First generation Somali-NZ rapper Mo Muse

From Nine To Noon, 11:27 am on 18 February 2020

Auckland based Somali-NZ rapper Mo Muse is telling his story on his own terms. 

His latest project is an ode to first-generation kids and comes at a time when his community is flourishing creatively.

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Photo: Supplied

Everyone involved in the First Generation LP and mini-documentary about the project was a first-generation artist.

“I just felt it was a story that’s never been told," says Muse.

Muse realised very early on, if he didn’t have anything to say in his music or connect with his audience, it wouldn’t have an impact.

Moving back to central Auckland, where much of his community lives, provided the energy he needed for the project, he says.

“On top of that, within the social context of New Zealand, particularly after the Christchurch attack, I think we were all ready to hear these stories and they’re stories of immigrant kids, first-generation kids.”

A relative newcomer to the national music scene, Muse rose to attention last year with his song "Friday' about the March 15th mosque attacks in Christchurch.

Muse studied in the South Island and knew people who attended the mosques targeted in the attack. In Auckland at the time, he says he felt helpless and empty.

“It was a very, very dark period for a lot of us in the community last year and something that’s not only difficult to talk about but very difficult to associate my music with.

“Even having this conversation right now about the trajectory of my music and that being part of the story, even that makes me uncomfortable and it’s just a really painful part of our history.”

Even after doing everything right, an entire part of his community was murdered, he says.

“For a tragedy like Christchurch to still happen, I think it gave us a lot of empowerment to speak up, to make sure our stories are heard. More importantly, though, making sure that no-one else tells our stories except us.”

Immigrant creatives and first generation kids are collaborating more than ever, he says.

“I think there’s a real sense of empowerment, identity, but still being so proud of being Kiwis, there’s the label of Afro-Kiwis being thrown around now as well, it’s just an incredible energy that I’m feeling at the moment.”

Last year Muse won the top prize at the New Zealand Music Awards pure potential stage presented by Hollie Smith, a stage reserved solely for undiscovered Kiwi musicians.

When you see one person who breaks the mould, you’ll see a whole community flourish, he says.