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Guest Feature: Abdulisms
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For those of you living in the United States, The New York Times is pursuing a project on how people of Middle Eastern and North African descent in the U.S. think about their racial and ethnic identities.
They published a survey on this subject and, if you feel comfortable sharing information for this project, please fill out the survey here. If you’ve got any questions about this project, I’m happy to try to connect you with some folks who are leading this!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Abdulisms!
Abdulisms is a London-based British-born Iraqi/Irish freelance creative director and digital producer. Growing up between London, Doha, and Dublin his vision is informed by the contrasts of worlds, spaces and mother tongues he's long found himself alternating between.
His work explores bridging underground music with themes of ancestral heritage in creative and diasporic community-based projects. He releases work across the mediums of live broadcast, documentary, augmented reality, live shows, community radio and public installations.
Abdulisms’ portfolio boasts collaborations with the likes of Talib Kweli, Narcy (IRAQ-A-FELLA), Felukah, Saint Levant, Bayou, Steam Down, Girls of Grime, Ancestral Futures collective, Sofar Sounds and New Delhi based community radio Boxout FM to name a few. He's currently a founding member and A&R at Shlonak Records; home of Iraqi and Arab Voices In the Margins.
He is easily one of the most thoughtful creatives I’ve come to know, always advocating for the art and the artist and wanting to see people create just for the fun of it. But I also know that Abdulisms has an incredible taste in music, which shines through in his answers below:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Although I ask this question to a lot of artists on a frequent basis it's one I hate answering because it's always fleeting and temporary. But for the purposes of this exercise, right now I have “Iraq Cypher” by Big Hass and my super producer bro USFoxx. I'm so proud of every single last MC and person who contributed to making that a real thing so yeah. Gives me a real rush on a cold shitty day in London. Followed closely by “Zamilou” by Bu Kolthoum.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
That latest Kendrick Lamar album been hitting different. And truth be told there's probably another song out there but the first one that came to mind here was “We Cry Together”. When the album dropped I was in Baghdad and immersed in a different musical universe and wanted to give the due time to listen to Kendrick properly. This meant the first time I heard “Mr. Morale” was on my flight out of Baghdad and for 9 hours I just had the whole album on repeat. When I fell asleep, it was in my dreams and when I woke up it was still there. So I think it might have been the perfect storm, but also it might've just been Kendrick Kendrickin’.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
This is quite bittersweet in more ways than I really want to delve into, but Muna Al-Abdullah's song “Sadgooni” . My grandmother knows every lyric to this song, when it comes on TV we try to get ahead of it but. She sings every word and cries. It's very close to home and I can't hear or think about that song without that image of my grandmother, me, my cousins and relatives all in her living room. Together after years of being apart.
Followed closely by “Ha'oud (I will Return)” by Yo-Yo Ma, Mashrou’ Leila, and Narcy.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
This is a toss up between “BSL” by my bros Dips and Lowu with that fresh UK Garage sound. OR one from the vaults in “Kwame Nkrumah” by Kojey Radical in fact, it's very possible I know the words to that whole EP. 23 Winters, absolute timeless classic.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
DJ Snake's “Disco Maghreb” has me in a dancing Algerian chokehold right now and I ain't mad at it at all.
“Ultimate” by Denzel Curry is standard hype procedure.
“Bout Shit” by The Lox featuring DMX could convince me that I'd have a chance against Mike Tyson in a ring. [I don't]
Big shout out to Abdulisms for joining and sharing his song selections! Most of Abdulisms’ songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram too!
Abdulisms is working on a ton of really cool projects, like photographing Iraq’s visual aesthetic, an archive of Iraqi newspapers, AND as part of Shlonak Records, curating some incredible playlists of MENA/SWANA/Arabic-speaking art scene at home and in diaspora. To follow up on all of the things he’s working on, be sure to click here and check everything out!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Nes Ghriba - A.L.A.
Genius - Queen G
Ciao Bello - Souad Massi
Teblina - NORDO
3AIB - Big Hass featuring Meryem Saci, Rana, LOPPA, Dareen, and Nadine El Roubi
Curfew - Farah Elle
Theeb - Moayad
Youm Ma Gani - Code Masr
Shway Shway - Lina Makoul
Show Love - Soof featuring Omar Offendum
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
7 De Octubre - Itzza Primera
Juice of Mandarins - Ibeyi
TORO - Jowell y Randy
Bellakeo Espiritual - Naen featuring Havni and Noche
Te Pienso - Ozuna
Viaje - Farruko
Espero Que Estés Bien - Vale
CORAZÓN CRUZADO - Las Villa featuring Nicole Zignago
Noche - Nino Augustine
La Ducha (Remix) - ELENA ROSE featuring Becky G, TINI, Maria Becerra, and Greeicy
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Shady Hills - Samaria
Likkle Riddim - Joeboy
Dream About You - Bien et Toi featuring Halima
Satisfaction (Remix) - Benny Benassi & David Guetta
I’m On Fire - Soccer Mommy
Soft Life - Dami Oniru
la chanson du chevalier - Christine and the Queens
I Just Wanna Be Your Everything - Andy Gibb
Egoli - Pabi Cooper featuring Murumba Pitch, Yumbs, and Sfarzo Rtee
Hide & Seek - Stormzy
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is swapping codes to take a team of Lebanese underdogs to the Rugby League World Cup - Greg Hassall, ABC News Australia
Controversial rugby coach Michael Cheika has never been in greater international demand. So why is he taking a lowly ranked team to the Rugby League World Cup?
