Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Danny and Johnny Dubbaneh
Thanks for reading Sa'alouni El Nas! If you haven’t already, please subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
I cannot believe 2022 is coming to a close. It honestly still feels like a continuation of 2020, as if we haven’t escaped that year properly.
Regardless, I do hope you all find some joy, happiness, success, and good health in 2023. And thank you all for supporting me and this newsletter this year!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. We’ve got absolutely incredible guests to close out 2022: Danny and Johnny Dubbaneh!
Danny and Johnny are two of the brothers behind Z&Z, alongside their other brother Ronnie. Z&Z is a family owned business that has been leading the manoushe (the most iconic Middle Eastern flatbread) movement since 2016 at farmers markets in DC. This past September Z&Z’s Manoushe Bakery was named one of the 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit and just last month their frozen Manoushe just launched in local DC, Maryland, and Virginia Whole Foods!
Friends, this is a very special guest feature to me. For those of you that live in the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, Z&Z is a staple. Their za’atar is everywhere, and now their mana’eesh are everywhere. But what Danny and Johnny and the Dubbaneh family have done goes beyond food — they work so hard to preserve and promote the culture authentically.
I had a chance to visit their brick and mortar bakery in Rockville, Maryland, and their set up felt so genuine, as if I stepped foot in a bakery in Lebanon or Palestine or Syria or anywhere in the region. These are some of the most humble dudes you’ll meet, and everything they do, they do for the love of their family and the love of their culture.
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Johnny: “Si Tu No Estas” by Menudo
One of the ladies we work with played this song the other day and I instantly favorited it on Spotify. I don’t really know what they're singing about but it sounds super silky so I’m all about it.
Danny: “SNOFALL” by Jeezy
Jeezy is your favorite trapper's favorite rapper and also mine. Big Snos’ music has been one of my biggest motivators over the years. “SNOFALL” off his latest album brings back that TM103 energy about staying hungry, and that grinding & hustling by any means necessary mentality that has always resonated with me and gotten me through a lot of tough times.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Johnny: “Open” by Rhye
Sometimes I’d just lay in bed and watch this music video to feel at peace. The artist has a very soothing voice and the video itself has this calming aura to it.
I love sad music. The National’s “About Today” is from the soundtrack of one of my favorite movies “Warrior” (starring heartthrob Tom Hardy). It’s just a beautifully sorrowful piece of music about the sunset of a relationship and it’s amazing how much emotion they convey with so few words.
Another one that always gets me is “Zina” by Babylone. A friend introduced us to this song while Johnny and I were volunteering at Za’atari Refugee camp in 2018 and in addition to the moody melody and lyrics it will always remind me of that bittersweet time.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Johnny: “Ouda” by Hamid Al Shaeri
This is such a feel good song that I can imagine playing it on the plane ride back to the Middle East to set the tone.
In 2018 we hosted a 4 day “Shake & Bake" Block Party with our good friends, The Bearded Bakers from Australia at Cotton Reed Distillery in DC. There was music blasting the entire time but Ehab Tawfik’s “Allah 3aleek Ya Sidi” is the one that stuck with me the most. So, anytime I hear that song it will always remind me of those special days where we were surrounded by family, friends, and so much love from our community. And it’s a loud song which I think is fitting because we have such a big and boisterous family.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
While I am definitely not the target demo for this song, it keeps me coming back and back. Something about the deep level of hurt I feel when she belts out in the “red lights” chorus.
Last summer just before we opened our bakery I spent a few days on a lakeside getaway in Seattle for my friend Larissa’s birthday. She introduced me to Chapell Roan’s “Pink Pony Club” and it's one of those songs that’s so catchy that it’s been stuck in my head ever since then. Every once in a while I can’t help but crank it on repeat. Even though the lyrics are not something I can necessarily relate to (some people called it the 2021 Song of The Summer and strip club anthem), the music gets me so pumped up to party and flail wildly about every time.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Johnny: “One Mic” by Nas
I still vividly remember being in middle school working out in the basement playing this song. It gives me this underdog feeling and drive to be focused on whatever I’m doing at the moment.
I think “Abdel Kader” by Cheb Khaled, Rachid Taha, and Faudel is arguably the hyphiest song of all time. Once that first beat drops I get so excited that I will always start shouting the lyrics a full minute too early.
Big shout out to Danny and Johnny for joining and sharing their song selections! All of Danny’s and Johnny’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Please go check them out on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube immediately. Check out the shop on their website! And if you’re in the DC/MD/VA area OR are planning to visit, make sure you actually go and hit up Z&Z — trust me on this!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Qandïsha - Salem Aya featuring Lemhllwess
quloub - UmKuBu
3atme - Ziggy
Anawin - Andrew Mounir featuring Mirelle Mokhtar
Bteshteky - Sagy
Another Life - Nadine Khouri
Kan Fi Sora - Abyusif
PATIENT - 4lfa
YA HASRA - ISSAM
Galbi - Amon
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Una noche que nunca termina - Cancamusa
Por Ley - CALIEL featuring La Resistencia
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - Desi Arnaz
Aguacero - Muerdo featuring El Caribefunk
Yandel 150 - Yandel featuring Feid
Light Zone - vf7
Nojoda - DEKKO
De Qué Manera - Mike Bahía
In The Essence - ¿Téo?
