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Guest Feature: Azmi Haroun
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After being gone for two weeks, we are back in full swing with “Sa’alouni El Nas” — and it’s jam-packed!
But first, I want to give a shout out to Malaka Gharib, editor at NPR Life Kit and an early illustrious guest of the newsletter, for the release of her brand new graphic memoir It Won’t Always Be Like This — out now!
I had the honor and privilege to check out an early version of her memoir, and I have to tell you all this is a must-buy book for your library. It’s moving, it’s compassionate, it’s funny, and it’s incredibly thoughtful and relatable.
AND best of all, Malaka curated a whole playlist of music that coincides with different life moments in her memoir. HOW COOL IS THAT! So I want to share both the playlist on Spotify and the radio DJ takeover Malaka did over at WXNA 101.5FM in Nashville, where she played her music and discussed her book!
Check those out and be sure to buy a copy of It Won’t Always Be Like This now!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Azmi Haroun!
Azmi is a Syrian-American journalist and music producer currently working for the digital outlet Insider and living in Los Angeles, California. He covers high-profile court cases, the Middle East, music and culture stories for Insider.
In his free time, he boxes, plays tennis and takes in LA's immersive music scenes.
Azmi graduated with his Bachelor's from Pitzer College in 2015 in MENA studies and Political Studies and later completed the part-time Master's program at Columbia Journalism School program in 2020 while working and living in New York. He has also worked in refugee resettlement with the International Rescue Committee in San Diego as the Muslim Ban was actualizing, and has lived in Paris, Morocco and Dubai in the past.
Azmi mostly produces Modern Funk music under the artist name Azmito, and works with rappers, vocalists and other musicians in that scene and beyond, also producing House and Hip-hop at times in a sound that draws from his west-coast and global influences. One of his greatest musical and journalistic achievements so far was the full circle life moment of interviewing the mythic Nile Rodgers.
The producer-reporter extraordinaire, y’all! Azmi is literally out here doing everything under the sun. AND he literally just released a new song called Avocado Trees that I highly recommend you all check out immediately. Given his musical talents, I knew his go-to music would span a variety of artists and genres:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
It’s summertime as I write this, so I’m always gravitating towards jams that are great for cruising, being outside, or just recreating an airy, summertime feeling.
The first of a few songs that come to mind would be “Lazy Man” by French North African producer Kazzey. It’s sophisticated, energetic modern funk across his whole new album.
“Gelbi” by Nu Genea is also fantastic, featuring Tunisian vocalist/percussionist Marzouk Mejri on it with his raspy roar. Nu Genea is a really airtight jazz-funk band from Naples that mentally places you right on the Mediterranean coast, I'm a huge fan of them.
“Sunshine” by Steve Lacy featuring Fousheé off of his new album “Gemini Rights”, it’s bright and filled with trademark Lacy strums and perfect harmonies between the two–Bad Habit from that album also bangs.
The Terry Hunter remix of “Break My Soul” by Beyoncé has been in heavy rotation, as well as “Seabra” by The Jack Moves, a great modern soul band with a big cinematic sound.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I can’t stick to one song, but I will be as concise as I can given the infinite amount of feels. First off would be “Run to the Sun” by N.E.R.D., Pharell’s band with Chad Hugo and Shay Haley – that to me is a perfect modern song about longing (that’s not an Arabic song lol) and from probably one of my top 5 albums ever.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
What is home? In this essay I will…jk, but obviously home is a tricky question, so I’ll spare the dissertation and stick to some of the physical places that molded me, and the songs that take me back there.
“Salemoly 3alih” by Nancy Ajram, a perfect Arabic pop song that takes me back to summers in Syria and buying bootleg compilation CDs at places like Eido music that were basically the shop owner’s personal versions of “Now That’s What I Call Hits”– and it was pre-Blackface Nancy Ajram.
Another one is “Home” by Jake One featuring Vitamin D, C Note, Maine, & Ish which is a love letter to Seattle, where I spent most of my childhood and still is home base for my fam.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
The first is “Tonton du Bled” by 113 Clan, an Arab and Black French rap group, because it flips “Harkatni Eddemaa” by Ahmed Wahby so well, the storytelling (and music video) is amazing and it came out when my family lived in France, so it was highly relatable with the summer trips back to the Bled.
“I Wanna Thank You For (Steppin’ Into My Life)” by DaM FunK is another one, a gem from one of my fave artists.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“Wegue Wegue” by Buraka Som Sistema featuring Pongolove is a legendary banger — shoutout to the FIFA 10 soundtrack. This year I discovered “Mauvais Payeur” by La Feve, which is another more recent French rap track that feels like eerie boxer ring-walk music.
