Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Amanda Hajjar
Okay friends, we are forgoing the usual little intro at the top because this will definitely be the most important guest feature we ever have in the newsletter. This is a big moment. I am excited and honored to give it up for this week’s guest: my sister Amanda Hajjar!
Amanda is the Senior Director of Social Strategy for Just Women's Sports, which is just a fancy way of saying she works with a small team of passionate individuals dedicated to growing women's sports coverage as we know it today, through social media. Prior to working for Just Women’s Sports, Amanda worked with The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, and the New York Knicks.
Currently living in Boston, she is very passionate about photography, sports, graphic design (check out her designs on Instagram), and about animal welfare, volunteering at animal shelters (shelters always need sheets and blankets if you ever have extra!).
Amanda’s number one goal in life is to inspire the people around her to be the best version of themselves and to inspire positive action. Ultimately, that is the legacy she hopes to leave when it's all said and done and maybe she gets to save all the dogs in the process.
WHEW! Y’all, this is my baby sister, out here doing a lot of good in the world! AND TODAY IS THIS GIRL’S BIRTHDAY!
Now obviously, I have too many stories about Amanda and I can go on and on and on about her. One of the things that we’ve always bonded over was music — even if we have different tastes sometimes. Amanda and I live far apart from each other now, but music always brings us back together. We’ve got memories of taking turns controlling the music in the car and showing each other new songs. We used to burn CDs all the time (back when that was the thing to do) — and we used to import our favorite CDs into our Xbox so we could play games to our songs.
One fun memory that I’ll share candidly with y’all is that, when my sister started getting into rap, I used to edit the explicit songs if I couldn’t find the clean versions and make super clean versions of songs as a way to “protect” her. Amanda was 15 when I did this. Obviously, I had to give up and let go here.
Amanda’s got one of the coolest tastes in music that I know, and obviously it was only a matter of time until we had to get her in the newsletter:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
This is so hard and you know I'm very indecisive so here we go:
“Rock N Roll” by Pusha T featuring Kanye West and Kid Cudi — I love the sample from Beyonce's “1+1” in the intro.
“Wicked” by Miki Ratsula — This song feels so raw and blends a lot of those unique sounds that I enjoy.
“Bad Dog” by Rosie Ugly — I love the low key electric guitar and her raspy low voice. She's a lesser known artist but I highly recommend.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Retrograde” by James Blake — I think I have listened to this song whilst feeling many different emotions at many different times and it's always resonated, each time for a different reasons. It's an ethereal and euphoric sound blended with James' brilliantly sweet yet powerful voice.
“Valerie” by Amy Winehouse — Amy will always get me in my feels. She has one of the most beautiful, raw, jazz voices of our generation. Her story is so tragic - her voice, her impact, she was just such a beautiful soul that we lost so tragically. There will never be another Amy!
“The Party & The After Party” by The Weeknd — I used to just drive around listening to this on repeat. The Weeknd uses a sample from “Master of None” by Beach House (also a fav) and he blends it beautifully with his very distinct sound.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Amelli Antar” by 4 Cats — So one of my all time fondest memories growing up is my mom playing Arabic music in the car and taking the time to pause and explain the lyrics to me. My mom was a teacher so aside from just being the world's greatest mom, she always had a beautiful and natural way of teaching and explaining things in a way that was fun, engaging and memorable. My brother and I were lucky enough to have been taught Arabic by our parents so we speak fluently but my mom also used music to explain to us some more niche words we may not have known. This is definitely one of me and my mom's "songs" that will always remind me of her and her beautiful teaching ways, her soft maternal instincts, and her unconditional love and energy she always has for me.
“Salma Ya Salama (Arabic Version)” by Dalida — Similar to the note above, my mom would often use music to explain different dialects of Arabic as well for songs that were not in the Lebanese dialect that I knew fluently - this song was one of them! The song is about going and coming (aka traveling) in "salama" which means "safety". "Hamdellah al salameh" is something you would say to someone who has arrived or come back from a trip. My mom came back from Lebanon this week and this song is one I played when she came back - out of joy that she had a successful trip and came back safe and sound.
“Dancing Queen” by ABBA — This goes out to my mom again! Mom always called me her dancing queen and she actually has this song as her ringtone every time I call.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Still Here” by Drake — So Views came out during the spring of my junior year of college (yes I know, eye roll!) and it was going into summer 2016 which obviously had the most immaculate vibes. So this song just reminds me chillin at my friends' beach house in Fairfield, Connecticut, while being a student at Fairfield University and nothing could bring us down. Vibes were high, no responsibilities, living with your friends on the beach, probably the last time the stars will ever align like that again.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“One Dance” by Drake — Similar to “Still Here”, this came out at the most ideal time where I had zero responsibilities and was just living life on the beach as a college student. Drake, paired with that kind of island/Calypso style off-beat cadence, with Kyla's beautiful vocals coming in - it's the perfect song to me (aside from the gun shot bit - I don't like that). It ebbs and flows in the most beautiful way and makes me feel like I'm on an island.
“Sunrise” by Merlot — It gives me edgy, deep, dance, happy, dark all at once.
“Back to the Crib” by Juelz Santana featuring Chris Brown — This one will never get old to me. It's just fun and upbeat and I'll always love it.