Sobra una Tumba Humilde - RaiNao featuring Los Pleneros de la Cresta
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Buya - De Mthuda featuring Ami Faku
On The Come Up - Jamila C. Gray featuring Lady London and Rapsody
NIGHT RIDER - Joji
Palomino - First Aid Kit
ART N HEAVEN - Art & Money Marlo
ON 10 - DESTIN CONRAD
Human Nature - Mikhala Jené
Bite Me - Avril Lavigne
The Vibe - Alonso Umati featuring Sandriana
Love Is My Condition - Tasha Angela
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Identity is complex for Lebanon’s Christian Palestinian camp - Abby Sewell, Associated Press
“During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, the area was a stronghold of Lebanese Christian militias that battled the Palestine Liberation Organization. The other two Palestinian camps in Christian areas — Jisr al-Basha and Tel al-Zaatar — were razed during the war by the militias, their inhabitants killed or scattered.”
Paycheck to paycheck: The reality of Lebanese families three years into the economic crisis - Ghadir Hamadi, L’Orient Today
Just $122 per month: that’s Lebanon’s median household income, according to a Human Rights Watch report published earlier this month.
Lebanese artist Maher Diab traces his inspiration - William Mullally, Esquire Middle East
How the Lebanese-Canadian artist became the talk of Egypt's elite creative circles.
Painting over the facades: Behind Lebanon’s NGO-addiction - Marine Caleb and Philippe Pernot, The New Arab
Street art projects are popular among aid workers, yet they are questioned by residents and researchers. These murals tell the story of a whole country’s decay.
Karl Hadife saves the Royal Cinema of Burj Hammoud from dereliction and oblivion - Zéna Zalzal, L’Orient Today
The young director and “storyteller” has taken up the challenge to revive the Burj Hammoud movie theater dating from the 1950s, seeking to transform this forsaken place into a scenic space of art and experiments.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Designing the Future in Palestine - Noura Erakat, Boston Review
Palestinian women and feminist organizations are reimagining what liberation can look like beyond national independence.
Prominent Algerian journalist Ihsane El-Kadi arrested - Heba Saleh, Financial Times
Authorities shut Radio M internet station, viewed as the country’s last remaining media outlet for free speech.
As Egypt’s economic crisis deepens, an affordable meal is hard to find - Siobhán O'Grady and Heba Farouk Mahfouz, The Washington Post
Inflation is spiking in Egypt, and regular Egyptians are paying the price. Even a bowl of koshary, the beloved staple, is too costly for some.
Jordan’s truckers struggle to get by, sparking protests, violence - Hanna Davis, Al Jazeera
The deaths of four police officers highlight the issue of fuel protests, but Jordan’s problems are much deeper.
Oil pollution threatens Libyan oases - Islam Alatrash, Al-Monitor
The populated areas near the oil fields in northeast Libya are suffering from pollution resulting from oil-related operations, in the absence of any action from authorities.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Women’s Rights Groups in Egypt and Lebanon Take Aim at Saad Lamjarred - Abdelrahman ElGendy, New Lines Magazine
An unprecedented Arab transnational campaign seeks the cancellation of the Moroccan singer’s concerts.
How TikTok is Transforming the Arab Music Scene - Zaid Kreshan, SceneNoise
TikTok has been changing the way artists get noticed online. Here, SceneNoise takes a look at the different ways in which they have found success on the platform.
Moroccan street art brings colour and life to a concrete jungle - Elisa Pierandrei, The New Arab
A country of colourful mosaics, creativity is innate to the Moroccan mindset. Now, a new generation of graffiti and street artists are giving a new lease of life to city buildings, transforming their plain exteriors to ones teeming with vibrant life.
Kendrick Lamar’s New Chapter: Raw, Intimate and Unconstrained - Mitchell S. Jackson, The New York Times Magazine
In partnership with his longtime collaborator, Dave Free, the greatest rapper of his generation is pushing himself — commercially and creatively — onto unexpected terrain.
Following the release of his Grammy-nominated album with Angelique Kidjo, the French-Lebanese trumpet player is back with a new body of work titled “Capacity to Love”, featuring some of the industry's best in pop and hip-hop music.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Infrastructure, colonialism and know-how: When will an East African team qualify for the World Cup? - Mina Ibrahim, The Athletic
“CAF is split into five regional associations: UNAF (North), WAFU (West), UNIFFAC (Central), CECAFA (East-Central) and COSAFA (South). Of these, only CECAFA — made up of Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar — has never had a country qualify for a World Cup.”
The Cheesecake Factory knows what you want - Alex Abad-Santos, Vox
Too big to fail: How the Cheesecake Factory defied the restaurant industry’s rules of success.
I’m Mexican American. But the L.A. City Council audio leak reminded me that I’m Oaxacan too - Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times
“As a Mexican American, I love being from two worlds. I’ve thought more about my roots and what it means to be Oaxacan. Then came the L.A. City Council audio leak.”
Climate Change Cases Set for Another ‘Exciting Year’ in Court - Jennifer Hijazi, Bloomberg
With Supreme Court petitions and a youth climate trial on the horizon, 2023 could be a blockbuster year for climate issues in the courtroom.
The WNBA is infiltrating the NBA, several star players at a time - Jamal Collier, ESPN
"To have a mother that just loves the game, her passion for the game every single day, I wouldn't have had that same passion if it wasn't for my mother”