Guest Feature: Dahlia Dandashi
Thanks for reading Sa'alouni El Nas! If you haven’t already, please subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Got something important and specific to US-based readers up top this week.
As some of you may know, the federal government is considering adding a “Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA)” category to official government forms. This doesn’t just mean an accurate census count, but it also means adequate federal funding for our communities healthcare, small businesses, the arts, other areas.
No MENA category means we are not considered for programs and grants that rely on government data to distribute their funding like the National Endowment for the Arts. That’s personal to me, as I know a lot of artists who rely on such resources to help further their careers and opportunities.
The good folks at the National Network for Arab American Communities are collecting comments that will be submitted to the federal government to advocate in favor of adding a MENA category. I highly encourage you all to submit a comment here so that we can finally have access to critical funding.
Separately, RIP Bobby Caldwell.
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Dahlia Dandashi!
Dahlia is a Lebanese-Syrian photographer, writer, and shawarma enthusiast who was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Dubai, UAE. She currently lives and eats in New York City where she works/does random things at Wieden + Kennedy, a creative agency.
Through her photography and poetry, Dahlia explores the complexities of Arab-American identity through the themes of culture, religion, womanhood, loss and love.
In her past lives, she taught classes on SWANA poetry/the region, served as a creative consultant for photo projects no one saw, was named an AdClub i’mPart Fellow, and worked as a journalist, covering everything from the Backstreet Boys to Lebanon’s rebel bloggers.
Her most recent project is ’Banat El Hara,’ an art exhibition that focuses on highlighting Arab women and their relationships with their homelands. Her unreleased zine, 'Passport Control' will be part of the exhibit, which will take place April 7-9 in NYC. The exhibition is part of a larger weekend of programming presented by the Arab Film Media Institute, and you can read more/RSVP here!
Dahlia exudes coolness, trust me on that. One of the kindest human beings I’ve interacted with, I knew I really needed to get a better understanding of her go-to songs. And Dahlia has an incredible taste in music:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Difficult question. Sneaky one. But there are (three?) songs I can't get enough of currently. One is James Ivy's 'Involved' -- he put his HEART and SOUL into this song and it reminds me of being a teenager, screaming pop-punk or emo music in my shower, wondering why I liked someone so much. For the second song, we're jumping ship and heading in a completely different direction with 'Voltarei' or 'I'll be back' by Garoto. A lovely, sentimental tune that makes me feel like I'm living in a house on the beach with someone I've yet to meet. And finally, ‘Clue Juice' by Mannequin Pussy. It's only 1:20 seconds long and has one verse, but holy shit, just listen to it.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
It all depends on the Dahlia I feel like, but, I can most definitely say two very old, specific recordings of Regina Spektor songs. One is 'Dog and Pony,' and the other 'Loveology.' These recordings are hazy, nostalgic and sad and I've never heard someone sing so achingly about love and loss before. 'Loveology' specifically is a lyrical gem, as she implies 'loveology' is not something you can teach/learn in a classroom, and neither are other subjects, like 'Mama-ology, papa-ology, you-ology, me-ology, love-ology, kiss-ology, stay-ology, forgive-me-ology...' I could go on.
‘&Serenading’ by Mineral was the first song I ever listened to and cried at. Super emo band from Texas in the 90s. Listen to it!
