Sunday, February 15, 2015

"CAPITAL LETTERS"/TEDx Sydney text

Hey everyone,
I am extremely late on this, but you know, I had a novel to write the past couple of years so I've been distracted! Here are the lyrics/words to my TEDx speech at the Sydney Opera House. Very honoured that so many students are studying it in English, or choosing it as a text to analyse. All the best! Much love,
Omar


CAPITAL LETTERS

i knew none of their government names back then. back then,
some of the most wondrous people i knew were self-destructive,
talented vandals who took to relationships with mallet & saw.

there was beauty in the streets, you could see it everywhere,
in fishtails & donuts, the silver cursive that slanted off tyres,
in spraycan fumes & opals of oil,
in kickflips & crossovers, cuts & kebab shops
in sneakers that cluster-hung like grapes on powerlines

and in that… something.

could they see it too?

the generation who printed a crystal font on its bloodstream?
the entrepreneur with czech pistol
and silencer as thick as a ballerina's wrist?

this was the australia i saw.

no don bradman
no pavlova
no coastline etched in shale
no white sails of the opera house NO.

these were suburbs inscribed on scarified earth,

an alphabet of exiles far from lands of birth,
I'm talking pittance workers & remittance senders,
custodians & the kids of immigrants, you know the ones,
the ones heard about, not from, the ones talked at, not to,

the ones on the margin made to feel very small
in other words,
us.

each day, like smoke, i unwound up the stairs.

I smelled many cuisines, I heard many tongues.
in flat 7 a macedonian man said "Shopraish brother?" as he massaged his elbow.
the tongan woman in flat 16 said "maloelelei?" as she prepared for her third night shift in a row,
my mother and father said "assalamu-alaikum" when i entered flat 26

I learned that in Malay culture,
a storyteller is named penglipur lara -
"dispeller of worries", "reliever of sorrows,"

the name also given to a garden of delights where all cares are lost.

And what delights, what insights in stories, what power to give voice to the worlds inside.

But there are many kinds of stories.

I heard

carnivorous tales lope down gentrifying streets.

the hiss of talkback serpents,

the whistle of go-back-to-where-you-came-froms,

I lost faith & leapt into the whirlpool.

Reckless hours, pilled & powdered, full of sex & camaraderie.
part of me knew on days like this,
the timer ticked, history slipped,

we skipped words like stones from our hands,

words that that couldn't be retrieved
like love like hate, like us, like goodbye.

Yet somehow

somehow,

I found that something,

like a magic key connecting ancient and new,

I found it
on beats, breaks, tapes and acetate,

unordained lionhearts on thrones self-made.
Do you hear what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about Tupacs and Lauryn Hills Tupacs,
Rakims, Nas's, Kendrick Lamars,

Public Enemies,

syphoning El Haji Malik El Shabazz.
Jimblahs, Deltas & Brad Struts, Ozi Batlas,
Hilltops & Horrorshows, Def Wish Casts & Koolisms.
Do you hear what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about the numberless underground kings & queens

who taught us the power of our voices, of nonconformity,
that each lyric
each windmill
each scarred "45
each fan of paint from a nozzle
was a story aching to be told,

unfolding before us the fractals of cosmos & starlight,

a world suddenly unbearably bright.

So linger now, linger with me.

Consider that somehow,

despite the broken bottles & tatted bigotry

we could still own that something,

be that something,

something airborne,

gold shot,

beings arranged in a calligraphy of rhythm & rebellion,

people with so much damn resilience
it is impossible not to smile.

So let it play, that something, let it play.

Weave your stories into nets,
drag them behind zig zagging  decks,
zooped up cars, trams & trains, through streets & sunsets,
trawl for the things you thought you'd lost.

