About a week ago, a pickup truck in a city in Ontario, Canada drove up onto the sidewalk and hit a family of five who were going for their evening walk. The family was targeted because they were Muslim, and of the five only the youngest son survived. Grief has poured out across the country, with many people shaken by another stark reminder of the divisions and hatred that persist in our world.
Stay Alive by Mustafa
As the evening wore on, I was reflecting on the many injustices that people who practice the Islamic Faith have to face in many countries around the world, and for some reason I unconsciously opened up YouTube and began listening to a song I’ve probably already heard a hundred times since it was released over a year ago. Stay Alive by Mustafa.
Mustafa the Poet grew up in Toronto, only a couple hours away from where tragedy struck last week. He gained some attention while still in school for his poetry, which addressed social issues with maturity beyond his age, and has steadily provided a strong sense of identity for many young Muslims growing up in Canada.
Last March he released the song Stay Alive, which somehow ended up in my recommended videos, and I was instantly hooked. The delicate strength of his voice, the healing message of his lyrics, the thought-provoking juxtaposition of common images such as youth pointing finger guns at the camera, with the unexpected gentle plucking of guitar all point to an Artist who is here to stay.
Mustafa’s debut album When Smoke Rises
You can immediately tell that he’s not here for his 15 minutes of fame. He’s here to say something, to ask questions, to create beauty, and to contribute to the healing of his community. I’d been waiting to hear more from him for a whole year, when he finally released his debut album When Smoke Rises, and it did not disappoint.
His style is unique and uncompromising, it completely avoids any gimmicks that so many artists use to sell a few more records. Of the many great songs on his album, The Hearse has stayed with me the most. The production is clean and quite simple, it gets rid of all the distraction and leaves room for his words to really take hold in your thoughts. So much so that you’ll find yourself listening to it again and again, weeks and months later, hoping to further understand the layers to his poetry.
I’ve continued to listen to his songs throughout the week, and I can’t help but feel his words come to mind every time I think of the injustices that are continuously being borne by many people around the world. All of these tribes, and all of these streetsigns. None of them will be yours or mine. But I’ll be your Empire. Just stay alive, stay alive, stay alive.