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Guest Feature: Fatima Ahdash
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Yesterday may have marked two years since the blast in Beirut, but for many of us that day has been ever-present. For many of us, we haven't stopped thinking about Lebanon after that day and we didn't start thinking about it on that day — it's That day is a microcosm of the country’s collapse that communities in Lebanon continue to endure and lives rent free in diaspora brains because of our families, friends, loved ones there.
There have been many stories this week that have been published about that day, a few of which I’ll share here in lieu of there being the usual section dedicated to Lebanon below:
2 years later, hope for justice in Beirut explosion fades - Bassem Mroue, Associated Press
From blast to banking crisis, one woman embodies Lebanon's complete collapse - Maya Gebeily, Reuters
The volunteers of the Beirut blast: Where are they now? - Mohamed El Chamaa, L’Orient Today
Unequal aid and ignored demands: Study reveals stark gap in gendered support following Beirut port explosion - Dana Hourany, The New Arab
Horrors and loss haunt Beirut blast survivors two years on - Tala Ramadan, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
Justice for My Killed Son, Justice for Lebanon - Sarah Copland, Newsweek
A recovery without the state - Mona Fawaz, L’Orient Today
The Grieving Families Fighting to Preserve a Crumbling Symbol of the Beirut Blast - Clémont Gibon, TIME
Two years after Beirut blast, lawsuits raise hopes for justice - Tessa Fox, Al Jazeera
2 years after the Beirut blast, the youngest victim's parents are still fighting for justice - Sheena Goodyear, CBC Radio
Beirut explosion: Scars of the blast still run deep two years on - Chloé Domat, Middle East Eye
Lebanon marks second anniversary of deadly Beirut port blast - Jamie Prentis, The National
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Fatima Ahdash!
Fatima is a British-Libyan woman living in London. She is Lecturer in Law at Goldsmiths, University of London. When she is not reading a good novel or writing about feminism, she is listening to one Libyan song or another.
And let me tell you, Fatima always has great Libyan music recs. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with this incredible human being through Twitter, and she’s always got cool songs and dope Libyan artists to share with me. So when I asked Fatima to be part of the newsletter, I knew Libya would be very well represented:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Like most North Africans, my favourite thing to listen to right now is DJ Snake’s “Disco Maghreb”. I am not sure if this counts as a ‘song’ as such, but I am absolutely obsessed. It takes me out of the blues and gets me moving straight away. I also love watching the video itself, which is a wonderful tribute to Algeria. There are so many intimate moments, national habits, traditions that are so affectionately captured, which is really touching.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
This would have to be “Youth” by Daughter. There is something quietly visceral, contemplative and devastating about the song that allows me to indulge “the feels,” if that makes sense.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
This is a seriously difficult question. As someone who is very interested in all things related to Libyan music, I really absolutely cannot choose one. So, let me divide my choices up by category? (I am also totally using this as an opportunity to raise awareness of Libyan music which is sadly seriously underrated!)
I’m from Benghazi. I was born there and that’s my hometown, as it were. So nothing reminds me of home like a good Merskawi song – the urban traditional music genre of Benghazi. I have some old Merskawi faves, like “Ramet Alnathar” by the OG of Merskawi, Sayid Boumedeinne, otherwise known as Shadi ElJabal. The song talks about the friends and loved ones who are lost and my father and mother used to sing it in the early days of our exile from Libya, when they would reminisce about Benghazi and the loved ones they left there. A more modern Merskawi song that reminds me of home, and of ghorba and the pain represented by airports when you are in the diaspora, is Ibrahim Elsafi’s “Youm Elsafr”.
There are a number of more classical Libyan songs that remind me of home. One of my favourite ones is “Arjoun Fel” by Salam Gadri – its quiet beauty reminds me of Tripoli so much. And I love Fatima Ahmed’s songs, especially “Ana w Ayak”.
A very important genre of Libyan music that I love is ma’louf. Of course, due to its Andalucian origins ma’louf music can be found across North Africa. But I think Libyans, and specifically Hassan Alarebi, do it best. Just listen to “Naah Alhamam” for an explanation as to why that is!
Finally I cannot ignore the very popular Libyan wedding music genre, whether that’s the singing of Tripolitanian zamzamat or a good Benghazian majrouda. A lot of our Maghrebi neighbours can attest to how lit Libyan wedding songs are!
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Any song by the legendary Libyan singer Mohamed Hassan, but especially “Ta’ag Aloud”!