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Damn okay. Going with my gut here, and the first song I think of when I close my eyes iiiiiiiis...’Baiti Zghir bi Canada’ by Fairuz. I know it's about her little house in Canada, but it reminds me of walking the streets of Lebanon with my camera, snacking on some sweet strawberry ice cream, imagining I was residing in a little cottage in the snowy mountains. The second is a much more chaotic (but sensical if you know me) choice, by the one and only Melhem Zein. His song, 'Alawah' is about wishing he could get back his ex-girl. But there's a line in the song where he literally screams how he wants to go back to how they were before, and it actually reminds me of how badly I wish Syria could go back to how it was. It reminds me of dancing in the village, doing dabke, with no care in the world.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Well, the list is endless, so what I'll say is three albums I know every single lyric to every single song to that very much defined my upbringing; 'Let Go' by Avril Lavigne, 'Your Favorite Weapon' by Brand New and 'Is This It' by The Strokes. Oh and my favorite song (which I also know all the lyrics to) is Billie Holiday's 'Fine and Mellow.' (Sorry for the wildcard)
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
OKAY you know I can't just answer with one song. But let's start with ‘Dákiti’ by Bad Bunny and Jhayco; if that song is blasting at the club, you'll lose me. That song has a power over me and my legs I can't describe. The next would have to be 'Bahdeni Nami' by Omar Souleyman and Four Tet (not to mention that this is one of my favorite music videos of all time). And if we're talking my #1, primo, can't live without it, hype song is 'Like Glue' by Sean Paul. Actually, anything Sean Paul, really, will have me acting up. I can't live without him.
The GOING OUT ANTHEM though is provided by Jyoty's Boiler Room set.
Big shout out to Dahlia for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Dahlia’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 check out Dahlia’s work here, follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and RSVP/read more on the “Banat El Hara” exhibit!
Also, BONUS MUSIC! Dahlia curates amazing playlists so check them out immediately: Acid Mastika; Cold Outside, Warm Inside; Love and Oud; and Bosa/I7sas.
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
NO MORALS - psi.ko
Mostaheel - LAÏ featuring Rafiek
POWER - Shobee
Philosophy - Rooofa
3eidly - Good Company featuring Tararu
Ahlami - Phobia Isaac
No Smoke - Ali Soulful and Odd Khalid (Tribe of Monsters)
wide eyes - Ss.hh.a.n.a
Ilel Majnoon - Bashar Murad
Derrière toi - Imen Es featuring Zkr
NESSI ENNOUM - Ktyb featuring Feddini
Ghurub - Clara Kossaifi
El Ratch Aaly - Ortega featuring Ahmed Nafea
Life of a Refugee - YemeKnight
KARTA - Begad
Shayfe Denya Khadra - Ghazall featuring The Synaptik
Ya Nana - Assasi
LELLY YAH - Marwan Pablo
Pew Pew Pew - Lil Baba featuring Ahmed Santa and Abo El Anwar
Wahdani - 7liwa featuring RYM
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
No Me Controles - Russian featuring Danny Ocean and Sean Paul
Latina - Isabella Lovestory
Jugando con la Nieve - Ñengo Flow featuring Treinstiete Bbinc
Tengo Que Partir - Sofia Castro
Bora Bora - Dalex
Qué Tú Quieres Güero - J Güero
Blue - Kali Uchis
happy - Princess Nokia
LA SANTA - Lola Indigo
Guayabo - Manuel Turizo
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Love Won’t Wait - Bobby Caldwell
Ngikhathazekile - Bongo Beats featuring Lwah Ndlunkulu and Khethi
Five Star Hotels. - RAYE featuring Mahalia
late night thoughts - shy martin
The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
The Grants - Lana Del Rey
Reckless & Sweet - Amaarae
Stamina - Tiwa Savage featuring Ayra Starr and Young John
Sticky - Ni’jah featuring Childish Gambino and KIRBY
Honeysuckle Neckbone - BLK ODYSSY featuring Bootsy Collins
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Economic crisis, disarray, distress: New wave of suicides in Lebanon - Lyanna Alameddine, L’Orient Today
In just one week, four men ended their lives. Shortly after, their names and photos circulated on social media.
Lebanon’s pound hits a new low as banks go back on strike - Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
Lebanon’s embattled currency hit a new low Tuesday, trading at an unprecedented 100,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market as the crisis-hit country’s banks went back on strike.
Lebanon’s central bank chief in court to face money-laundering allegations - Raya Jalabi, Financial Times
Riad Salameh for the first time appears in front of European investigators probing the accusations.
