Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Amina Kaabi
Recently, streaming platforms like Spotify and Deezer released data on their top streamed songs and artists of 2021, and music outlets like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone shared their respective lists of their top songs of the year.
As you all already know, I put together a playlist for each edition of the newsletter and consume far too much music constantly. I spend quite a bit of time listening to new songs and curating music.
So, in this spirit and in addition to this week’s playlist, I’ve put together the official Sa’alouni El Nas Favorites of 2021 playlist! This is all just for fun, of course. It is a whopping 300 songs, because I’m not good at narrowing things down (just to get it down to 300 was already challenging). These are songs released in 2021 that were my personal favorites, and they span a range of genres and languages. And the songs are in no particular order.
I hope you enjoy listening to it!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Amina Kaabi!
Amina is a writer, editor, and cultural consultant based between Tunis and Dubai. Amina, who grew up in Tunis and later Northern Virginia, is currently the deputy editor at MILLE World, a digital outlet putting a spotlight on youth culture, news, travel, art and talent in the Arab world. She is also a contributor at SOLE.DIGITAL and has been covering Arab art and culture, with a particular interest in music for almost a decade. She has also written for The Face and Brownbook, among other publications.
When we talk about people who help uplift the culture in a nuanced and accessible way, Amina should be one of the first people mentioned in that conversation. Two of my favorite stories that she has ever written are about the rap scene in the Middle East and North Africa, and the impact and power of mahraganat in Egypt. Amina’s grasp on music in the region is incredible, and her song choices below clearly reflect that:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I’m the kind of person who will listen to the same track a thousand times over if I really like it. Kabreet’s “Film Faransi” is that song for me right now. They’re a Yemeni-German music duo that’s so so underrated. I am constantly discovering new artists through my work, which is wonderful. I was very lucky to come across them and this track because for the last several months, it’s what’s playing in the background while I write.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I hardly ever sulk to music. But Abdel Halim Hafez’s “Ahwak” will always put me in a certain mood. I feel like it’s the unofficial soundtrack to my childhood. I can’t pinpoint why, but either my mom played it constantly or it was always on Tunisian radio. Soapkills’ “Galbi” is what I’m more likely to play these days though. I was an instant fan of Yasmine Hamdan after watching “Only Lovers Left Alive” (where she had a cameo), and quickly listened to her entire discography, including under Soapkills—the duo she founded with Zeid Hamdan. I’d say “Galbi” is has always been a favorite.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Samra” by Hedi Jouini. There was always someone playing this song for me as a kid growing up in Tunisia. There are a lot of layers to it, but it’s essentially a tribute to brown women. Plus, Hedi Jouini is an icon. His English granddaughter (who didn’t know her grandfather is literally the godfather of Tunisian music) made a documentary about him a few years ago that’s worth the watch too. It’s called “The Man Behind the Microphone”.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“My Humps” by Black Eyed Peas. I can never memorize lyrics. This one stuck though.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
First is “ANANAYA” by Ktyb, who is a Tunisian artist, and one of my current favorites. I find his sound to be among the most unique coming out of the Arab world right now, and he’s an insane lyricist. I haven’t listened to a lot of BBN Booda, who is a Sudanese rapper, but “Pablo” is just a great track. And of course, if there’s one song that’s guaranteed to hype me up it’s BLTNM’s “Inn Ann”. I’ve gotten to know the BLTNM team and watched them grow over the years, and they’ve set a new standard for rap and music in general in the region, so there’s an added sense of pride that comes whenever I hear anything from the label.
Big shout out to Amina for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Amina’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And be sure to follow Amina on Twitter, read her stories, and sign up for her newsletter, “Zitoun”!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Mehtara - Hoda Sherbeeny
OUCH! - Nxdia
Ya Rassi - Oualid featuring Ali Samid
Kouni Liya - Chaos333
Ena W Yek - Lyna Mayhem
Chokran - Jamila featuring Abd El Fattah Grini
In My Feelings - Miraa May
‘Aali - Bu Kolthoum
Weyyak - Hassan Shakosh
Bala Wala Shi - zeyne
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Ni Un Paso Atrás - Kafi
VIVIR ASÍ ES MORIR DE AMOR - Nathy Peluso
Castigo - Cazzu
NO CHÃO NOVINHA - Anitta featuring PEDRO SAMPAIO
Invasión Costeña - Cynthia Montaño
Mariposas - Carmen DeLeon
2 Tragos - Nael Sánchez
Báilame - 3OTMAN
FRIKI - Feid featuring KAROL G
Eclipse del Amor - Soltrón featuring La Doña and J. Ele
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Young Heart - Birdy
Breakfast - Fana Hues
Empathy - Lloyd Banks featuring Freddie Gibbs
No Choice - Tame Impala
California - Lees
Mayana - Aṣa
Scenic Drive - Khalid featuring Ari Lennox and Smino
I Hate U - SZA
MERCEDES - Brent Faiyaz
Beg Mi Ah Link - Stefflon Don featuring BEAM
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Lebanon's public sector falls further into chaos and corruption - Timour Azhari
The country's public sector has long been regarded as bloated, lethargic and rife with corruption. It's now falling into further disarray due to an economic crisis that has left some eight in 10 people poor, according to U.N. agencies.
