Taking a page from the Cinderella story of aspiring British singer Susan Boyle, Somali pirate Abduhl Wali-i-Musi is winning acclaim Tuesday for his performance of a song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.
Musi, 18 or possibly 16, was in New York today for arraignment on charges stemming from his alleged role in the hostage-taking of American merchant ship captain Richard Phillips.
Attired in a blue jumpsuit and chains, Musi was smiling but clearly nervous as he was brought before federal magistrate Andrew J. Peck. The thin outlaw’s unlikely appearance drew snickers, smirks and eyerolls from spectators in the courtroom.
But a thrill ran through the crowd when Musi delivered the opening phrase of “Oh Better Far To Live and Die (Pirate King)” — “Oh, better far to live and die / Under the brave black flag I fly.” Musi held his listeners spellbound until he reached the conclusion of the song, when they erupted into cheers.
Internationally known talent judge Simon Callow was among the onlookers, and called Musi “a tiger”
“I knew the minute he walked up to the defense table we were going to hear something extraordinary, and I was right,” Callow said.
Bernice Frandle, a stay at home mother from Fort Lee, New Jersey, was also in court. She called Musi “inspiring.”
“I feel so bad about pre-judging him based on his appearance. He’s a pirate, but he’s a pirate who’s got talent,” Frandle said.
The YouTube video of Musi’s performance has been viewed more than 1.7 million times. Musi now moves on to the next round, going up against accused Craigslist killer Phillip Markoff.