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Guest Feature: Aya Krisht
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This newsletter is now two years old! I am immensely grateful to all of you who continue to show support, engage with this newsletter, share feedback, and help cultivate a community because of this. It all means so much to me, and I am deeply appreciative of everyone.
And a special shout out to all of the guests that have graciously come through and shared their go-to songs!
One of those incredible guests, my dear friend Alya, calculated some really cool stats about the playlists in the newsletter that I want to share. Over the course of the last two years, since this was created, Sa’alouni El Nas playlists have featured close to 4000 songs by roughly 2200 artists across over 3500 albums representing over 85 countries.
That is amazing to me, and speaks to how music truly is global and reaches communities all over, no matter what language or genre or anything.
Here’s to more music, more stories, and more guest features in this next year!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Aya Krisht!
Aya is a Lebanese designer, printmaker, cinephile, and coffee junkie currently based in Michigan. She graduated from the American University of Beirut with a BFA in Graphic Design in 2015, subsequently immigrating to the U.S. where she worked at the Arab American National Museum for nearly 7 years before leaving to pursue a freelance career.
She has a deep interest in art and craft tradition and preservation, melding the old with the new, community-based knowledge-sharing, and the idea that art is for everyone. She is a co-founder of Maamoul Press, a multi-disciplinary small press and collective for the creation, curation and dissemination of art by marginalized creators at the intersection of comics, printmaking and book arts.
When not drowning in design deadlines, keeping up with the Maamoul Press festival schedule, and having movie marathons, she’s getting acquainted with her new old 100+ year old platen press and learning letterpress, in hopes of one day retreating from the workforce and becoming a printmaking hermit.
What Aya has done in cultivating and supporting community art is truly so vital. And if you’ve ever checked out Maamoul Press, you’ll know that this collective Aya co-founded is full of unbelievably cool works of art, particularly by creatives in the MENA/SWANA/diaspora. Aya’s intersectional outlook on life is also evident in her answers for her go-to songs:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I’ve been revisiting a lot of The Decemberists lately ahead of seeing them in concert this summer and really vibing with some of their older stuff, particularly “The Engine Driver”, and “Of Angels and Angles” — such a sweet little song. Also “I’ll Be Your Girl” from their last album, such a stroke of unexpected soft intense romance, this idea of transcending the domineering toughness of “being your man” to something more devoted and tender.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I’m forever obsessed with “I Get Overwhelmed” by Dark Rooms, which I first heard in the film A Ghost Story (2017), which I am also obsessed with and can’t recommend enough.
Bright Eyes is probably the band heaviest on my rotation and all of their stuff is all the feels. In 2020 I was miserably hooked on “Hot Car in the Sun” and “Persona Non Grata” from their new album; “Poison Oak”, “Lua”, and “Haligh, Haligh, a Lie, Haligh” are destroying classics (check out the new release of the latter featuring Phoebe Bridgers); and “First Day of My Life” is the ultimate deeply sweet, slightly sad love song.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Any classic 90s/early 2000s Arabic pop music takes me back to days in Lebanon watching all the video clips on Melody… but a big one lately is “Lessa Bahinlha” by Ramy Essam.
The first time I heard this song was actually live, when Ramy was in Detroit for Concert of Colors in 2019. I wasn’t familiar with his music before that, and this one stands out a little from his usual heavily political hard rock anthems — a tender, deeply anguished song about missing home, and the brilliant double entendre of longing for a lover vis-a-vis longing for a homeland. I probably listened to it nonstop for a month after first seeing him play it.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Because of how intense it is, “The Calendar Hung Itself” by Bright Eyes is the most fun (if also very bleak) thing I love to sing… to myself, when no one else is around.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
In case it wasn’t clear haha, most of what I listen to tends to be more bleak and angsty; but the offbeat rock of Arctic Monkeys really gives me that hype factor — their last album fueled hours of design deadlines, particularly “Four Out of Five”; also “R U Mine?” and literally the entirety of AM, a flawless album. “Unfuckwitable” by Zayn is a great, kind of buried hype-yourself-up anthem.
Big shout out to Aya for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Aya’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Please give Aya a follow on Twitter, go check out Maamoul Press (and follow them on Instagram and Twitter) immediately, and can keep up with Aya’s work and musings on craft and creative process/practice at her newsletter, bayn hlalyn.
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Sfi7a - Blu Fiefer featuring Bando and Al Dirani
Bin Nass - Sofco featuring Plylist
Chloun El Kâa - Ÿuma
leave me - anees
Bi Balash - R3D, Shabjdeed, Daboor, Ramadan, & Al Nather
FOTO - Lartiste featuring Nej
Haramt Aghani - Nai Barghouti
Por Favor - Mocci
Sa3et el Tagaly - El Joker
Koka - KAMI MUZIC featuring Rayen Youssef
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Favela - Denyerkin
No Soy Para Ti - María Isabel
Brindo - Silvana Estrada
GATÚBELA - KAROL G featuring Maldy
Me Recuerda a Ti - GioBulla
SIN GOTEO - El High featuring Kaleb Di Masi, Cauty, and La Exce
DISCOTEKA - Lola Indigo featuring Maria Becerra
Fuego Forestal - Justin Quiles
KÈM - Kelly Krow
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
I’m Good (Blue) - David Guetta featuring Bebe Rexha
Many Ways - BNXN fka Buju featuring Wizkid
New Normal - Rexx Life Raj
Majestic - Ozer
PATIENCE - India Shawn featuring Cory Henry
Lying If I Call It Love - Shenseea featuring Sean Paul
Free Range - Shaolinn
Catch Me In The Air - Rina Sawayama
Can’t Make U Change - JID featuring Ari Lennox
How It Feels - Kid On The Roof
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Beirut’s main roads were meant to connect the city. Instead, they divided it - Mohamed El Chamaa, L’Orient Today
While a recent proposal to split Beirut into two municipalities does not appear to have gained much traction, the capital city has long been physically, if not administratively, divided. Rather than being connective tissues, its roads often form barriers.