While We Try to Survive Its Last Scheme, Lebanon's Banking Sector Plots Another Grand Theft - Karim Merhej & Yazan Al-Saadi, The Public Source
Amid the exhaustion of trying to survive the relentless economic collapse, Lebanon’s future is being determined by the same people who stole its present.
Endangered nature reserves, pollution and private violations: Lebanon's highly neglected seaside - Amira Rajab, L’Orient Today
“We are trying to save what is left because this is our right. Big parts of the coast are inaccessible today and we are losing an important resource from all perspectives: economic, environmental, social and cultural.”
Lebanese opt for new emigration destinations amid crises - Rabih Damaj, Al-Monitor
Lebanon is witnessing one of the biggest waves of emigration in its history as the country faces its worst socio-economic conditions amid a worsening political crisis; Turkey, Armenia and Georgia have become new destinations.
Lebanon's Byblos brings back Christmas tree despite financial crunch - Aya Iskandarani, The National
Lebanese city renowned for extravagant holiday celebrations could not afford a tree last year.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Assad’s tightening grip - Greg Miller and Liz Sly, The Washington Post
In an escalating campaign, the Syrian leader and his financially strapped regime have raided and seized dozens of businesses, even targeting those that stuck by him during a decade of war.
Why thousands of Iraqi Kurds risk their lives to reach Europe - Arwa Ibrahim, Al Jazeera
Iraqi Kurds complain of high unemployment, widespread corruption, poor services, and patronage networks for their growing frustration.
'It was a beautiful life': Meet Western Sahara’s newest refugees - Daniel Hilton, Middle East Eye
Driven out by renewed conflict between the Polisario Front and Morocco, Sahrawis seek refuge in Algeria once again.
Palestinians launch first national amputee football team in Gaza - Maram Humaid, Al Jazeera
The squad of 20 amputee footballers from Gaza hopes to play in the Amputee Football World Cup next year.
On Syria’s Ruins, a Drug Empire Flourishes - Hwaida Saad and Ben Hubbard, The New York Times
Powerful associates of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, are making and selling captagon, an illegal amphetamine, creating a new narcostate on the Mediterranean.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Why everyone loves to hate Kenny G, according to the jazz musician himself - David Folkenflik, Kira Wakeam, and Emma Bowman, NPR
A new HBO documentary, "Listening to Kenny G," sets out to explore why the music of one of the best-selling instrumental artists of all time is both revered and reviled by so many.
For producer Rogét Chahayed, the path to the Grammys included countless piano — and business — lessons - Rachel Brodsky, Los Angeles Times
The 33-year-old Los Angeles native, who is nominated for producer of the year, non-classical, at the 64th Grammy Awards and has worked with Top 40 favorites like Doja Cat, Halsey and Drake, has a unique knowledge of how the classic music and pop music overlap.
Kanye West and Drake were sworn enemies. Then J. Prince stepped in - August Brown, Los Angeles Times
Kanye West and Drake performed Thursday at the “Free Larry Hoover” benefit concert at the L.A. Coliseum.
Faouzia is no one’s Puppet - Milli Midwood, Cosmopolitan Middle East
Small in stature. Colossal in ambition. Faouzia has been preparing for this her whole life.
City of a thousand booksellers: Eight of the oldest places to buy books in Cairo - Bahira Amin, Middle East Eye
Whether it's vintage maps, film posters or photographs, a tour of Cairo's bookshops can reveal much about its past.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Pokémon and the First Wave of Digital Nostalgia - Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker
A pixel-art revival is pushing back against the dull slickness of social media and building a new Internet aesthetic from the old.
Amazon, can we have our name back? - Alexa Juliana Ard, The Washington Post
Alexas are changing their names because of Amazon’s voice assistant.
“I was the First Designer to do Streetwear”: Tommy Hilfiger Reflects on His Legacy - Tayler Willson, HYPEBEAST
Five decades in, the legendary designer is reclaiming his place as a foundational figure.
How Latinos are bonding over first-generation trauma - Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times
Many Latinos in the U.S. struggle with first generation trauma, a colloquial term used to describe the emotional struggles of children whose parents are immigrants.
The Abortion I Didn’t Have - Merritt Tierce, The New York Times Magazine
“I never thought about ending my pregnancy. Instead, at 19, I erased the future I had imagined for myself.”