Guest Feature: Kazdoura
Thanks for reading Sa'alouni El Nas! If you haven’t already, subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Two things I want to share before we dive in.
First, Skin Deep Magazine put together this incredible series of stories and art centring under-explored areas of Palestinian life and liberation. I highly recommend checking out these stories, available in English and in Arabic.
Second, yesterday a 42-year-old food delivery driver named Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein held up a bank in Beirut demanding that he be allowed to withdraw money from his bank account so that he could afford to pay for his father’s medical bills. Lebanon is now in its third year of collapse, and economic free-fall so great that it has forced people into desperation. Banks across the country have had strict withdrawal limits on foreign currency, deeply affecting millions of people who haven’t been able to access their own savings.
During the standoff, people gathered around the bank and demonstrated in support of Bassam and against the greed of the banks. No one was injured during this standoff.
All I could do was empathize with Bassam. And I had this same exact thought that my friend Lina Mounzer conveyed:
You can read more about what happened yesterday here.
Thanks, friends. Now, let’s get into it. I am incredibly excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Kazdoura!
Kazdoura is a Toronto-based band that serves up Arabic fusion with a modern twist. Equal parts nostalgia and reinvention, their style is a cross-cultural blend of Eastern and Western music that blends old-world Arabic classics with jazz, funk, electro-pop, and disco. This project was founded in the summer of 2020, quickly finding success online, where their videos have collected more than 3 million views on TikTok. Singer Leen is a newcomer from Syria whose passion for classical Arabic music led her to collaborate with jazz musician Johnny who has a Lebanese background in order introduce this fusion music to a Canadian audience.
In October 2021, Kazdoura released their debut single "Wain", song of their EP, which was just released in June 2022. Kazdoura has been performing extensively in Toronto and Montreal and festivals like the Toronto Palestine Film Festival and the Taste of the Middle East.
If you’re looking for chill vibes and a band of many fun sounds, look no further than this duo right here. Kazdoura is INCREDIBLE, and they are only just beginning! Trust me on this, you need to go stream their EP now because it’ll easily be amongst your top played albums of the year (my favorite song from the EP is “Titi Titi” personally).
Between Leen’s sultry voice and Johnny’s prowess with jazz instruments, it’s hard not to love the music they’ve created. And it’s cool to see from where they draw inspiration:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Leen: “Ya Om Oyoun El Soud”. I heard it recently from an Iraqi singer and I am trying to learn how to drum the beat and sing at the same time)
Johnny: Right now I’ve been listening to “Cherokee” by Charlie Parker and trying to learn his beautiful melodic language.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Leen: “Numb” by Men I Trust. I could listen to this song any time of the day and specially when I ride a bus.
Johnny: It would be “Hashish” by Ibrahim Maalouf off his “40 Melodies” album. It’s groovy, emotional and hits you hard
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Leen: All of Karem Mahmoud’s songs, especially “Ennaby”. This song reminds me of my father when he used to sing during friends and family gatherings and we would listen to it in the car when travelling .
Johnny: “Sa’alouni El Nas” by Fairuz.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Johnny: Almost every song off of Tenacious D’s “Pick of Destiny” album. Specifically “Beezleboss” because I’ve watched the movie so many times and have sang it with friends a countless amount of times growing up. It’s really funny lol. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is another one. And many many Beatles songs.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Leen: Many! One of them is “Warni Warni” by Omar Suleyman and all Ruby’s songs.
Big shout out to Kazdoura for joining and sharing their song selections! All of Kazdoura’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Go stream Kazdoura immediately wherever you listen to music, and be sure to follow them on Instagram and TikTok!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Honey Butter - Nadine El Roubi
Mali Yana - Minerva featuring Uzishettan
Wave - Molotof featuring Sadat
Mazalni - Djalil Palermo
Milliers - Sandra Sahi
Haja Ma Doum - Djouher featuring Xena Elshazlii
Cappuccino - 7-Toun
INSAK - Tamtam
Nos El Bahr - Tayar
Lama Bagay - Hassan Abouelrouss
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Quien Dijo - Ivy Queen
Sin Perse - Jossef featuring Mariah Angeliq and Brray
Oye Mi Canto (Original Version) - N.O.R.E. featuring Tego Calderon, Nina Sky, Gemstar, and Big Mato
Somos Iguales - Ozuna featuring Tokischa, Louchie Lou, and Michie One
El Que Espere - Anitta featuring Maluma
Quebranto - Neck Talese featuring Briela Ojeda
Aprendiendo por las Malas - Doris Anahí
Soltera - Chesca
Por Ti - LUANA
Shot - Nino Augustine
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
I Love You, I Honestly Love You - Olivia Newton-John
Ashawo - Fireboy DML
Trillions - Alicia Keys featuring Brent Faiyaz
Bluff - Ms Banks
Shaye - Magixx
Can’t Be Us - Headie One featuring Abra Cadabra and Bandokay
look up - Joy Oladokun
meet me in brooklyn - Yaya Bey
I’m With You - Avril Lavigne
Hoodie - Ari Lennox
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Public sector strike cripples cash-strapped Lebanon - Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
The protest of the civil servants who form the backbone of government signals a further erosion of Lebanon’s public institutions, already struggling to afford their most basic operating costs.
