Enough Said About Omar Musa?

by Amanda Craig

Enough Said are gearing up for their event at Jane’s in Wollongong on April 27, and it’s set to be a memorable night with this month’s larger than life feature artist, Omar Musa.

A Malaysian-Australian slam poet and hip hop artist from Queanbeyan, Omar recently released a new book of poetry called Millefiori, and performed at book launches in Sydney and Adelaide last week, with one in Canberra following on Monday 24th.

Millefiori is one of many achievements for Omar. In 2014, he debuted his novel Here Come the Dogs via Penguin, of which saw him longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and become Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelist of the year in 2015. In 2013 Omar also released another book of poetry called Parang.

Spoken word poetry is not Omar’s only talent. He uses his awesome writing skills for his music, with two EPs to his name - 2009’s The Massive EP and 2016 release Dead Centre. In 2010 he also released his album, World Goes to Pieces. Omar also recently collaborated with Sydney hip hop duo Horrorshow on their new album Bardo State, featuring on a track called Ceiling Fan.

Using poetry to cope with life and discuss individuality, equality and racism, Omar is an alchemist when he writes. Like turning metal into gold, he creates spoken word poetry to turn negativity into something positive and beautiful.

Talking to Omar, he gives an in-depth insight into Millefiori, how he discovered slam poetry, and his work in progress novel, The Kapten.

Omar Thumb 02

Photo provided by artist

Q: Omar, you recently released your third poetry instalment, Millefiori (April 10), which you describe as poetry of “love and rebel raps”. What do you feel is the main story or message that is speaking through your book?

There is a line in the book that says, “we know that the world is a horror story / but we also know there’s love notes in the margins.” I think that sums it up. Many of the poems explore the horror of this world, whether it be colonial brutality, racism or violence against women, but I try to balance them out with poems about tenderness and resilience and love — the things that bloom despite the darkness. 

Q: What does Millefiori stand for?

It means “a thousand flowers” in Italian and is the name of a certain style of glass paperweight. In one of the poems, I say that each flower is a goodbye in a paperweight that holds down “my life’s pages.” I suppose many of the poems are goodbyes — to a lost childhood, an imagined past, or a lover - so there is beauty and sadness in the title.

Q: The poem you performed in 2013 at the Sydney Opera House for TED, and on Facebook in March, talks about being bold. You revealed that this piece is the anchor to Millefiori. What was it about the poem that inspired your new book?

I wouldn’t say it inspired the new book, it was just the first poem I wrote in this collection. I suppose it does combine grit and beauty in the way that I aspire to for all my work. I write poetry in a haphazard, spontaneous way, as a daily activity the way someone might write in their diary. I’ll often throw these scribbles onto Instagram or Facebook, just to interact with people. After four years of doing so, I suddenly realised I had enough material for a book of poetry!

Q: When did you discover your love for slam poetry? 

In 2006, when I went along to a slam in Canberra to make up the numbers. I just loved how the audience listened so closely to every word. Of course, I love hip hop gigs, but oftentimes it’s about vibe and energy, and the words you have worked so hard on get lost in the mix.

Q: Your writing focuses mainly on community and making stories from different cultures stand out. How did these themes inspire your writing?

I suppose poetry has always been my way of turning pain and heaviness into something positive and a lot of my heaviness in life has come from loneliness, racism or feeling like an outsider. I’m not sure I started telling these stories with any grand plan, it’s just that the process of it helped me survive. It was a coping mechanism. But as time has moved on, I’ve seen that me telling these stories also helps other people cope, and hopefully, inspires them to tell their own stories. 

Q: You also released your EP Dead Centre in August last year. How do you feel your music is different than performing your writing through slam poetry?

It’s more energetic, more physical, more sweaty. Louder. People will jump around at a hip hop show — doesn’t really happen at a poetry gig!

Q: Have you performed in Wollongong before? What do you love about getting the chance to be a part of different spoken word scenes?

I performed with Horrorshow at the University of Wollongong last year and that was a blast. Have also spoken at the uni a couple of times. Wherever I go in the world, I love having the chance to hear universal human themes expressed in myriad ways, spiced with different flavours, but always nourishing.

Q: Lastly, you are working on a new book called The Kapten. Can you reveal what it will be about?

A blind transgender sea captain. But I’m only 5 percent of the way in, so I don’t really know where it’s heading.

Watch Omar Musa’s TED Sydney Performance below:

Buy Millefiori from Big Cartel now.

Want more Omar Musa? Check out the links below:

Here Come the Dogs





Written by SCWC

Posted on April 24, 2017