Representatives from the Cedar Cultural Center were relieved to inform us that Aar Manta, the London-based Somali Muslim singer, has successfully returned to Minnesota on a year-long visa to begin planning a statewide residency through the rest of 2018 and into 2019.
Back in October, a residency scheduled through the Cedar’s Midnimo program was canceled when Manta was not granted a visa in time. The residency was slated to feature Maanta and his band, the Urban Nomads, but despite having been hosted by the Cedar twice previously, Manta was still unable to obtain a visa.
Manta, the only Muslim member of the band, was the only one denied a timely return to the United States. He pointed to the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel into the United States as the cause for his dilemma. “I was shocked to be singled out and discriminated against by the Consulate,” said Maanta in a statement last fall. “It is heartbreaking to know that systematic discriminatory rules, like the ‘Muslim ban’ put into practice in this day and age are affecting not only me, but people in far more vulnerable situations.”
According to Alana Horton, the Cedar Cultural Center’s marketing and communications manager, Manta’s first trip back does not include any public appearances. The initial visit is laying the groundwork for four upcoming concerts, a tour through Mankato and St. Cloud, educational programs and residency events across the state, and the creation of a brand new Somali children’s album in collaboration with local hip-hop artist Greg Grease and Somali playwright, poet, educator, and filmmaker Said Salah.
The Cedar plans to announce a schedule of Aar Maanta’s concerts and activities later this summer.