A Somali music star's MN tour is canceled because of visa delays

A month of concerts and education were planned.

A musician who's been called the "Somali voice of his generation" has canceled a month-long residency in Minnesota because he hasn't been able to get a visa to travel here.

Aar Maanta and his London-based band The Urban Nomads were booked for a series of workshops, college classroom visits, and concerts. 

They were scheduled to start in Mankato on Wednesday and continue in Minneapolis and St. Cloud later in October. It's part of a program founded by Augsburg University and the Cedar Cultural Center to improve understanding of Somali culture through music. 

A statement from the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis announced the cancellation. It says the four other members of The Urban Nomads – who are neither Somali nor Muslim – were able to get visas from their consulate.

But Maanta's request remains in a category tagged for "additional administrative processing."

"It's extremely disappointing"

In the Cedar's statement Maanta says he's being singled out and discriminated against by the consulate. 

"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,” he said. “It’s extremely disappointing for my band and me to lose weeks of work that we have been meticulously planning for months.”

Two previous visits

Similar visa delays caused Maanta to cancel an appearance at the Cedar in 2011, the Pioneer Press reported then

But the following year he arrived for a residency that included youth workshops on songwriting and poetry which the cultural center says were a great success. 

It led to the 2014 creation of an annual program called Midnimo, which is the Somali word for unity. Aar Maanta returned to the Twin Cities for the 2015 Midnimo, with workshops, classroom visits, and pop-up shows leading to a sold-out concert at the Cedar. 

Midnimo beyond the Twin Cities

Last year's Midnimo was expanded to include St. Cloud and Mankato, both of which have growing Somali communities. 

A faculty member at Minnesota State University, Mankato had students in his History of Christianity, Jadaism, and Islam class preparing for this month's visit from Maanta.

Jameel Haque said in the Cedar's statement: “The lost opportunity to attend the events scheduled for this week, community events which provide a rare and desperately needed space for cross-cultural interaction in rural Minnesota, is a loss that will have deep consequences for the future of my students and my community."

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