Lebanon’s empty schools bode long-term damage from crisis - Fay Abuelgasim and Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
Lebanon’s schools are crumbling under the weight of the country’s economic collapse as the political leadership — which caused the crisis through decades of corruption and mismanagement— balks at taking any measures to resolve it.
Lemonade Fashion: The future of online shopping is in Lebanon - By Julien Ricour Brasseur, L’Orient Today
A dozen investors paid out pocket to finance the Lebanese fashion start-up that will soon open an office in San Francisco. In May, Lemonade Fashion will officially launch its social commerce mobile app to pioneer the industry.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
The Struggle to Save Iraq’s Marshes - Justin Salhani, Inkstick Media
The fight to save the southern marshes is putting lives in danger and the deteriorating climate is not the only one to blame.
What worries medical charities about trying to help Syria's earthquake survivors - Jason Beaubien, NPR
NPR talked to Dr. Terzian about trying to provide aid to Syria's earthquake survivors.
In troubled Libya, young robotics fans see hope in hi-tech - Aziz El Massassi, Agence France-Presse
"We want to send a message to the whole of society, because what we've learned has changed us a lot.”
In Cairo, a Mansion Where the Layers of History Show Through - Hussein Omar, The New York Times Magazine
A couple has restored and reimagined a nearly decimated building as a home and a cultural hub, revealing the complexity of the city’s past.
Will Jordan reform and protect women? - Shifaa al-Kadaa, Raseef22
“Statistics show that 1 in 4 married women is subjected to physical or sexual violence in Jordan, where there are discriminatory provisions against women in national legislation, such as the Penal Code, the Personal Status Law, and the Nationality Law.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Arabic Music Is on the Brink of a Global Breakthrough - Danny Hajjar, Pitchfork
YES THAT’S ME IN PITCHFORK WRITING ABOUT ARABIC MUSIC!!!!!!
Hip-Hop at Fifty: An Elegy - Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
A generation is still dying younger than it should—this time, of “natural causes.”
‘Doing Friends killed our cool’ – theme tune revelations from The Sopranos to The OC and more - Michael Hogan, The Guardian
The Friends anthem split the Rembrandts. Alabama 3 went partying with real mobsters. And Vonda Shepard ended up starring in Ally McBeal for years. Creators of legendary theme tunes relive their highs – and lows.
How protest and resistance in Syria and Lebanon shaped a progressive rap scene - Houda Fansa Jawadi, gal-dem
Twelve years since the Syrian uprising, rap has become an essential tool to unite, resist and heal among citizens of the region.
Shabjdeed and Al Nather From Palestine’s BLTNM on Alter Egos, a New Album, and Their Future - Natalie Shooter, GQ Middle East
“Sultan” isn’t just an upcoming album by hip-hop duo Shabjdeed and Al Nather — it’s a sign of things to come.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula Are the Best Thing in American Doubles in Years - Gerald Marzorati, The New Yorker
At Indian Wells, where doubles gets its due, the pair were outlasted in a close, tense match. They’ll be back.
Milk Has Lost All Meaning - Yasmin Tayag, The Atlantic
Yes, it’s a white-ish liquid. Beyond that, milk’s identity is hard to pin down.
How the Salvadoran diaspora became a literary juggernaut - Christopher Soto, Los Angeles Times
From a bestselling migration memoir to an acclaimed novel of suburbia, political poetry and essays and on and on, Salvadoran writers are having a big moment.
How can we shield children from the impacts of climate change? Investments in schools can help. - Jessica Kutz, The 19th
A group of researchers and advocates are urging California to upgrade its education infrastructure to help residents and students adapt to the climate crisis.
Influencer Parents and The Kids Who Had Their Childhood Made Into Content - Fortesa Latifi, TeenVogue
“Nothing they do now is going to take back the years of work I had to put in.”