Privatizing the Sun: The Dark Side of Lebanon’s “Solar Revolution” - Julia Choucair Vizoso and Yara El Murr, The Public Source
Once a niche environmentalist investment, solar panels have become part of the landscape, cluttering roofs, balconies, windows and even Beirut’s already crowded sidewalks.
‘Devastating’: Cholera outbreaks in Lebanon and Syria threaten millions - Bel Trew, The Independent
There are fears many people in the region are now at risk.
In Lebanon’s ‘forgotten north,’ despair drives people to the sea - Sarah Dadouch and Suzan Haidamous, The Washington Post
In the northern city of Tripoli, many people now live without electricity and running water — and are going to desperate lengths to escape.
School's out - forever? Lebanese pull plug on education - Tala Ramadan, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
The political instability and the cost of living crisis have left many students in Lebanon in a parlous state.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
She's training men: Bahrain hoopster breaks the mold - Rasha al-Ibrahim, Agence France-Presse
Fatima Reyadh has overcome prejudices to become the assistant coach of Al-Najma basketball club in the capital Manama -- and she doesn't plan to stop there.
Arabs have a longstanding history in Philadelphia — and this bilingual newspaper honors it - Massarah Mikati, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“We’re educating people about us through the newspaper,” said Amaal Al-Najjar, a collaborator with the Friends, Peace, Sanctuary Journal.
What Many Western Experts Keep Getting Wrong About Yemen - Arwa Mokdad, DAWN
“We are often asked as Middle Eastern analysts about our biases, as if our white, Western counterparts are not biased themselves.”
Iraq’s date palms at risk from climate change - Sinan Mahmoud, The National
Hope had grown in recent years of reviving the ailing sector battered by decades of war, water shortages and excessive salt.
Empty shelves or unaffordable food: Tunisia’s crisis deepens - Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Associated Press
Tunisians have been hit with soaring food prices and shortages of basic staples in recent weeks, threatening to turn simmering discontent in the North African country into larger turmoil.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
How Pusha T Finally Hit No. 1 Without Changing His Tune - Neil Shah, The Wall Street Journal
The hip-star has spent two decades rapping about one thing: selling cocaine. Now that consistency is propelling him to new critical and commercial success.
Starting a new story for Black artists in the Gulf: Somali-UAE rapper Freek mashes up the beat, Arab style - Danny Hajjar, The New Arab
Yes, some more shameless self-promotion of something I wrote!
Kathy Najimy: Mother, Activist, and Actor. In That Order. - Marilyn La Jeunesse, Glamour
Kathy Najimy became a household name through classics like Hocus Pocus and Sister Act, but it's her activism that may be her true calling. “It doesn't always mean that the larger crowd likes it or that the studio likes it,” she says. “But for me there is no option. I feel privileged to have a voice.”
The sounds of home: A conversation with Beirut indie rocker Julia Sabra of Postcards - Richard Salame, L’Orient Today
“I was thinking about the finality of things and how we were now ending up as ruins even though our time isn’t over yet,” Sabra says. “You see how every day could just get worse and stop functioning. There’s a new awareness that comes and a new sense of responsibility, definitely aging us in that sense.”
TikTok profits from livestreams of families begging - Hannah Gelbart, Mamdouh Akbiek, and Ziad Al-Qattan, BBC News
Displaced families in Syrian camps are begging for donations on TikTok while the company takes up to 70% of the proceeds, a BBC investigation found.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Why Must Puerto Ricans Always Be Resilient? - Dr. Yarimar Bonilla, The New York Times
We are tired of celebrating our ability to endure, of being creative in the face of adversity.
Personalities don't usually change quickly but they may have during the pandemic - Maggie Mertens, NPR
A study finds small but meaningful declines in personality traits that help us navigate social situations, trust others, think creatively, and act responsibly. Young people were especially affected.
When the Hindu Right Came for Bollywood - Samanth Subramanian, The New Yorker
The industry used to honor India’s secular ideals—but, since the rise of Narendra Modi, it’s been flooded with stock Hindu heroes and Muslim villains.
Mandatory Reporting Was Supposed to Stop Severe Child Abuse. It Punishes Poor Families Instead. - Mike Hixenbaugh and Suzy Khimm, NBC News, and Agnel Philip, ProPublica
After the Sandusky child abuse scandal rocked Pennsylvania, the state required more professionals to report suspected child abuse. That led to a strained child welfare system and more unsubstantiated reports against low-income families.
Horford is hopeful the Celtics will build on their long run from last season. He believes they know now how they need to play.