Big shout out to Fatima for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Fatima’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen — and please tell Spotify they need more Libyan music!!!! And be sure to check Fatima out on Twitter to follow of her amazing work!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
FREESTYLES, Pt. 1 - Nadine El Roubi
Nobody Pass You - Leil featuring Weyinmi
Mose3ed - Nuj
Trigue Lycée (DJ Snake Remix) - Khaled
3ich 7yeti - Rayan Youssef featuring Almas
Sa7el - Abo El Anwar featuring Lil Baba
Hip-hop/Jwk - Ntitled featuring Jeed and Kali-B
Stories - Djouher featuring Belfa
Brazil - Afroto featuring Marwan Moussa
Gueule Tapée - ElGrandeToto
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
S.O.S. - Brytiago featuring Polimá Westcoast
La Oscuridad - Izzy La Reina
Nena - Matar Fuma featuring Moncho Berry
Sin Pena - Leanys
Ya No Soy - Maka
Tempo - Jenn Morel
La Candela - Yerba Buena
Isla Velde - Cazzu
Morí - Majo Aguilar
Kite Zo A - Labou Mizik featuring Joseph Ray
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
I Love You More Than You Know - bLAck pARty featuring Childish Gambino
Begging - Yemi Alade
Best Friends (Remix) - The Weeknd featuring Summer Walker
Fididi - Flash featuring SPINALL
Ce Soir - Duckwrth featuring Syd
VIRGO’S GROOVE - Beyoncé
New To You - Calvin Harris featuring Normani, Tinashe, and Offset
TWIN FLAME - KAYTRANADA featuring Anderson .Paak
Seduce & Scheme - Shawna & Mia
Ashawo - Fireboy DML
What I’m Reading
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Palestinian Flags Aren’t Illegal in Israel. They Still Get Torn Down. - Raja Abdulrahim, The New York Times
Israeli police, lawmakers and settlers are increasingly targeting the flag, which Palestinians say is a broader attack on their identity.
Under a burning sun, Kuwait keeps cool as Iraq reaches boiling point - Louise Callaghan, The Sunday Times
It hurts to breathe in 52C Basra and the electricity is out. It’s just as hot in Kuwait City but there is air-con. The fear is that within years it will be impossible to walk the streets.
Is Tunisia rolling back the revolution? It’s not that simple - Ghaya Ben Mbarek and Aymen Bessalah, Los Angeles Times
“Tunisia’s youth are preparing for the battles to come. They’re focused on a renewed sense of resistance against all political elites.”
Focus on Samira, celebrity snapper of southern Iraq - Tony Gamal Gabriel, Agence France-Presse
She's southern Iraq's celebrity photographer, a former political prisoner who has spent more than 60 years behind the lens documenting people and places and defying convention.
“I came today to change the artificial limb because it has become short. I have pain, and I want to extend it or change it, because I have been using it for more than a year, and I felt pain two weeks ago.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
America Has a Problem and Beyoncé Ain’t It - Wesley Morris, The New York Times
On “Renaissance,” the pop star’s seventh solo album, she finds escape, rebirth, community, pleasure and control in decades of dance music steeped in Black queer bravado.
Issam AlNajjar is doing the *most* - Sara Alhumiri, Cosmopolitan Middle East
It’s been two years since his hashtag #hadal_ahbek blew up on TikTok.
Can Universal and Weeknd Manager Wassim ‘Sal’ Slaiby Take Arabic Music Global? - Jem Aswad, Variety
“I believe in the growth of Arabic music, in the region and on a global level, and finding artists who want to make it bigger and mix it with other [genres].”
Shenseea, Jamaica’s dancehall princess, is here to dominate - Bria McNeal, NYLON
In just a few short years, the 25-year-old Kingston native has transformed from a bottle girl to a confident rapper in high demand.
This Arab is Queer – creating space away from the white gaze - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
“This Arab is Queer” offers a multifaceted and nuanced look at both common issues (and traumas) and wildly differing personal experiences recounted by a wide array of contributors — not necessarily writers in the conventional sense, from different countries.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Bill Russell: ‘A lifetime phenomenon as an athlete’ - Marc J. Spears, Andscape
The Boston Celtics legend, Basketball Hall of Famer, and civil rights activist will be remembered for more than just his on-court impact
Why Do Rich People Love Quiet? - Xochitl Gonzalez, The Atlantic
The sound of gentrification is silence.
What Should a Nine-Thousand-Pound Electric Vehicle Sound Like? - John Seabrook, The New Yorker
E.V.s are virtually silent, so acoustic designers are creating alerts for them. A symphony—or a cacophony—of car noise could be coming to city streets.
Why Pros Like Brittney Griner Choose Cannabis for Their Pain - Jonathan Abrams and Tania Ganguli, The New York Times
Griner, the W.N.B.A. star detained in Russia on drug charges, is one of many athletes who have said cannabis helps with sports injuries. But it is banned by sports leagues and illegal in many places.
How Ugandan Asians are keeping their history alive, 50 years after expulsion from their homeland - Mansi Vithlani, gal-dem
The forced expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972 is still raw for many. Half a century later, they share how the anniversary helps keep their history alive, and how they made UK cities like Leicester their home.