What happened to Omar Musa Since Ali Died?
Photo credit: Robert Catto
After a sold-out run as part of Griffin Theatre’s inaugural Batch Festival in 2018, slam poet, musician and author Omar Musa will be bringing his highly successful show Since Ali Died to Sydney Festival 2019.
Transforming his 2017 album into an hour-long theatre production, Omar said Since Ali Died is a culmination of significant moments throughout life since the passing of his hero, Muhammad Ali.
“It’s dealing with the big issues like Australian racism, feelings of isolation, suburban violence, but also very personal things like heartbreak, family problems, an individual’s struggle with faith or religion,” Omar explained.
“So, it does all these things and it’s a performance that’s an interrogation of a very deeply flawed man, and that man is me.”
Working with theatre director Anthea Williams, the show came together in a matter of weeks, and Omar said he is excited to showcase various performance forms, including hip-hop, poetry, and storytelling in prose.
Born in Australia, Omar has always been very proud of his mixed heritage, with this being fostered in him from a young age by his parents.
“They told me a lot of stories about Borneo and about my dad growing up there in the village and everything,” he said.
But, I think, as with a lot of people who are between worlds and between countries, there was a sense of enrichment but also dislocation at times, because I did feel like a person who was neither here, nor there.
“I was never truly Australian, in the eyes of a lot of people, nor was I Malaysian when I went back there.”
Photo credit: David Charles Collins
However, it is through poetry that Omar has been able to connect strongly with his Malaysian roots.
“About 10 years ago, I started connecting with the poetry scene in Kuala Lumpur, and now a lot more in Borneo, and I’ve found the poets can give you an understanding of the culture that you wouldn’t get if you were just a tourist,” he said.
Poetry and music is a way of me understanding the world and understanding myself, and trying to ask questions and interrogating myself, so that means trying to interrogate what my connection is with my heritage.
Photo credit: Robert Catto
He is also in the process of writing another book to add to his shelf, this time straying away from his experiences of Australia.
A seafaring novel set in South-East Asia, the book has been just another way for Omar to explore his roots and learn more about life in Borneo.
“I’m learning about my history and about myself, and the stories of rich history that I’m learning while I’m here in Malaysia and yarning with my grandparents, so it’s a very soulful experience,” he said.
I’ve written a lot about Australia and my thoughts on it, and of course that’s a huge part of me, but this other side of my heritage and my roots are so fundamental to who I am, and it’s something I think about so constantly.
For now, however, Omar is working on Since Ali Died for Sydney Festival 2019, and he said to tell a friend to bring a friend.
Catch Since Ali Died at the Griffin Theatre from 7-19 January 2019, or at the Riverside Theatres from 22-25 January. Click HERE for more information or to buy tickets.