Special Alert

Building Bridges: Brother Ali

  • March 07, 2019
  • Motorco Music Hall
  • 723 Rigsbee Ave, Durham, NC 27701
  • 8pm
  • $25, $10 Duke Students
  • (919) 684-4444

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From his complicated backstory to his compelling rhymes, Brother Ali is a rapper without a rival. Albino and legally blind, he struggled to find peers in the midwestern states where he spent his youth. But in a pivotal moment at age eight, he found rap, which gave him an outlet and, through the references his favorite rappers made, led him to Islam. For twenty years, he has funneled these elements of his distinctive identity into increasingly profound verses, pairing feverish calls for social justice with candid admissions about his own mental fragility. Brother Ali has never walked this tightrope better than on 2017’s gripping All the Beauty in This Whole Life. Written during a period of extreme political upheaval, Beauty not only acknowledges the world’s problems but aims to overcome them — to celebrate love in the face of hate, to cherish wisdom in the midst of madness. Ali turns bad encounters with TSA agents into lessons on humor and empathy, a poem for his son into a sermon on staring down intolerance. His perspective — delivered from Motorco’s stage as part of Duke Performances’ Building Bridges project — feels more necessary than ever, providing hard-won light in the face of darkness. Duke Performances has launched Building Bridges: Muslims in America, a new project showcasing the richness and diversity of Muslim culture in this country. Working in partnership with the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), Duke Performances will host residencies by U.S.-based Muslim artists, including engagement with the Duke and Durham community, visits to nearby high schools, and public concerts. The initiative was launched in the spring of 2018 with Nubian retro-pop band Alsarah & the Nubatones, and continues this season with Baghdadi maqam masters Amir ElSaffar + Hamid Al-Saadi (Thursday, October 4); Sudanese-American MC Oddisee (Thursday, October 18); Muslim convert and MC Brother Ali (Thursday, March 7); and Persian-inflected Brooklyn rock band Habibi (Thursday, April 4). Durham-based filmmaker KidEthnic will provide a behind-the-scenes look at each residency through short films documenting the series.

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