Guest Feature: Amna Ali
Happy Arab American Heritage Month to all of you who identify as Arab or Arab American in the diaspora! This is our month to showcase our culture, our music, and our unity. And it’s a time for all of you in the diaspora to finally wear your “habibi” shirts unironically 😂.
Just joking! Well, kind of.
Anyways, for each edition of Sa’alouni El Nas this month I’ll try to include artists who identify as Arab American in the weekly playlist. We have a few great artists this week so be sure to check it out!
Okay, y’all, let’s get right into it. I am really excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Amna Ali!
Amna is a Somali-Yemeni activist who was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. She is the founder of the Black Arabs Collective, a platform created to raise awareness, share the stories, and amplify the voices of Black Arabs￼, and to combat anti-Black racism persistent in the Middle East and North Africa. Amna holds a post graduate degree in Innovation and Change Management, two Masters degrees, and works in events and entrepreneurship.
Amna’s amazing work through the Black Arabs Collective is so vital to our community. She also wrote a piece in LevantX recently about her own life experience being Black and queer, what that was like growing up in the UAE, and how it shaped her activism today. I highly encourage you to read it.
When I asked Amna if she would share some of her go-to songs, I was elated by her enthusiasm to participate. Amna shared that she has such a love for Arabic music — and it shows in her selections:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“Niya” by Manal. The song itself is beautiful. Perfect for a listen in the car or a gathering of friends. I especially loved the music video because it captured the beauty of the traditional Moroccan fashion and pays tribute to the Moroccan “Shikhat”. It’s fun, it’s romantic and Manal’s vocals are just heavenly.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Anything involving feels would have to go to Fadl Shaker. He’s nicknamed in the Arabic music scene as the “King of Romance” so there’s no surprise there. My favorite song would have to be “Law 3ala Albi.” A beautiful song about love and longing. Hits your right in the feels every time.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
For more than one reason, it would have to be “Homma Malhom Bina Ya Leil” by Haitham Sa'eid. It reminds me of home and of my teenage years. I remember this song being quite controversial back in the day as the love interest in the music video was a Hijabi girl and that had never been done before. I also loved how the song almost anticipated the mixed response from the public with its lyrics:
“What do they want with us? Why are they so consumed with our love? Why do they envy us? Whoever is jealous of us can just copy us and go fall/be in love”.
I think this song and its video were well ahead if their time. This also reminds me of home because I remember being 14 and having conversations with my parents about representation and what it meant culturally for a woman in a Hijab to be the subject of a man’s affections in a music video. The song itself is also amazing and Haitham’s vocals are perfect for the song.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Sa’af” by Ramy Gamal. This song is JUST. SO. FUN! The music, the lyrics, the video. All just so fun. It’s the ultimate feel-good anthem that encourages us to forget about our troubles and just clap our hands. It’s connected, in my mind, to all the times I’ve had my friends over and a quiet night in turned in to an impromptu dance party with everyone dancing and clapping. It’s an instant mood changer.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
This one has to be “Bum Bum” by Mohamed Ramadan. If you can manage to listen to this song without getting up on your feet and dancing around, I’d be very surprised and also disappointed. It’s such a fun song and it’s mine & my friend’s pre-going out song. It just gets us in the right mood for a night out of just good times.
Big shout out to Amna Ali for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Amna’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please, if you’re on Instagram, follow @blackarabscollective and check out the incredibly important work they’re continuing to do.
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Arab Flows (Middle Eastern & North African artists) 🎧
Astronaut in the Ocean - Tasneem Elaidy
Ya Rouhi - Aortah
Nsiti - Oualid featuring Lidia
Stepping Back in Time - Bassel & the Supernaturals
Mahragan Embaba Khat Ahmar - Mido Gad featuring Biano
Air Forces - Mustafa
SAW IT FIRST - Dounia
Hair Up - Nadine
Hattatack Battatack - Wegz
Sobo El Gahwa - Zenobia featuring Faten Shafeq Kabaha
🎤 Las Vibras (Latinx & Hispanic artists) 🎤
Ooh Ahh! - Miguel
Amigos - Galvan Real
Lotería - Sarah Silva
Maleantes Caros - Yemil
te pongo mal (prendelo) - Kali Uchis featuring Jowell & Randy
que bailen - Alba Reche featuring Cami
GUERRA - Aissa
rosas (dímelo) - Girl Ultra
Feeling - Dalex
Bebé - Albany featuring C. Tangana and LOWLIGHT
🎼 Other Music 🎼
CALI LOVE - India Shawn
Fantastic Voyage - Coolio
We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) - Tina Turner
Been Around The World - Puff Daddy featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Mase
No Tomorrow, Pt. 2 - Brandy featuring Ty Dolla $ign
Patiently - JAY1
Peace of Mind (Remix) - Mavins featuring Rema, Fela Kuti, and Virgil Abloh
Throwback - Usher featuring Jadakiss
Teen Scene - Maeta featuring Buddy
FAKE FLEX - Lady Leshurr
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Exodus - Zahra Hankir, Guernica
Loving Lebanon is one thing; living there is another. Generation after generation, surviving in the homeland sometimes costs too much.
