Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dear Lady Day

New writing! So, it is Billie Holiday's birthday today. I wrote a letter to her a while back for Men of Letters and I thought today would be an appropriate day to post it. Enjoy.


Dear Lady Day,

Before I saw a picture of you, head tilted back, making your fingers snap with a half-smile, styled in a white dress, hair pinned with triple flowers, before I saw the expressive eyebrows, white teeth and a foul mouth rinsed in whiskey & creme de menthe, I heard a voice. Day one, when mum pushed a tape with her thumb into the cassette player of our old white Mazda, I heard a voice. It was jaunty and tragic, scarred and exquisite, gold leaf and gutter, cigarettes and syrup, tough as the bed of nails you slept on, transmuted into playful buoyancy, a voice afire on a black river of tape, toying with the rhythm, smoke cloying and written into sax, strings and keys, the black river of highway unfolded before my family of three. We listened.

My father told me that most pop music was sinful, so I was only allowed a small selection of tapes, but somehow you and Bob Marley (and later Ice Cube) made the cut. Was it that he couldn’t understand exactly what you were saying, your backstory, sex, drugs, on parole, the bath of mustard water you sat in to get rid of the baby, your lust for men and women, or was it something in your voice that affected him too? On every road-trip, from Queanbeyan to Queensland, we were transported into fifties nightclubs with a dusty crackle — we worked that tape to death. Why not take all of me, you said. And we did.

Dear Lady Day — the world is as large as it is close. The right type of voice, with all its jagged or whetted edges, can cut through an ocean, through a generation or three. I realised that... then. When you spoke of strange fruit in the South swinging from trees, I’d heard similar tales of similar fruit on the South Coast of New South Wales, if the yarns and whispered history of old fullas were to be believed. And those scars you had, we saw plenty of those in Canberra and Queanbeyan in the 90s, people on the nod, each bearing a brutal map of stars on the arms, pinpointing the direction to hurtful gods. And when you spoke of your man, who wasn’t true, who beat you too, when you asked “what can I do?”, I knew up close what you meant, up close, about charming, violent men, about what a poisonous addiction they can be, about the beating hearts of the beaten, trapped within flatblock cement.

They say it was your sax player, Lester Young, who you truly, truly loved, though, most likely, you were never lovers. There is footage of you singing “Fine and Mellow”, reuniting with him on stage for the last time. Black and white, the smoke drifts — you and he are both close to the end, and you both know it. At first we hear you talking — there are sad blues, there are happy blues, you just have to feel it. Halfway through the song, Lester step forward and plays the purest solo on God’s green earth. You lean towards him, some type of wonder in your eyes, look down, nod, smile strangely, and as you said, that smile wasn't a smile at all. Oh, the things that could have been.

When the white Mazda ran out of miles, the cassette era ran out too. We replaced the tape with a live CD but this one wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t one of your good days. Your words unintelligible — your voice sapped and hopeless. When my mum explained how young you had died and from what, I felt sorry for you, but nowadays, not so much. Because we all die, we all yearn. We all shine, all burn, bearing witness to each other’s rises and falls, we are unified in our pain, and that other thing it bears, beauty. You lived the way you wanted, this bright hyphen between darkness and darkness. It wasn’t about perfection, it was about feeling, but somehow, somehow, that made it… perfect.

Yours truly,
Omar

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