Rapper and writer digs deep in his highly personal new show

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“Hopefully it is one thing folks have not actually seen earlier than,” he says.

Musa, who’s Malaysian-Australian, says he might establish with most of the challenges Ali confronted as a fellow Muslim and a person of color in a ceaselessly hostile society.

“My dad would present me VHS tapes recorded off SBS saying, ‘this man’s a Muslim, he loves Malaysia, he fought in Malaysia’,” he says.

Musa revered Ali as a person (he was an activist and philanthropist, amongst many different actions) and a wordsmith, in addition to a boxer – although Musa provides he is by no means been within the ring himself.

“He was filled with verve, filled with braggadocio, pleased with his faith, pleased with his color,” he says.

The US president George W Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to boxer Muhammad Ali in 2009.

The US president George W Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to boxer Muhammad Ali in 2009.Credit score:AP

This impressed Musa, who has ceaselessly suffered the results of bigotry himself.  He tried to develop a thick pores and skin, however says “typically  it was simply outrageous and damaging”. For instance, at his main college, kids informed him his pores and skin was “the color of shit”.

This led to some internalised racism, he says. However the instance set by Ali helped.

“It enabled me, it gave me energy to be pleased with myself,” he says.

The end result has a been an extended listing of accomplishments, together with hip-hop albums, three books of poetry and a critically praised debut novel, Right here Come the Canine,  that was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award and led to him being named certainly one of The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Younger Novelists of the 12 months in 2015. He additionally gained the Australian Poetry Slam in 2008.

Musa says he actually centered on Ali from the age of 11 till properly into his teenagers. However he by no means forgot the person, and when Ali died in 2016 , it felt like “the top of an period”.

Ali’s demise got here throughout a interval of nice private problem for Musa – together with a misplaced love and the deaths of a few his pals.

“On the planet I’ve lived in – the music world, the humanities world – lots of people have issues with psychological well being and drug dependancy,” he says.

With all of the accrued issues and tragedies,  he turned self-destructive.

“I felt as if I went over the sting,” he says.

“It is all within the play.”

He additionally talks about rising up in a flat however attending the “privileged” Canberra Grammar College, finishing an arts diploma on the Australian Nationwide College and later receiving the college’s Younger Alumni Award in recognition of his achievements.

“It made me really feel awkward, uncomfortable,” he says.

“I did not do it for that … you possibly can’t take any of it too severely, good or dangerous.”

Not that he would not admire it.  However he additionally remembers a few of his pals who weren’t as lucky to take the identical path he did.

Omar Musa in performance.

Omar Musa in efficiency.Credit score:Robert Catto

Musa launched a solo hip-hop album, additionally titled Since Ali Died,  in 2017 however says solely about 40 per cent of the present’s materials is Musa derived from that.

He says though the subject material sounds heavy going, there are “a whole lot of mild moments and a whole lot of love” within the play.

Regardless of the issues he skilled there, Musa continues to be loyal to Queanbeyan, though his busy schedule – together with worldwide efficiency excursions and literary festivals – means he would not spend as a lot time there now.

He describes Queanbeyan as “house” and calls it “an attractive place”.

“Being from a small city typically offers you a chip in your shoulder while you go to an enormous metropolis. You’ll want to work laborious and carve your house on this planet,” he says.

As for the longer term, Musa says artwork and efficiency will all the time be a part of his life. “You possibly can’t lose your love of it though it will probably typically be damaging,” he says.

He is engaged on one other novel, however he is additionally considering of attempting one thing utterly completely different, even when this intention is not but totally fashioned.

“It is laborious to say, laborious to say. One of many issues I used to be considering of was conservation of the pure setting – Borneo can be a great place to do it,” he says.

“I will must have a give it some thought.”

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Instances.

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