunch of African drums that we kept layering over and over."
After Mitt Romney triumphed in Florida during the Republican's 2012 presidential primary, this song was played. When K'naan heard about it, he was not impressed, threatening legal action before adding that he'd "happily grant Obama permission to use it without prejudice." Romney's campaign said it was used under a blanket licensing agreement.