Amid Myriad Crises, Lebanon Now Confronts An Ecological Disaster On Its Shores - Ruth Sherlock, NPR
"Lebanon has these amazing places for turtle nesting, and they are so important for us because these turtles are endangered. It's very sad that this put them in in danger when they are already endangered. It's a disaster actually."
Traditional manousheh leaves tables in poverty-hit Lebanon - Layal Abou Rahal, Agence France-Presse
"The manousheh is both a father and mother to the Lebanese people. It's food for the rich and the poor. "Sadly at the moment, the poor can no longer afford to eat it.”
How crisis in Lebanon is fueling drug dependency - Sebastian Shehadi, The New Statesman
Substance use is soaring as the country teeters on the edge of political and economic collapse.
One man's mission offers Beirut neighborhood a vision of hope after blast - Ayat Basma and Issam Abdallah, Reuters
“With the Lebanese state hollowed out by decades of corruption and failure, it fell to aid groups and volunteers like Marc Torbey El Helou to rebuild the city.”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Democracy and Progress towards Racial Equality in Tunisia: Interview with Zied Rouine - Stephen J. King, Arab Reform Initiative
“This interview highlights the anti-Black racism work done by the Tunisian Association, Mnmety (‘My Dream’) and its support to plaintiff Hamdan Dali to drop from his surname the derogatory and offending designation “Atig” (‘liberated’) that marked him as a descendant of slaves.”
Famine Stalks Yemen, as War Drags On and Foreign Aid Wanes - Shuaib Almosawa and Ben Hubbard, The New York Times
For the second time in three years, the threat of widespread famine hangs over the war-torn country, where millions are displaced and struggle daily to find food.
Egyptian Can-Do Helped Unclog the Suez Canal - Timothy Kaldas, Bloomberg
The crew that helped free the Ever Given benefited from circumstances not available to many.
How eight fancy Boston condos figure into a fight over the Saudi throne - Tim Logan, The Boston Globe
“A collection of condominiums at some of Boston’s swankiest addresses are part of a clash between warring factions of the Saudi regime, a power struggle with global political implications that also highlights Boston’s standing as a haven for international real estate investors.”
In search of a good thyme: can 'real' zaatar be found in the West? - Kareem Shaheen, The National
“For a nomad wandering in places where he did not belong, the scent of zaatar felt like home.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
'There was a scarcity of women like me on the mic': How Arab women are finding sisterhood in the music scene - Layla Maghribi, The National
Ahead of the London Remixed festival, British-Lebanese DJ and producer Saliah and Egyptian-American hip-hop artist Felukah discuss a lack of representation in the music industry.
The Inspiring Rise of Middle Eastern Singer Dana Hourani - Nasri Atallah, GQ Middle East
A career playing out in unprecedented times requires authenticity, but Dana Hourani is owning the journey – and discovering her true voice in the process.
The return of Marwan Pablo: Searching for individuality in the muck - Mohamed Tarek, Mada Masr
“Combining the skills of a singer, poet, and music producer, Marwan Pablo writes his songs the way he speaks.”
Overcoming the expressive power of words through illustration with Raphaelle Macaron - Sofia Driouich, SLEEK
Lebanese artist Raphaelle Macaron told Sleek about the influence of her roots in her work and the way she thrives on collaboration.
Sean Paul Talks Legacy, Jamaica and the state of Dancehall - Wanna Thompson, Monk Music
Monk Music recently caught up with the prolific dancehall artist Sean Paul to talk about his new album, the state of dancehall and what he has coming next.
📚 Other Reads 📚
What Mr. Miyagi Taught Me About Anti-Asian Racism in America - Beth Nguyen, Catapult
“We Asians were in this thing—racist America—together.”
Law enforcement officers keep arresting Black women elected officials - Barbara Rodriguez, The 19th
The imagery of Georgia Rep. Park Cannon being dragged away this week at the state Capitol follows several arrests in recent years involving elected Black women. Black women on the receiving end say it’s an effort to silence their growing political power.
The Rise of the Athlete Podcaster - Hua Hsu, The New Yorker
How players began telling a new story about sports.
Crisis. Surge. Wave. Tide. Flood. - Sabrina Rodriguez, POLITICO
“It’s that time again in Washington, where all eyes are looking to the southern border and using the same words as in years prior to describe the thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
It’s Madness that We Don’t Pay College Athletes - Chris Bosh, The Players’ Tribune
“Can you imagine what it’s like to generate millions in revenue for your school — without being able to buy a hot meal off campus?”
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