Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Alya Fetyani
Before we get into this, I want to acknowledge the horrific attacks yesterday in Kabul. I really have no words right now for this violence, and my heart is truly with the families and loved ones of everyone killed.
Please continue to follow and listen to Afghan voices and activists who have done and continue to do the work.
A year ago, I started this newsletter for two main reasons:
After the Beirut blast in August 2020, I was afraid that the global conversation would end shortly after it happened. I did not want people to stop talking about Lebanon, and I felt like this was my incredibly small way of keeping the discussion going
I wanted to burst the Arab pop bubble. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Arab pop music, but there are so many other genres and artists (both locally and in the diaspora/expat community) creating absolutely beautiful music. I love making playlists, and this was an excuse for me to do that and highlight their songs.
Along the way, guest features became an important part of the newsletter because, well truthfully, there are dope people in our community doing dope work, in so many facets. And I wanted to know what kind of music they themselves listened to! I’m deeply grateful to the people so far that have been willing to be part of this effort and for sharing their go-to music.
I care immensely about the beautiful cultures of all people in the Middle East and North Africa. I do all of this for free each week, because it’s fun for me and, particularly during an emotionally draining and challenging year, I want this to be a form of escapism (even if briefly).
From the absolute bottom of my heart, I appreciate all of you who have subscribed, who have shared this with friends, who have shared feedback with me, and who continue to engage with the newsletter each week. It truly means the world to me, it’s incredibly humbling that you’ve all stuck by me as I try to figure out this effort and the identity of the newsletter.
We have more exciting guest features, stories, music, and so much more coming in the future. I’m looking forward to keeping this going and can’t wait to share what’s in store. Thank you, everyone!
All right, let’s get into it. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature this week: Alya Fetyani!
Alya is a Hijazi-New Yorker who spent her life searching for soul filling music at the bottom of the pile that the world has largely ignored. After graduating with a double major in theatre and media, Alya pursued a degree in the music industry with a mission to elevate up and coming artists and help them achieve commercial success. Having worked in many parts of the music industry, from recording studios to labels and sonic branding agencies, Alya has recently landed at Spotify where she co-leads the Arabs at Spotify resource group and curates personalized content and recommendations, connecting artists and fans in a meaningful way. She curates the Fresh Finds family of playlists with her team every week, and has worked on projects like global market expansion, Discover Weekly, and Wrapped. In her spare time, she can usually be found at a concert or industry event feeding her passion for a hobby that turned into a career. She currently runs I Made You A Mixtape, a website dedicated to collecting music from people around a shared theme to show how, even when songs sound completely different, they connect us through the feelings they evoke.
Y’all, Alya is truly a cool human being. Look at her gig! If you ever listened to a Fresh Finds playlist on Spotify, you can thank Alya for hooking you up. She and her team also have this massive dataset breaking down every single Spotify genre in the system. IT’S SO COOL! Yes, I’m nerding out about it. Anyways, it was a no-brainer to ask Alya to share some of her go-to songs. For her, someone who is constantly immersed by music, the list was not easy to narrow down — but I’m grateful that she did:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I have a lot of feelings so this list can get quite extensive. The two that cover most of those bases are “505” by The Arctic Monkeys and “Heart” by Roosevelt. The lyrics of both are quite heartbreaking, but the music that accompanies them is so euphoric I get goosebumps and immediately brought to tears every single time, which is sometimes just the thing I need.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
The beach is where I go when I’m homesick, so when I can't I go back to the memories of being in the car with my parents and siblings singing and dancing to “Bailamos” by Enrique Iglesias. They were obsessed with playing his albums on our way to the beach every Friday.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“This River Is Wild” or “All The Pretty Faces” by The Killers. I know every word to every one of their songs, but these are ones I like to scream at the top of my lungs whenever I have the urge to be loud.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“Chemicals” by SG Lewis has been a recent favorite as I've found myself listening to an absurd amount of vapor soul and variations of indie microgenres lately. That being said, you can never go wrong with “Feeling Myself” by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj when you want to feel like a badass.
A major shout out to Alya for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Alya’s songs are included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. Check out Alya on Twitter and again, when you listen to any of the Fresh Finds playlists, make sure you say a little “thank you” to Alya!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Al3eb Beek (Video Game) - Perrie
Khadsha - Big Hass featuring Shouly, El Far3i, Blvxb, Maysa Daw, Edd Abbas, and RAYAN
Sah Wala La - Freek featuring TooDope
Ryah - Bouchra Elm
BET - BAWS
Faillite - Rooofa
Gombula - YK featuring MaMan
worth it - Ss.hh.a.n.a. featuring Guy Manoukian
Nostalgia - zeyne
Ana Busy - Jode Skate featuring Beki and Adamillion
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Wow Wow - Maria Becerra featuring Becky G
Americana - Justin Quiles featuring Rauw Alejandro
Fragancia - Juhn featuring Jay Wheeler
Mi Cabeza - Rorro
Promenade - Greta Dumont featuring Punga
Se De y Se De - Nicky Jam
Oye Como Va - Celia Cruz
¿Pitaste? - Johnny Ventura
Lao’ a Lao’ - Prince Royce
Tuya Soy - Ivy Queen
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Shame On You - D Smoke
runthatback - Chynna
Moody’s Mood for Love - Amy Winehouse
Angels - Tinashe featuring Kaash Paige
INNERSTATE - Zaia
Around the Way - RAIZA BIZA
Bounce - Lorine Chia
Good For You - Blood Orange featuring Justine Skye
justified - Kacey Musgraves
Good & Plenty (Remix) - Alex Isley featuring Lucky Daye and Masego
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Lebanon's migrant workers queue for vaccines in Covid-19 marathon - Aya Iskandarani, The National
Many foreign labourers without papers have been unable to receive inoculations.
