“In my estimation, hip-hop is the modern reincarnation of something that has been happening all over the world for thousands of years,” explained Offendum. “Cultures and traditions that existed in the Middle East, North Africa, West Africa was the way culture was passed down.
“People memorized these songs, stories and poems because people did not write things down; it was how the knowledge was connected from generation to generation. I think with hip-hop there is a tendency to fetishize this youth culture, when in reality it has been around for almost four generations, so you’ve now got hip hop grandfathers,” he added.
“In my estimation, hip-hop is the modern reincarnation of something that has been happening all over the world for thousands of years,”
“More importantly, there wouldn’t be hip-hop today if it wasn’t for people like Gil Scott Heron and The Last Poets, and we wouldn’t have them if there wasn’t Langston Hughes, etc. So, trying to create that historical trajectory for young people is important, just to know that it didn’t just come up out of nowhere,” Offendum said.
After working for a decade as an architect, Offendum followed his heart and is now traveling the world collaborating with various academic institutions and cultural organizations as he helps to raise awareness and funding for various humanitarian groups.
“It’s a great moment to be able to capture what’s happening,” said Offendum. “Needless to say, being a Syrian kid because while I was growing up nobody knew where Syria was. Now, unfortunately, they know it for all the wrong reasons.
“So, this is a little taste of why we are so proud of our culture, heritage and history and life beyond the war, death and destruction to understand the beauty and how profound an experience it is. It is a big part of what I am doing now, especially for my son who carries not just Syrian linage, but African-American lineage, and to try to give him something to build on. We are actively creating the cultural spaces that our kids are going to inherent whether we know it or not. That’s the next chapter for me,” he added.
Omar Offendum performs “SyrianamericanA” at the Ibrahim Theatre in the International House, 3701 Chestnut St., at 7 p.m. Sunday. For information visit interculturaljourneys.org/syrianamericana.
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