Big shout out to Amanda for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Amanda’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please, go follow Amanda on Twitter and Instagram, and check out her graphic designs on Instagram too!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Ghir Ntiya - Marwa Loud featuring Moha K
Wehyaty Andak - Zekra
Casablanca - Demi Portion featuring ElGrandeToto
Sms - Douki
En Kont Ghaly - Aida El Ayoubi
KOLA LILA - Dub Afrika
Ajree - MaMan
OMMI - Baws
Hosnak L3ab Bil3a2ool - Hager Noman
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Ojitos Lindos - Bad Bunny featuring Bomba Estéreo
325 - Oriana
APAGAITA - Ingratax
Solo - Carlos Vives
Subtle Things - Sabrina Claudio
Cosas q nadie ve - Girl Ultra
NO TE VAYAS - Chicocurlyhead
KI-KI - YEИDRY
Poderosa - Lyanno featuring Rauw Alejandro
Y Tú, ¿Qué Ganas? - Yuridia
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Blue Jeans - Kkeda
In The Club - Mahalia
To Each His Own - Al Martino
Who Am I - Beenie Man
Make A Move - Yuna
Dua Lipa - Jack Harlow
Fallen Angel - Ella Mai
Three Musketeers - Knucks
Bitter Sweet Symphony - The Verve
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
The multi-billion dollar question: Tracing Lebanon’s growing offshore wealth amid financial collapse - Albin Szakola, L’Orient Today
It has been nearly 1,000 days since Lebanon's banks became zombified caricatures of functioning financial institutions.
Lebanese engineer and environmentalist finds innovative replacement for stolen manhole covers - Robert McKelvey, The New Arab
For many Lebanese citizens, the seemingly inconspicuous problem of stolen manhole covers is yet another example of a country in decline. But for one Lebanese engineer, this everyday problem has spurred him on to find a new and innovative solution.
The Lebanese diaspora and the upcoming elections: What lessons from the 2018 voting? - Georgia Dagher, Arab Reform Initiative and The Policy Initiative
A new joint report by the Arab Reform Initiative and The Policy Initiative examines the choices of the Lebanese diaspora in the 2018 parliamentary elections—the first time out of country voting was allowed— in order to offer some insights on the diaspora’s vote potential impact in the upcoming elections.
Hariri’s absence leaves Sunni voters unsure ahead of Lebanon poll - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
Experts say Saad Hariri’s decision not to take part in the upcoming Lebanese election created a ‘political void’ for the Sunni community.
Lebanon and the IMF: Entrenching the ruling elite - Jad Chaaban, The New Arab
With no clear accountability or fundamental changes in tical and financial governance, the new IMF-backed agreement will simply provide a lifeline to Lebanon's corrupt political class.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Palestine is bleeding: My friend was murdered by Israeli soldiers - Amjad Abu el Ezz, The Independent
“We despair, for the walls on the main streets of Beita have been filled with pictures of those killed by Israeli occupation forces.”
The Algerians of New Caledonia - Chahrazade Douah and Mélissa Godin, New Lines Magazine
After a revolt in 1871, French colonial authorities in Algeria exiled 2,000 insurgents to New Caledonia. Now their descendants are seeking to reclaim their heritage.
Cinnamon summers: On being Libyan, and British - Nadeine Asbali, Al Jazeera
The flavors of magical childhood summers spent by the sea in Benghazi inspire and guide writer Nadeine Asbali to recreate beloved Libyan dishes in her English kitchen.
Will Elon Musk’s Twitter 2.0 unmask anonymous Arab dissidents? - Farrah Najjar, Al Jazeera
The billionaire pledged changes that could mean the ‘end of online anonymous activism’ for thousands in the Middle East, activists and experts say.
Where the abused are abused: Welcome to Saudi Arabia's shelters for women and girls - Dania Akkad, Middle East Eye
“It’s as if they punish you because you’ve been abused and you don’t have a family. They don’t deserve to be called shelters.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Casablanca Beats review – Morocco’s vibrant school of hip-hop - Mark Kermode, The Guardian
Nabil Ayouch’s grittauthentic tale of a rapper turned teacher helping his students find their creative voices is a class act.
Erasing the Orientalist yellow filter: Why Moon Knight's SWANA representation is a step in the right direction - Swara Salih, The New Arab
Marvel has bucked its own trend of orientalist tropes with its latest series, Moon Knight, directed by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab. Swara traces the media franchise's depiction of the SWANA region, and why Moon Knight may be a turning point.
Murals bring 'joy' to Baghdad concrete jungle - Tony Gamal-Gabriel, Agence France-Presse
Iraqi artist Wijdan al-Majed is transforming Baghdad's concrete jungle into a colour-filled city with murals depicting well-known figures from the war-scarred country and abroad.
I’m Shillin’ It - Shamira Ibrahim, Eater
How chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are using hip-hop stars and famous musicians to infiltrate your mind and wallet.
Talib Kweli on Black Star's return: 'We stand tall on the shoulders of our ancestors' - Leila Fadel and Taylor Haney, NPR
Talib Kweli discusses the return of Black Star after 24 years, including a return to some of the duo's foundational themes — black excellence, unity, Pan-Africanism and the raising of consciousness.
📚 Other Reads 📚
5 people of color on the Supreme Court's leaked abortion ruling - Vanessa Taylor, Mic
Mic spoke to five people of color about the SCOTUS leak and how we can all help to protect reproductive agency overall.
Democratic Leaders Are Getting the Abortion Story Wrong — Again - Rebecca Traister, The Cut
With Roe at death’s door, will the party finally change its tune?
Abortion is freedom - Tina Vásquez, Prism
It’s not hyperbole to say that access to abortion care is a matter of life and death, but this urgency is not felt by elected officials or the courts.
Unlike the US, Abortion Rights Advocates Keep Winning in Latin America - Emily Green, Vice
In the last 18 months, three countries in the region have legalized abortion thanks to a grassroots movement.
The Forbidden Photographs - Amy Fallas, Rusted Radishes
“Erasure, as Rosie Bsheer, a historian of the Middle East, reminds us, is just as much a part of history as the history it seeks to destroy.”