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Guest Feature: Hajer Ben Boubaker
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We’re now in December 2022, that happened so fast right? The Lebanese parliament kicked off the new month by — as expected — failing to elect a new president — for the eighth time — since Michel Aoun left his post at the end of October.
Again, this is something that was fully expected. Lebanon will not have a new president until after we enter the new year. But my goodness, the country is operating with a caretaker government AND without a president?
Most reactions I’ve seen include people throwing there hands up in the air, basically saying that this is nothing new for Lebanon and this is par for the course. And frankly, they are right. Nonetheless, this is embarrassing and a complete disgrace. It’s a slap in the face to people living in the country, who continue to carry the collapse of the country on their backs. This is truly shameful.
But, I do want to pivot to something that is a bit more uplifting. And admittedly, it is a very hard pivot from what I just talked about.
With December now here, we’re starting to see lists of the “best” songs and the “best” albums. I am personally not one for these lists because I disagree fundamentally that there can be the “best” kind of art.
Now, can certain works of art and music resonate more with people? Absolutely. Does that make them the best? I don’t think so.
Music is meant to be a subjective medium. What makes music “cool” or “the best” is how a listener connects with the song or with the artist. To whittle music down to a list of 25, 50, 100, etc. songs or albums is to completely disregard the work of so many millions of other artists who poured their hearts and souls into whatever music they created this year.
And in that spirit, I created a playlist of Sa’alouni El Nas Favorites of 2022. These are not “the best” songs, but simply music released in 2022 that really resonated with me (hence “favorites”). There isn’t an order of “most favorite” to “least favorite” — it’s all in alphabetical order.
There are 400 songs in this playlist, which I recognize is a lot. I listen to far too much music to narrow anything down to a small number.
Hope you all enjoy it!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Hajer Ben Boubaker!
Hajer is a French-Tunisian, Paris-based researcher and a specialist of Arab music and Maghrebi immigration's political and cultural history in France. Her research focuses on a socio-historical analysis of Arab music through different axes such as the politicization of music in the Arab world and the industrialization of music in the Maghreb and the Middle East.
Hajer is also an author, sound artist, and radio producer of several documentaries for French public radio channel France Culture, including “An History of Arab Workers Movement in France” (2021 documentary prize at the Prix SCAM 2022) about the cultural and political history of anti-racism in France from the point of view of Arab immigrants in the 1970s.
She created and hosts the Vintage Arab podcast about Arab musical heritage in French and sometimes in Arabic. Hajer collaborated in the international exhibition "Divas Arabes: From Oumkalthoum to Dalida" at the Arab World Institute in France and was in charge of the Tunisian and Algerian music fund of the National Library of France.
Hajer has collaborated on different written productions and projects in various countries such as France, Algeria, Tunisia, or Palestine and is currently working on her first book.
Needless to say, this newsletter could not exist without the incredible work and foundation laid by Hajer. Vintage Arab is an incredible podcast, and if you follow any of the social media accounts, you’ll get an amazing dose of fun facts, nostalgia, and musical appreciation. And Hajer herself is such a friendly person, I was very excited to ask her about her go-to songs:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I recently fell into the Rosalía phenomenon despite a passion for reggaeton since childhood. So I discovered really late "La Noche de Anoche" with Bad Bunny. It's really my song of the moment.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Ah difficult question..."Wayak" by Farid El Atrache, who has been with me for a very long time and who concentrates everything in him. I think I also have to go with Abdel Halim's "Awal Marra". Whenever I feel down, I put the song on full blast and try to ignore everything and everyone around me.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
I have two homes, so I would say "Tekwit" by Ali Riahi, a monumental Tunisian song from the 50s, and "Pas le temps pour les regrets" by the French rap group Lunatic, which is based on a sample of the song "Zahrat El Mada'En" by Fayrouz (in other words, the song intersects with everything that is culturally important to me).
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
It's a difficult question and I'm sorry to hesitate but there are two.
I learned classical Arabic primarily by ear, and music had an important role to play. When I was young, I learned very early, "Rita and the Rifle" by Marcel Khalifa, based on a famous poem by Mahmodu Darwish. I was under 10 if I remember correctly. I still know the lyrics.
As a teenager, I learned “Amel Hayati” by Oum Kalthoum by heart The place this song occupies for my family really helped me to literally learn its music because we stayed silent when we listened to it.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Any song by French rapper Jul. But since I have to choose one, I'd say "Pim pom" with Shay.
Big shout out to Hajer for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Hajer’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Stream the podcast here and be sure to follow all of the cool Vintage Arab content on Twitter and Instagram!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
LIBERATION - Tamtam
Caribby - Soula featuring 77
Inta Habibi - Nej
Nomad - Bedouin Burger
ELGHIRA - MC Artisan featuring Didine Canon 16
Ruthless Ma Ber7am - Bea Kadri
Lawah Lawah (Rework) - Mr. ID featuring Aziz Sahmaoui and Yadee
Fatra w Hat3di - Resha Costa featuring Samara Now
Mesahebni - Molotof featuring Cheen
ANSAKI - Issam Alnajjar
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Adelantah - Chris Palace
UN BAILECITO - BK featuring Chesca and Lennis Rodriguez
LMALY - Naïka
Rosa Melo - La Gabi
Me Robaste El Sueño - Martina Camargo
Que Me Guaye - Yeisi MR featuring Leo RD
Qué Agonía - Yuridia featuring Ángela Aguilar
Villano Antillano: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 51 - Bizarrap featuring Villano Antillano
Por Favor - Leanys
La Jumpa - Arcangel featuring Bad Bunny
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Fame - Irene Cara
I’m on My Way - Christine McVie
Creepin’ - Metro Boomin featuring The Weeknd and 21 Savage
Good Time Spells - snny featuring RAKEL
Sandbox - Free Party
Move - Lynda Dawn
Ikebe - Yemi Alade featuring Zlatan
CENTIPEDE - Amindi featuring Kenny Mason
Change - The War On Drugs
Bonita Applebum - LION BABE
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
In Jounieh, residents are devastated by extent of flood damage - Suzaane Baaklini, L’Orient Today
Local authorities continue to trade blame for the flooding and compensation for the victims remains to be seen. Still, the climate phenomenon experienced on Monday is likely to recur.
