Waayaha Cusub is a hip-hop collective founded in Kenya in 2004 by lyricist and rapper Shiine Akyaar Ali.
The group will spend the week working with students and community members and complete their St. Cloud residency with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Paramount Theatre, 913 W. St. Germain St.Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the show and are available through the Paramount website. Admission for students with a St. Cloud State ID is $15 for a guaranteed ticket purchased in advance or free with ID the day of the show. All other college and high school students receive a 25 percent discount with ID.
In the week leading up to the concert, the musicians will speak in ethnic studies and world drumming classes, perform live music and interview with KVSC, and work with students at the College of St. Benedict and St. Cloud Technical and Community College.
The artists will hold a panel discussion with the Somali Student Association at 2 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Atwood Theatre. The group will talk about their experiences as refugees and musicians.
The group’s message challenges militants and extremist politics. Waayaha Cusub is recognized for its artistry as well as its activism. As leaders who speak out against war, violence and oppressive leadership, the artists have endured death threats and violent attacks. In 2007, Ali was shot five times by militants.
The band has been featured by CNN, Rolling Stone, the LA Times Vice Magazine, the BBC and other publications.
In 2013, Waayaha Cusub established and headlined the Somali Sunrise Tour for Peace, a series of concerts in East Africa that culminated in the first music festival in Somalia since the start of the civil war in the early 1990s.
The group was recently granted asylum in the Netherlands where they are completing their newest album Nabad Waa Muhim, which means peace is vital.
For their performances, Waayaha Cusub will collaborate with DeVon Gray, founding member of St. Paul-based hip-hop group Heruspecs, along with percussionist Joey Van Phillips, bassist Jim Anton and Jeremy Ylvisaker — a collaboration designed to draw both Somali and general audiences and facilitate peer learning between artists of different cultures.
Because of the destructive impact of civil war and the censorship of Somali artists and music culture, there are few opportunities to experience live performances by Somali artists. The Waayaha Cusub performances give Minnesota audiences a chance to experience the group, which has reunited all of the original members to perform live for the first time in the United States.
In addition to working with college students, the musicians will speak to students in local P-12 schools and Bethlehem Lutheran confirmation classes, work on digital music with kids at the Boys and Girls Club and meet with women in the Centrasota Somali Women Organization.
The residency is part of the School of the Arts 2016-17 Creative Art Series.
The group also is doing residencies and performances in Minneapolis and Mankato through Building Bridges: Arts, Culture and Identity program, a partnership with The Cedar Cultural Center, Augsburg College, The Paramount Center for the Arts and Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Music Performance Studies. The partnership earned a $500,000 grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, which is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
The program is designed to build knowledge and appreciation for arts and culture with roots in Muslim majority societies.
The Minnesota performances are the group’s first time appearing in the United States.