Lebanese hospitals at breaking point as everything runs out - Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press
The country’s health sector is a casualty of the multiple crises that have plunged Lebanon into a downward spiral — a financial and economic meltdown, compounded by a complete failure of the government, runaway corruption and a pandemic that isn’t going away.
Lebanese lawyers sue UK-registered company over Beirut port blast - Kate Beioley, Chloe Cornish, and Roman Olearchyk, Financial Times
Lawsuit seeks damages from chemical company Savaro that claimants say owned ammonium nitrate.
US lawmakers push to shield Lebanese citizens from deportation - Ali Harb, Al Jazeera
Amid humanitarian crises, Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell are circulating a letter to grant TPS for Lebanon.
The night their world exploded: Victims and families share their accounts of the deadly Akkar blast - Abby Sewell, L’Orient Today
More than 30 people died in the Aug. 15 explosion in the town of Tleil, where a chaotic late-night distribution of thousands of liters of illicitly stored fuel ignited, turning the site into an inferno. Some of the victims’ families shared their stories.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Through four wars, toll mounts on a Gaza neighborhood - Adam Geller, Fares Akram, and Felipe Dana, Associated Press
“We have no peace in our lives and we expect that war can happen again at any time,” says Zaki Nassir, who lost a nephew from the household across the yard in the first war, another from next door in this year’s war, and whose home is still scarred by shelling during the third war.
Algeria and Morocco: What's driving the crisis between North Africa's powerhouses? - Yasmina Allouche, The New Arab
Algeria's decision to rupture relations with Morocco will come as no surprise to observers who have been following the deepening political rift.
Aid groups: Millions in Syria, Iraq losing access to water - Bassem Mrou, Associated Press
Millions of people in Syria and Iraq are at risk of losing access to water, electricity and food amid rising temperatures, record low water levels due to lack of rainfall and drought, international aid groups warned.
Tunisia fears losing doctors as nation counts cost of COVID surge - Elizia Volkmann, Al-Monitor
Tunisia’s catastrophic third wave of infections this summer has exhausted doctors. Poor working conditions and lack of respite is driving doctors overseas, as medical chiefs warn of dangerous shortages of staff to fight a fourth wave.
'Catastrophic' pollution plagues Libya beaches - Jihad Dorgham, Agence-France-Presse
With untreated sewage in the water and rubbish piled on the sand, pollution on Tripoli's Mediterranean coast is denying residents of the Libyan capital a much-needed escape.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
On the Road, Again - Andy Cush, Pitchfork
In an uncertain post-vaccine landscape, musicians and other touring professionals are feeling the elation—and anxiety—of getting back to work.
What Made Aaliyah So Special Is More Complicated Than It Seems - Aisha Harris, NPR
The joys and complexities of Aaliyah's music, 20 years after her death.
Kacey Musgraves’s Expanding Universe - Amanda Hess, The New York Times
After two wry country albums and a Grammy-sweeping breakthrough, pop stardom is calling for Kacey Musgraves. Will she answer?
In Québec, musicians play for seniors as pandemic restrictions ease - Emma Jacobs, PRI The World
About 100 residents of Selection Cherbourg, a retirement home in a Montreal suburb of Québec, gather to hear a quartet called Taraf Syriana, who play music from folk traditions from Syria, the wider Middle East and the Balkans.
A Syrian Artist Remakes the Home He Cannot Visit - Vera Carothers and Jimmy Goldblum, The New Yorker
In Jimmy Goldblum’s film “A Broken House,” Mohamad Hafez uses found objects to make models of Damascus.
📚 Other Reads 📚
‘Don’t Call Me Chef’ - Reem Assil, Eater
The power the title implies has been a cover for bad behavior for far too long — and Reem Assil doesn’t want any part of it
How the Sports Media Covers Sexual Abuse - Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker
An interview with Katie Strang, a sports journalist whose stories mostly take place off the court.
Fellow diaspora: I’m tired of crying for Haiti. Aren’t you? - Gary Pierre-Pierre, The Haitian Times
“Disaster relief is a profession, not a hobby. The people who toil in this field have terminal degrees and years of experience. There are many aspects of emergency management that the average person simply doesn’t know.”
I’m Organizing Evacuations From Afghanistan. It’s Chaos. - Arash Azizzada, The New York Times
Despite its promises to evacuate thousands of at-risk Afghans who assisted the United States, the Biden administration has effectively left the job to Afghan-American community organizers, operating from overseas with minimal resources.
Tik Toks, twerking and triumph. How the Aces lead the league in fun … and winning. - Chantel Jennings, The Athletic
Yes, the Aces lead the league in fun. They have become as well known for their Tik Tok dances as their victories. And as a result, the whole “leading the league in so many other statistical categories” part has come about with a bit more ease … and a lot more enjoyment.