New drive to light up Beirut's power-starved streets - Dario Sabaghi, Middle East Eye
Rebirth Beirut's initiative has lit up 22 streets and 13 sets of traffic lights, giving life back to neighborhoods after two years of darkness.
Beirut’s burning grain silos finally fall after weeks of inaction - Sarah Dadouch and Nader Durgham, The Washington Post
The last of the unstable grain silos at Beirut’s port collapsed Tuesday morning, two years after a deadly blast heavily damaged the structures, which for weeks had been burning and slowly collapsing as a traumatized country looked on.
Lebanese navy tries to recover bodies after April sinking - Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
Four months later, Hussein Dinnawi returned this week with other survivors to the same spot where the boat sank, to watch anxiously as the Lebanese navy tried to launch a tiny submarine to retrieve the wreckage of the boat.
Inas Fakih's scooter-taxi for women in Beirut’s southern suburbs - Zeina Antonios, L’Orient Today
Her clients appreciate her services. Some of them regularly call her to commute at lower rates within the city where traffic congestion is huge.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
For one immigrant, Philadelphia Arabs is more than just a Facebook group — it’s a lifeline - Massarah Mikati, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“We are one community. ... We are going to support one another in every possible way,” said Mohammad Abuhillo, founder of Philadelphia Arabs.
‘You are not honourable anymore’ - Simona Foltyn, Al Jazeera
Shamed and trafficked into Iraq's sex trade.
Aliya Ogdie Hassen: The elusive ‘Mother of Arabs’ - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
Although often overshadowed, women have always played a societal and political role in the Arab world. Some of them, unknown to the public at large, have even managed to break the shackles in conservative patriarchal societies, with the hope of bringing about change
The battle to remain Palestinian in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter - Arwa Ibrahim, Al Jazeera
A legal battle over the ownership of historic properties belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church has turned political, as Israeli settlers try to evict Palestinian tenants.
Qatar deports migrant workers protesting alleged abuse before World Cup - Marina Lopes, The Washington Post
Qatar detained and deported dozens of migrant workers who took part in a protest because their employer did not pay them, according to labor rights activists.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Mahraganat Music: the Free, the Bold, and the Problematic - Dana Hourany, Fanack
Young men from low-income communities in Alexandria aniro would perform at street weddings to save money on the extravagant expenditures of hiring a singer, a dancer, and a band. Egypt’s state-sponsored Musicians’ Syndicate began its campaign to limit the expansion of the genre two years ago.
Mohammed Amer's new series explores the tragedy and comedy in the refugee experience - Leila Fadel and Phil Harrell, NPR
It's a story comedian Mohammed Amer says he's had in his head for two decades and started writing nine years ago. Now, Mo is out on Netflix.
RM, Boy Band Superstar, Embraces New Role: Art Patron - Andrew Russeth, The New York Times
The BTS leader has been championing canonical artists from his native South Korea — studying their work, buying it and sometimes talking to it. “I feel like they’re watching me,” he said.
Meet Khaled Rohaim: The Egyptian Producing for Ariana Grande and Rihanna - Nadine El Roubi, SceneNoise
In this exclusive interview with Grammy-nominated and multi-Platinum producer Khaled Rohaim, we learn all about how he stays humble - and how that led him to work alongside Doja Cat, Rihanna and Wegz.
Eshu Tune (aka Hannibal Buress) is the First Rapper to Bowl a Spare While Rapping Live - Sama’an Ashrawi, OkayPlayer
Hannibal Buress has built a career as a successful comedian and thespian. Now he’s giving rap a go.
📚 Other Reads 📚
‘I didn’t understand my trauma’: how Hurricane Katrina marked New Orleans’ young - Radheyan Simonpillai, The Guardian
In powerful documentary Katrina Babies, the children and teenagers who lived through the 2005 disaster grapple with their trauma at an older age.
Wu’s stubborn optimism is exactly what this transit crisis needs - Abdallah Fayyad, The Boston Globe
The Orange Line shutdown may make the mayor’s big ambitions for the T seem unrealistic. But it also gives her an opportunity to make the case for transforming Boston’s public transit system.
Immigrants send more money home, but it buys less as inflation chips away at remittances - Dianne Solis, Dallas Morning News
78% of senders claim higher living costs, according to WorldRemit; regardless, more money was sent to their countries from North Texas.
The Afghan Women Left Behind - Rozina Ali, The New Yorker
After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, a U.S. organization shut down the country’s largest network of women’s shelters. Its founders think that it made a huge mistake.
NBA Stars Discover the Limits of the Player Empowerment Era - Seerat Sohi, The Ringer
LeBron James and Kevin Durant earned their seats at the table, but all of their suggestions haven’t exactly gone to plan, leaving both them and their franchises in precarious positions.