Omar spars with love, family and race

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Omar Musa… “Ali taught me to be brave; to stand up for myself, to fight for the underdog and that, even if society was against you, your conviction for what was right would be vindicated by history.”

RETURNING to his home turf direct from the Sydney Festival, poet, novelist and rapper Omar Musa will take the stage at the Courtyard Studio in his one-man show, “Since Ali Died”, as part of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s new initiative, “Etcetera”.

The Ali is boxing legend and outspoken civil rights advocate Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016 and few outside of the champ’s family and friends felt the loss more keenly than Musa, who uses his childhood hero’s passing to explore notions of legacy, love, family and race – indeed, Ali appears to Musa more than once in the show to give him advice.

In this suite of politically-charged storytelling, rap and song, Musa pays tribute to his personal hero while confronting heartbreak, violence, the dark realities of Australian culture and what it means to be “a brown man living in a country with a black history.”

“Ali taught me to be brave,” wrote Musa, in a tribute to Ali published by “The Guardian”, “to stand up for myself, to fight for the underdog and that, even if society was against you, your conviction for what was right would be vindicated by history.”

“Float like a butterfly, sing ‘til I’m free,” the show begins, as he plunges into a torrent of poetry, story and song, confronting everything from suburban violence to lost love to his Malaysian heritage and the dark realities of growing up as a brown-skinned Muslim boy in Queanbeyan, using the death of his hero Ali as a springboard.

Staged by award-winning director, Anthea Williams, it enjoyed a sell-out run at the inaugural Batch Festival in Sydney last year.

It was recently rated in the top 10 Sydney shows for 2018 by “Time Out” Sydney, which said, “[Musa’s] ease with himself and his material makes him magnetic.”

Sydney reviewer Kevin Jackson wrote of the performance: “All of these stories are written/spoken with such direct simplicity in a tremendous poetic language mastery, delivered with the relaxed physical ownership of a deep association of understanding and love, to create a charisma of such bewildering power, that I found myself weeping for most of the hour of this performance… Mr Musa gives you a sense of optimism, hope for the future.”

A politically-charged and deeply personal fusion of storytelling, rap and song, it mixes Musa’s own narrative with works from his Penguin anthology of love poems, “Millefiori”, and songs, comic, romantic and satirical from his album, also named “Since Ali Died”.

“Since Ali Died,” The Courtyard Studio, January 30-February 2. Book at or 6275 2700.

Omar, the 2018 ANU Young Alumnus of the Year, is the son of “CityNews” arts editor Helen Musa.

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