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K'naan to 'Wavin' Flag' Romney: I don't endorse this message

Somali-Canadian hip-hop artist K'naan, speaks about famine in Somalia with U2 frontman Bono and The Globe and Mail's Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse, at an invite-only event in Toronto, Ont., September 10, 2011.

Michelle Siu For The Globe and Mail/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

Somali-Canadian artist K'naan has often remarked how his mega-hit song "Wavin' Flag" had become so ridiculously popular, it ceased to belong to him because it resonated around the world.

The tune was chosen as Coca-Cola's promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was remade into a charity single by a group of Canadian artists in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake last year.

But Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney apparently crossed the line when he appropriated the song to celebrate his decisive victory against Newt Gingrich in Tuesday night's Florida primary.

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When K'naan caught wind, he immediately took to Twitter to voice his displeasure: "Yo @mittromney I am K'naan Warsame and I do not endorse this message."

It's not the first time an artist has bridled at the use of a song as a soundtrack to conservative political campaigns. Mr. Gingrich himself was targeted in a lawsuit by Frank Sullivan, the co-writer of "Eye of the Tiger," which had been played without permission at the Republican's rallies.

Earlier this year, Republican hopeful Michele Bachmann was issued a "cease and desist" letter from Tom Petty's music publisher insisting that she stop playing "American Girl" at campaign events. The Foo Fighters and John Mellencamp asked John McCain to press pause on playing their songs during his presidential run in 2008. Way back when, Bruce Springsteen was also unhappy when Ronald Reagan used his hit "Born in the USA" to brighten up his rallies.

But Mr. Romney's move comes as a bit of a surprise. Previously, the Republican star's team has asked permission before using a certain song at his campaign events. Kid Rock, for example, gave his explicit permission for Mr. Romney to use "Born Free" at earlier rallies.

"The fact that Mitt Romney asked for and actually got permission from Kid Rock is a giant leap forward for the rights of musicians and songwriters," Larry Iser, the attorney sought Kid Rock's permission, said at the time.

Apparently, however, nobody asked K'naan.

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About the Author

Sonia Verma writes about foreign affairs for The Globe and Mail. Based in Toronto, she has recently covered economic change in Latin America, revolution in Egypt, and elections in Haiti. Before joining The Globe in 2009, she was based in the Middle East, reporting from across the region for The Times of London and New York Newsday. More

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