Because you, me, US, we are more than statistics,
more than misfits,

we are more than "your dreams are unrealistic."
This is the paint that drips from each brick,

the spirit that soothes the weary limb,

this is the new scripture of our lives,
spelled skyscraper high in CAPITAL LETTERS — BOLD.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

NEW ALBUM COMING 2015


Hey everyone, thanks for the birthday wishes! Feeling blessed.. I like to announce things on my bday, cos it kicks off the year in a positive way. So I'm happy to announce that this year I'm going to put out a SOLO HIP HOP ALBUM, executive produced by my bro Joelistics from TZU! Joelistics is the first Aus MC I ever saw live, way back in the day, so it's a bit of a spin-out. I'm so excited. Writing the novel was incredible, and of course I'll do it again, but I have really missed the ENERGY of rapping, making music, doing hip hop shows. It feels like time. We've already been working on a bunch of new tunes, and have some great producers/guests on board, so look out in the coming months for a taste of it. I'm trying to reach for a new level with this one. Much love everyone

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New poem: The Fear (unfinished)

It was said,
“be afraid.”

And the people became afraid.

I stood, 
a dwarf in a petrified forest,
watching them dance the ancient dance —
there seemed joy in their terror,
& laughter, too.

People baked bullets into their bread.
They chopped up newspapers
& fried them
with sliced onions & sizzling steaks.
They stroked surveillance cameras
between their legs.
They treated TV screens like wells,
dipping buckets into them,
filling teacups
& offering them to neighbours.

At times it held the shape of mirrors & men,
but mostly,
the Fear spread across the waking earth 
as if it were gas

& gas expands to fill
whatever vessel
it is put in.

Today,
A man would not serve me at the supermarket.
A woman crossed the street to avoid me.
An anonymous email wished death upon me.

I, too,

became afraid.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Struggletown Crier" — Omar Musa. New music vid



Pass it on if you feel it!
So, in amongst the madness of creating the #2 album in the country, Solo from Horrorshow came down to Queanbeyan to make his debut as a music video director. Alongside the prodigious Cole Bennetts as DOP, we battled cold, rain & kangaroo cullers to make this vid. Really happy with it — I’m honoured to work with such passionate people. Although the book is not about Queanbeyan, it is heavily influenced by it, and we wanted to get to the essence of my hometown & do a rap clip to go along with the book’s release.
Much love to Vis Pajori for editing & the almighty Sensible J and Dutch for the beat.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Irvine Welsh quote about "Here Come the Dogs"

"Here Come the Dogs", my debut novel, is out on July 23 in all good Aussie/NZ bookstores!

Let me tell you a little story about how much this means to me. When I was 13, my mum snuck me into Electric Shadows cinema in Canberra to watch Trainspotting, on a whim (it was R rated). We walked in late, during the toilet diving scene. Like many, I was transfixed by the world portrayed in the movie, and after watching the credits, realised the movie was based on a book. I immediately got the book and it changed my life. My English teacher at school said it wasn't proper literature, but this book (which I've read every few years since then) changed how I viewed literature - where to look for stories, where redemption can be found, how poetry can be found in the colloquial. Now, 17 years on, I got to hand my first novel to a guy who changed my life. That alone makes me feel as if my life has come full circle in a way. But the fact that he liked it is mind blowing and moving and makes the angst of writing the damn thing worthwhile.. So, so cool

Christos Tsiolkas quote about "Here Come the Dogs"

"Here Come the Dogs", my debut novel, is out on July 23 in all good Aussie/NZ bookstores!


HOLY SHIIIIIT! One of my favourite writers Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap, Barracuda, Dead Europe) did this quote about my novel "Here Come the Dogs"!! MIND = BLOWN.. I feel incredibly honoured right now

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Teargas sunset (unfinished)

If you're keeping an eye on the news, you'd see that shit got pretty hectic last night in Istanbul. I wrote a rough little poem about what I observed as an outsider over the last day and a half:

Teargas sunset (unfinished)
by Omar Musa 

I

Having narrowly escaped jetlag,
I ate a mushroom omelette
in Galata Square,
with wrinkled black olives
on the side
like little black eyes.
I washed it all down 
with coffee strong enough to wake the dead.

As I looked upon the ancient tower,
the city came to life around me:
tourists and cats and drunkards
made their way across the square.

