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Hannah Hall Interviews Omar Musa

1 February 2017

HH: Throughout your new EP you make a lot of references to Australia – its people, places and politics. How important do you think it is to do this, to write what is local, recognisable?

OM: I really use community as a keyhole to the world. I like to write about local things with local flavour so that it battles the cultural cringe that has crippled Australia for generations, this cringe of thinking that we not are worthy unless we are tapped on the head by a magic wand from the Queen of England or someone from New York.

I do write about a lot of local things, but I want to do it in a world-class way and use it as a way to tell universal stories. That’s what I was doing with Here Come the Dogs and it’s a juggling act, a constant high wire juggling act. And it’s not balls we’re juggling with, it’s flaming swords – it’s difficult! It’s difficult, because I want to make something with local flavour that claims that whilst still being accessible to someone who has never come to Australia. A lot of the best art does that, whether it be literature or hip hop. Take Dr Dre’s The Chronic – most people will never go to Compton, but when you hear that, man, you really hear what that place is like, you can feel it. It’s the same with a good book as well, you are suddenly transported. So it’s about the tension between the two.

I also think that we’ve got a great deal of richness in our slang, in our vernacular, and so many stories that are yet to be told, so why not mine local stories? We have to. I was quoting the other day a Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, and the danger of a single story – and it’s so true. There’s one story in this society at the moment that we see in the media about Muslim people or Aboriginal people and what a reductive thing that is once it’s applied to people’s real lives. But once you start muddying that up, complicating it, making it more nuanced, then people can be more humanised, because the single story dehumanises people.

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