Lebanese alternative scene shaken by Fatima Fouad’s case - Lyana Alameddine and Caroline Hayek, L’Orient Today
The 27-year-old activist accused two musicians of drugging and raping her on New Year’s Eve 2019 (Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault).
In Beirut, taxi app Bolt spreads despair in an already devastated economy - Emma Scolding, Coda Story
From Durban to London, Bolt drivers have gone on strike to demand better conditions. But in Lebanon, the app operates with impunity, thriving amid chaos.
In Lebanon's bread crisis, anti-Syrian refugee racism flares - Dana Hourany, The New Arab
As living conditions worsen in cash-strapped Lebanon a new wave of anti-refugee sentiment has swept the country, with Syrian refugees blamed for the country's problems amid growing calls for their repatriation.
‘Better late than never’: how Brian Eno and David Byrne finally laid a musical ghost to rest - Kate Hutchinson, The Guardian
When the pair sampled Lebanese singer Dunya Younes for their groundbreaking album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, they assumed the original recording was cleared. Four decades on they all meet up to find out the real story.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
A Gaza mother mourns her only child killeda missile in the latest Israeli-Palestinian fighting - Wajjeh Abu Zarefah, Paul Goldman, and Corky Siemaszko, NBC News
A strong bombardment shook Najwa Abu Hamadeh's home in the crowded Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Saturday. She soon discovered it had killed her son, Khalil.
Influencers are whitewashing Syria’s regime, with help from sponsors - Sophie Fullerton, The Washington Post
Over the past few years, the regime has been earnestly recruiting YouTubers and influencers to help burnish the country’s image.
Yemen's displaced people move from war to flooding in devastated Marib - Anonymous Correspondent, Middle East Eye
In the Yemeni province's camps, displaced people tell MEE that flooding has hit them harder than war.
Egyptians are sweating so other countries can stay cool - Tim McDonnell, Quartz
For countries that produce a lot of their own gas, the question becomes: Keep it to make electricity at home, or sell it for a big profit abroad? Egypt, for one, is leaning to the latter.
This French-Tunisian Brand is Upcycling Your Arab DaSlipper Into a Hypebeast-Approved Shoe - Yassine Harris, Mille World
Emerging footwear brand A-3, the family business that launched a little over three-years-ago, has fashion running through its veins.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Arab pop music meets 80s video game aesthetics in Moath Bin Hafez’s pixel art creations - Olivia Hingley, It’s Nice That
Discovering that he needed visuals to accompany his remixes, the artist began creating looping pixel videos to match his nostalgic, video game-inspired music.
House of Afandi is Bringing House Music to Jordan’s Dancefloors - Charlie-George Berger, GQ Middle East
This Jordanian collective and music label is bringing life to the Ammani clubbing community.
Palestinian pop singer Bashar Murad struggles for freedom and equality on two fronts - Daniel Estrin, NPR
Daniel Estrin speaks with Bashar Murad about his music, his activism, and how anti-LGBTQ events that unfolded during the summer have added to the complexities that can come with being a voice for both the Palestinian and the LGBTQ communities.
Farah Elle on her new album ‘Fatima’ and life between Libya and Meath - Lauren Murphy, The Sunday Times
The R&B singer was 18 months old when her family fled Gaddafi’s Libya for Meath. She tells Lauren Murphy what it means to be both proudly Libyan and Irish — and how her heritage enriches her music.
French Montana Has Never Felt So Free - Bianca Alysse, Esquire
Two decades into a career of many highs and almost as many lows, the Moroccan-American rapper is more at ease than ever before.
📚 Other Reads 📚
An American Catastrophe - Caitlin Dickerson, The Atlantic
The secret history of the U.S. government’s family-separation policy.
Serena Williams Says Farewell to Tennis On Her Own Terms—And In Her Own Words - Serena Williams, Vogue
“I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis. It’s like a taboo topic. It comes up, and I start to cry. I think the only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist.”
‘There’s just no escape’: As temperatures soar, should air conditioning for tenants be a human rights issue? - Ghada Alsharif, Toronto Star
Heat waves disproportionately impact Toronto’s vulnerable low-income communities who have little to no access to air conditioning.
Lewis Hamilton: The F1 Superstar on Racism, His Future, and the Shocker That Cost Him a Championship - Chris Heath, Vanity Fair
The maverick driver can handle anything. But spiders. And traffic.
Racist symbol or historical reminder? The debate over the Mass. state seal. - Malcolm Gay, The Boston Globe
A special commission voted unanimously to recommend replacing the state seal and motto, a victory for Indigenous members and activists and a dramatic turning point in a 40-year fight.
Thanks for reading Sa'alouni El Nas! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.