Over the next few hours,
I did edits on my novel,
listened to an American family talk too loudly,
heard the cafe’s Gypsy Kings CD
mix with the call to prayer.

I updated my Facebook:
“Hello Istanbul. What a city!
I love this place sooo much.
It is rainy & muddy & musical & full of life.”

When I got back to the hotel,
the man at reception
asked me what I was doing tonight.
I grinned and mimed drinking - rakia.
He smiled sadly, shook his head,
and said, “be careful.”

The police killed a little boy.
He died yesterday.
He was hit in the head by a police teargas canister
nearly a year ago.
The government does what it wants.
The police do what they want.
They do not care.
I am a Nationalist. I am supposed to be on the Right.
The Communists are supposed to be on the Left.
But we have both joined against this government.
The government is fundamentalist.
Do not go up Istiklal Street tonight,
my friend.
Last night, it was like a war. 
Tonight again.
There will be nearly a million people 
and 
teargas.
Taksim Square will be like a war.”

His eyes were green and steady.

My hotel room smelled 
of the cleaning woman’s cigarettes.
I looked across
the rooftops and satellites with their faces to the sun,
and saw two minarets 
and the dome of a Mosque
across the Bosphorus.
As the city readied itself for 
protest and mourning,
I burned my lips
on the sunset.

II

I got lost looking for a trendy cafe,
ended up near Karakoy Port, 
drank homemade lemonade in a side street,
climbed through an aristocratic neighbourhood
and found myself in Taksim Square.

There were students with pictures
of a young boy,
Berkin Elvan,
 
pinned to their lapels.
People in beanies and ballies
thronged,
dressed mostly in black.
Shellfish and chestnuts
were roasting 
on portable braziers.

There were choppers in the sky
and so many sirens,
and the whole place seethed
with thousands of legs in fast forward.

Istanbul wasn’t this cold last time.

I turned a corner and came 
face to face with riot police,
close enough to see the scratches on their
semi-automatic weapons.

Close enough for one to blow smoke in my face.

III

When I got back to the hotel,
there was a new guy behind the desk.

He told me that he had worked in Taksim Square 
a year ago.
“You should’ve seen it.
How exciting it was.”

His eyes shone.

“I like the smell of teargas.
Sometimes, it is necessary.”

IV

20 minutes later,
cops swarmed out
from every side street
like termites,
and opened onto civilians 
with water cannons and tear gas.

V

Something drew me back to Taksim Square.

As I walked up Istiklal,
life seemed to carry on as usual:
Men sipped Efes from the can,
women with high cheek bones were smoked by cigarettes,
lamb cutlets smoked on grills, 
mint tea steamed,
trinkets winked in the market.

Shops were still open, full of bored faces.
(I swear, the look of someone who hates their job
is universal.) 

I started to see wet footprints,
becoming denser and denser on the concrete.

Then I heard a stamping, a chanting,
a banging on roller doors,
the voice of a mob
like the bunching and unbunching of a fist.
It was up near Galatasaray High School,
where everything always kicks off (supposedly),
a square that leads north,
south,
east,
west.

I have smelled tear gas twice before -
once in Malaysia, once in Guatemala -
and I recognised it straight away.

Then there was something 
like fireworks
a phosphorescent scatter,
the clatter of riot shields,
the twack of baton on flesh,
then a cheer,
and the stampede of feet,
and I was running with the crowd,
unsure of where I was going,
and there was danger, and fear,
but also some laughter and people 
with their arms around each others’ shoulders.

Istiklal had turned into a river,
but there were people
swimming upstream,
towards the maelstrom,
camera phones held aloft,
shining beams,
like little lighthouses
above the crowd.

VI

On the way home,
a kid tried to sell me a mask
to protect me from the teargas.

Just a few blocks away,
things were quiet.
I passed wall upon wall of graffiti, thinking
“Whoever DSK is,
they run shit around here.”

The guy behind the counter
was more sombre now.

“I do not like protests.
I voted.
My best protest was at the election.”


VII

The news tells me 
that two people are dead.

I lean out the window
and the wind is cold and fleet-footed,

as if it is being chased.