Omar Offendum - Hip Hop And Poetry Comes to Ford Theatres in August
The Ford Theatres, in association with the Arab Film and Media Institute, presents An Evening of Hip-Hop and Arabic Poetry with Omar Offendum on August 16. From the jasmine tree-lined courtyards of Nizar Qabbani's Damascene homes to the flooded riverbanks of Langston Hughes' Harlem Renaissance poems, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist (2018-2019) Omar Offendum, accompanied by oud (Middle Eastern lute) virtuoso Ronnie Malley, percussionists, and a DJ, will deliver a one-of-a-kind performance that bridges the ancient oral and musical traditions of the Middle East and North Africa with contemporary hip-hop and spoken word. For this intimate event, audiences will be seated on the Ford stage with the artists.Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American rapper and poet living in Los Angeles. Known for blending hip-hop and Arabic poetry, he has lectured at a number of museums, educational and cultural institutions including The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, LACMA, Arab American National Museum, Poets House, Qatar Foundation International and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. A graduate of the University of Virginia's School of Architecture, he has helped raise millions of dollars for various humanitarian relief groups and has been able to carve a distinct path for himself as a thoughtful entertainer and activist able to speak to a multitude of relevant issues over the course of his decade-long career. Offendum explains, "Poetry is the backbone of the Arabic language and holds such a huge place in Arabic, Middle Eastern and North African cultures." Offendum studied in an immersive Arabic School in Washington D.C. and poetry was an important part of the curriculum. Through this exposure to poetry, from the medieval ages to modern day, he was able to link it to the hip-hop he was listening to. Both the music and the poetry aimed for a kind of storytelling that connected emotion and expression. As Offendum grew up, he became more aware of the demonization of people from the Arab world in the media, and thought poetry and hip-hop could help explain his culture from a familiar perspective and break down cultural barriers. "I was always aware that hip-hop was a tool that could be used to highlight some serious sociopolitical issues," he explains in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "When protests erupted in Syria, I saw a place that I had known so well become a hotbed for one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has ever seen and I have family there, so I'm deeply connected to the issue in a very personal way. Speaking for them is important to me when they're telling me to use the platform that I have to tell their stories. If you create art that is engaging, entertaining, thoughtful and gives people pause, you're creating spaces that allow the building of solidarity between communities." "The conflict in Syria is devastating to watch unfold," said Ford Theatres Executive Director Olga Garay-English. "The arts have a wonderful capacity to help us find meaning in the face of so much suffering. At the Ford, we work hard to create a space where everyone feels welcome, where opportunities for deeper cross-cultural understanding can take place. Omar Offendum's use of hip-hop, poetry and music to engage audiences about what is happening brings these issues to our stage in a very powerful way." This event is part of IGNITE @ the FORD!, a series presented by the Ford Theatre Foundation comprised of nationally and internationally-renowned artists whose work is contemporary and reflective of the world in which we live. Seating is very limited for this intimate IGNITE on stage experience. Tickets are available by visiting FordTheatres.org or by calling 323.461.3673. About Ronnie Malley (Oud) Ronnie Malley is a multi-instrumentalist musician, theatrical performer, producer and educator. With a background in global music and performance studies, Ronnie has collaborated with artists internationally and has composed and consulted for many cultural music projects in film and theatre. His recent credits include author and composer of the original play Ziryab, The Songbird of Andalusia (Silk Road Rising World Premiere); musician for The Secret Garden (Court Theatre); musician and consultant on Disney's The Jungle Book (Goodman Theater, Huntington Theater); associate producer, composer, and actor in The Sultan's Dilemma (International Voices Project); co-composer on The White Snake (Old Globe, Guthrie, Goodman, McCarter, and more); author and composer of the story ?The Oud, Ziryab, and Andalusia: An Enchanting Tale of Music (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Cultural Center); actor and principal musician in Arabian Nights (Lookingglass, Berkeley, Arena Stage Theatre); and film composition for At the Gate, Modou: The Hang Player, and Jon and Davy. Through his company, Intercultural Music Production, Ronnie has also produced the albums Auraad Fathiya, Saazuk Safar, Tsikago,and Gypsy Surf, and has appeared as a guest artist on several musical works. He conducts Arabic language artist residencies for Chicago Public Schools and is a teaching artist for music and theatre with Global Voices Initiative. He is also a faculty member at the Old Town School of Folk Music and Chicago Academy for the Arts, as well as a veteran artist with Chicago Arts Partnership in Education. Ronnie performs with the music groups Allos Musica, Duzan Ensemble, Lamajamal, and Surabhi. About the Arab Film and Media Institute The Arab Film and Media Institute (AFMI) is the only organization of its kind in North America that is dedicated exclusively to nurturing and supporting Arab and Arab American artists. AFMI was launched in 2016 by the team behind the largest and oldest Arab Film Festival in North America. AFMI aims to be a complete ecosystem to find, nurture and showcase Arab talent in the United States. Starting with organizing school screenings and growing into offering filmmaker services and original programming, AFMI is the place for Arab cinema and its fans, and the home of the Arab Film Festival. Once fully realized, AFMI will comprise of four pillars: an expanded Arab Film Festival, an Education Program to bring Arab films to schools around the country, Filmmaker Services to support Arab American artists, and a series of original content. For more information, visit arabfilminstitute.org/ About the Ford Theatres At 1,200 seats, the Ford Theatres creates an intimate concert experience that is a favorite among Angelenos. Each summer, the Ford hosts music, dance, theatre, film and family events reflective of the communities that comprise Los Angeles County. Proceeds from IGNITE @ the FORD! events benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation. The Ford is owned by the County of Los Angeles and operated in partnership with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Ford Theatre Foundation. Nestled in a canyon of a County regional park in the Cahuenga Pass, the Ford Theatres has a rich history dating back to the 1920s. Audiences attending the 2018 Season will enjoy a fully revitalized Ford after the completion of a nearly three-year renovation project, including improved lighting and sound and the Ford Terrace Café on the new terrace - dubbed The Zev - with a menu by Crumble Catering. The 2018 Season at the Ford Theatres is made possible through the support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Additional support provided by Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, along with ABC7; the Caruso Family Foundation; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; Chamber Music America; City National Bank; Discover Hollywood; First 5 LA; Fusicology; The James Irvine Foundation; KCETLink; KCRW; LAArtsOnline.com; Motev; The National Endowment for the Arts; NBC Universal; Southern California Edison; Union Bank; Univision; The Wasserman Foundation; Wells Fargo; and Yelp.com.