Beirut 'neighbourhood watch' echoes troubled past - Timour Azhari, Issam Abdallah, and Tom Perry, Reuters
In the darkness of Beirut's unlit streets, men wielding batons and torches are taking security into their own hands in an initiative they hope will keep neighbourhoods safe but critics see as a worrying echo of Lebanon's troubled past.
Lebanon Crisis Means 'No Football This Year' For World Cup Fans - Jonathan Sawaya, Agence France-Presse
Football fans looking for a respite from Lebanon's crushing economic crisis have found a challenge in simply watching the World Cup after the bankrupt state failed to pay for broadcasting rights.
Amid economic crisis, long-forgotten artistries come back to life in Lebanon - Nada Ghosn, L’Orient Today
Small trades that were on the verge of extinction in recent years are re-emerging. The historic district of Burj Hammoud, a craftsmanship hub, is an example of the survival of artistry in Lebanon.
Did Lebanon lose its cultural spark? - Dana Hourany, NOW Lebanon
“We expected the cultural life to be back but not to this extent. It was a positive surprise to see It was interesting to see that people remained passionate about theater despite the financial crisis.”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Finding my Iraq, 31 years after I left - Dalia Dawood, The New Arab
The diaspora exists in perpetual tension between longing for and romanticising their homeland. Is it like how it's told in stories? Returning to Iraq for the first time 31 years after leaving, Dalia Dawood explores these questions of dual identity.
The never-ending cycle - Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss
“Despite all the conflict, violence, and injustice that exists all over the world, I believe this feeling, the one described by my friends, is a feeling that is truly unique to Palestine. The feeling that at any moment, your life, or the life of your friends, your family, your neighbor, or even your co-worker can be taken in an instant.”
Libyans, divided by conflict, unite around football - Jihad Dorgham, Agence France-Presse
"I think this has a huge effect on our morale and is wiping away some of the negative things that have been weighing us down with the current political situation."
Ecstatic Morocco fans say World Cup progression ‘for all Arabs’ - Usaid Siddiqui and Sorin Furcoi, Al Jazeera
Morocco make it into the round of 16 for the first time since 1986 and only for the second time in their history.
Saudi Arabia resumes executions of drug offenders after two-year reprieve - Sarah Dadouch, The Washington Post
Twenty men were put to death for drug-related crimes earlier this month as the Saudi government appeared to backtrack on a vow to limit the use of capital punishment.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Cinema has failed Arab women and refugees. It’s time things changed - Sally El Hosaini, The Guardian
Hollywood has its gallery of stereotypes, but in her new film The Swimmers director Sally El Hosaini saw a chance to make heroes out of modern, multifaceted Arab women.
Omar Souleyman Just Wants you to Have a Good Time - Jad Salfiti, GQ Middle East
There’s a chance that Omar Souleyman never really saw the type of success he enjoys today coming. In truth, Syrian wedding singer to global icon feted by the worlds of music and fashion is not a common trajectory. But then it’s surprising what you can achieve when the vision is pure, and legacy never did come by doing anything conventional.
‘Borders don’t make sense’: A musician’s tribute to a Levantine memory - Vera Sajrawi, +972 Magazine
Haya Zaatry speaks with +972 about how her great-grandmother inspired her new album, the challenges of promoting diversity in an oppressed society, and the importance of Palestinian women creating their own art.
'We're survivors': Lina Geoushy, the photographer confronting the stigma of sexual violence in Egypt - Jessie Williams, The New Arab
Gender-based violence remains endemic in Egypt. Abuse is often swept under the carpet, with perpetrators shielded from justice. Through her photography, Lina Geoushy is bringing this issue to light by highlighting the forgotten stories of women.
Hawsawi: Uncovering the history of Saudi Arabia’s Afro-Arab Hausa community - Adama J Munu, Middle East Eye
A new documentary looks at the west African Muslim communities who escaped British colonialism and settled in the Arabian Peninsula in the 19th century.
📚 Other Reads 📚
A Somali community in London braces for the cost-of-living crisis - Edna Mohamed, Al Jazeera
In Hackney, a group of women meet twice a week to share food, chat and work out how to navigate the UK’s expanding economic woes.
Inaki Williams: ‘My parents risked their lives to provide for me and Nico – World Cup is for them’ - Dermot Corrigan, The Athletic
“Having the opportunity to play in this World Cup is a dream come true. I hope I can enjoy it and take Ghana as far as possible.”
How Aisha Wahab Beat The Naysayers To Become California's First Muslim State Senator - Rowaida Abdelaziz, HuffPost
Wahab tapped into what she learned growing up in the foster care system to win her race and become the first Afghan American elected to the state Senate.
Balancing Hope and Despair in Turbulent Times - Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, The New York Times
As long as we do the best we can, and appreciate life’s fullness, we will leave the world a better place for our children.
A resurging union movement must reckon with anti-Blackness - Brenton Zola, Prism
Black workers have always been part of the labor movement, but unions must prioritize anti-racist practices and make room for Black leadership.