Big shout out to Azmi for joining and sharing his song selections! Most of Azmi’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Be sure to follow Azmi on Twitter, Instagram, and all streaming platforms wherever you listen to music!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Khalsana - Dareen
Zahma - Lella Fadda
Tarantino - Cairokee featuring Marwan Pablo
A Drop of Blood - Tamino
Ana El Kaoui - Djalil Palermo
day to day - Dua Saleh
Mabetalemsh - Nadine Tayseer
Sterlini - Felukah
WADO - L5VAV
Badi 7efyan - Stormy
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Junio - Maluma
De todas las flores - Natalia Lafourcade
La Bruja - Darell featuring Omar Montes
PUNTO 40 - Rauw Alejandro featuring Baby Rasta
Infierno - Lennis Rodriguez
PÉGAME - Cyn Santana
traguito - iLe featuring Mon Laferte
Me Duele - Bomba Estéreo featuring Manu Chao
AMANTES - Becky G featuring Daviles de Novelda
ADIÓS AMOR - Jessie Reyez
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
County Line - Coolio
Beep - M.I.A.
samson and delilah - CKay featuring Mayra Andrade
Ten Cane Row - Protoje featuring Jorja Smith
Koo Koo Fun - Major Lazer featuring Major League DJz, Tiwa Savage, and DJ Maphorisa
Vibe Like This - SG Lewis featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Lucky Daye
Tamalla - Khruangbin & Vieux Farka Touré
Bloody Samaritan (Remix) - Ayra Starr featuring Kelly Rowland
Pisces - Russ Millions featuring Krept & Konan
Somewhere To Fly - Kid Cudi featuring Don Toliver
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Poverty in Lebanon's 'city of billionaires' drives deadly migration - Timour Azhari and Laila Bassam, Reuters
In the city from which Lebanon's richest politicians hail, the poorest residents once again mourn their dead.
Debunking the dangerous myth that refugees are an economic burden in Lebanon - Cathrine Brun and Ali Fakih, The New Humanitarian
Research shows the arrival of Syrian refugees in Lebanon did not hurt its economy.
Lebanon’s dwindling rain leaves farmers struggling for water - Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
In recent years, rainfall in Lebanon has decreased, straining even the most water-rich country in the Middle East. At the same time, the country’s economy has fallen apart the past two and a half years; families whose livelihoods have been wrecked struggle to afford basics as prices spiral.
Sidewalk struggles: Beirut streets pose challenge to pedestrians - Richard Salame, L’Orient Today
A joint MIT-AUB study found nearly 20 percent of Beirut's total street length had sidewalks with permanent obstructions such as streetlights, signposts, trees and parking meters.
Daily blackouts put Lebanon’s ancient artefacts at risk - Maghie Ghali, Al Jazeera
Electricity – in short supply in Lebanon – is needed to preserve many of the National Museum of Beirut’s priceless archaeological treasures.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Mountain of Fire: How Nablus became the heart of the Palestinian struggle - Qassam Muaddi, The New Arab
At the center of recent tensions in the West Bank, Nablus has historically always been a focal point of the Palestinian struggle. This is the story of a city caught between Israel's occupation and the will to survive.
Deadly sea migration from MENA region on the rise - Dana Hourany, Fanack
Though it is a dangerous voyage, for many people it is the only option.
Sudanese head north to Egypt seeking brighter future - Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir, Reuters
“The exodus reflects growing despondence over prospects at home, where the economy has been in free fall and the U.N. says food shortages affect a third of the population. Power and water cuts are common. Anti-army protests have rocked the streets since a coup a year ago.”
Iranian women are rising up to demand freedom. Are we listening? - Hoda Katebi, Los Angeles Times
“As an Iranian American Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab, I am outraged at the way that my identity is being exploited by the Iranian state to maintain power and impose repressive regulations on Iranian women who choose not to wear the hijab.”
A new role for Syria’s heritage sites: Party venues for restless youth - Sarah Dadouch, The Washington Post
A rave held at the medieval castle of Krak des Chevaliers raised alarm among experts, who fear the Syrian government is prioritizing tourism over preservation.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Iraqi artists want to finally tell their own story. Who will listen? - Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, The Washington Post
As a new generation of Iraqis work to tell the story of their country through contemporary art, they face hurdles at every turn.
‘It’s the language of rebellion’: the story of Slave to Sirens, the all-female Lebanese metal band - Jim Farber, The Guardian
In a new documentary called Sirens, the band – who are the first and only all-female thrash band in Lebanon – talk about their difficult road to success.
A Homeland in the World - Yasmine Seale, The Nation
The searching poetry of Safia Elhillo.
Belgian-Egyptian Singer Tamino Amir on His Second Studio Album ‘Sahar’ - Jad Salfiti, GQ Middle East
On the brink of a new album and tour, Belgian-Arab singer Tamino Amir is ready to take his career to the next level. But there won’t be room for compromise.
Cairo Has Heart: In Conversation With Egyptian Illustrator Nora Zeid - Yusha, Mille World
Taking over, one sketch at a time.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Pakistan’s Biblical Floods and the Case for Climate Reparations - Mohammed Hanif, The New Yorker
Isn’t it time for rich nations to pay the communities that they have helped to drown?
Who's Latino? Amid growing numbers the definition is expanding - Nicole Acevedo, Edwin Flores, and Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News
Almost 1 in 5 people in the U.S. are Hispanic, but growth comes with rethinking the terms of a “mixed ethnicity.”
The Case for Leaving America to Escape Racism - DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post
As a Black woman, I want freedom from oppression. So I’m finally plotting my exit.
The Ime Udoka ‘Cheating’ Scandal Has Exposed the Shallowness of Sports Media - Corbin Smith, The Daily Beast
Between Woj and Shams racing to push out bits of info to Stephen A. cutting off Malika Andrews, sports media is not equipped to handle the scandal enveloping the Celtics coach.
The Great Food Instagram Vibe Shift - Bettina Makalintal, Eater
The food blogger aesthetic has given way to something more realistic and DIY: Laissez-faire Instagram food is here.