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Guest Feature: Kim Ghattas
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Happy holidays to those of you celebrating! And for those of you who don’t observe any holidays this time of year, I hope you’re able to get some time off from work or life to rest up and recharge before we head into 2023!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Kim Ghattas!
Kim is an author and analyst with more than twenty years of experience in print and broadcast media, covering the Middle East, international affairs and US foreign policy. She is a contributing writer for the Atlantic magazine and host of the podcast show People Like Us. She has been published in the NYT, the Financial Times and others. She has reported for the BBC, the Financial Times and de Volkskrant and is a regular commentator on current affairs on CNN, NPR and other media.
She is the author of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Forty Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion and Collective Memory in the Middle East , a NYT notable book of 2020 and The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power, a NYT bestseller.
She serves on the board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut and chairs the board of directors of the organization of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ). She was born and raised in Beirut.
An insightful writer and incredibly thoughtful human being, it is a huge honor to have Kim this week to share some of the music that gets her going. And her podcast is phenomenal, I highly recommend it to everyone to check it out!
1. What is your favorite song right now?
The music for People Like Us! Absolutely love what Haig Papazian from Mashrou' Leila created for us as an original track for the podcast which launched in October. It's catchy, addictive, distinct but universal, Middle Eastern but global. His talent as a violinist, creator, designer, multi-disciplinary artist is simply stunning.
Each one of the Mashrou Leila members are artistic geniuses. I listen to their music a lot, and I wrote “Black Wave” with their music on a loop. We have a bonus episode with Haig to wrap the season which is available to listen to now.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Depends on what I'm feeling! Music I listen to becomes very much associated with a moment, a person, or a place.
When I'm writing, I'm always looking for music I can play on a loop, usually instrumental with something of a beat, like “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve, “Intro” by The xx, “Friendships” by Pascal Letoublon, “Moon” by Kid Francescoli and always, always a lot of Mashrou Leila.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Well, what can I say? I'm an 80's girl. I was just a kid then, it was the war, but on the drive to school and back, with my dad and my sisters, we would listen to the latest pop music on the radio and those songs have forever been seared in my mind as the equivalent of home, even though they're not by Lebanese artists. “Mandy” by Barry Manilow, “Slave to Love” by Bryan Ferry, “Wild World” by Yusuf / Cat Stevens, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Wherever I am, whenever I hear some of those songs, I'm propelled back to Beirut, at home with my parents, driving with my dad to school, or to the beach on quiet days, after school, for a few hours of seaside peace (after driving through checkpoints!) by the shimmery Mediterranean, in the perfect afternoon light of the late summer.
“Nikita” by Elton John reminds me of summer vacations in the Netherlands, my other home, as my mother is Dutch. My grandmother loved that song, and played it constantly, though she didnt' understand the words. Listening to it, I'm propelled back to the table in her dining room, chatting with her, and peaking into the sideboard where she always kept chocolates and chips for her grandchildren (and herself no doubt!) I live in Beirut again after ten years in the U.S. and I still love and listen to music from the 80's all the time, it still plays often on the radio. I think Lebanon has a thing for that era of pop music.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
So many, but “Ya Habibi, Ta'ala” by Asmahan always amazes me. I'm cheating a bit with this answer because I don't know all the words 100% but most of them. Such an avant garde song by a daring woman whose voice was one of the few to rival Umm Kulthum. Her story and possible role as a spy in WWII is still somewhat mysterious, despite the biography, “Asmahan's Secrets”.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
So many! I have a whole playlist of favorite songs that make me happy, get me going and dancing around the house. “Ain't No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, and “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd. I also have a whole 80's dancing music list, but I think I've embarrassed myself enough now!
Big shout out to Kim for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Kim’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Be sure to follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram, and check out the People Like Us podcast immediately!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Re7lak Menni - YemeKnight
Hobek Thawrat - Al-Qasar featuring Alsarah
Fuck a Fantasy - Bea Kadri
B - Nessyou
MAMA - Zaina Berri
Weld L3abd - Don Bigg featuring Teni and Hamid El Kasri
GAYA MAAKO EZAY - FL EX featuring Wingii
Champion - Stormy featuring Leil and Ramoon
3eesh Tarzan - Hamo Bika featuring Nour El Tot and Ali Adora
QUESTIONS - Koast
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Bellaka & Romantika - Chocolate Remix featuring Niña Dioz and El Licenciado
Eso Ya Fue - Wendy Sulca
Los del Vacile - ChocQuibTown
Embrujo - Jossman
109 Funk - Pau Mor
ALGO BONITO - iLe featuring Ivy Queen
CAFÉ - Junior Zamora featuring Lianna and El Arkeologo
Abril - Mariangela
party in my head (ur not invited) - Alaina Castillo
Plata Y Plomo - Moncho Chavea featuring Mala Rodriguez
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Girls Just Wanna Have Funds - Naira Marley
Senthololo - Senth
Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong - Houston
Solitude - Snakehips featuring BIA and Lucky Daye
Sorry - Jessiqa Jones
Fightin’ In The Club - I-20 featuring Chingy, 2 Chainz, and Lil Fate
Heaven Sent - Keyshia Cole
Luke Cage - JS x YD
Sideways - Little Simz
So Emotional - Whitney Houston
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Five Lebanese Christmas traditions — and a very cute Syrian one - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
From a gift-bearing little camel to a beautiful martyr-saint, we journey through Lebanon’s (and Syria’s) beloved Yuletide traditions.
Couple who each lost a sibling in Beirut blast plan to marry - Bassem Mroue, Associated Press
William Noun and Maria Fares met during a moment of grief two years ago after each of them lost a sibling in Beirut’s massive port blast. Their shared pain developed into a bittersweet love story: Earlier this month Noun proposed to Fares and she said yes.
Women in Lebanon continue their fight for accountability and justice - Alessandra Bajec, The New Arab
In the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion, one of the deadliest expressions of dysfunction of the Lebanese state, women are battling to hold the powerful to account for decades of endemic corruption and injustice.
Meet one of the Lebanese coaches of Qatar's Arab Fans' League - Nada Maucourant Atallah, The National
Die-hard football supporter Hussein Hammoud was one of hundreds from around the Arab world brought in to cheer for the host nation.
Women lack basics in crisis-hit Lebanon's crowded prisons - Aya Iskandarani, Agence France-Presse
Lebanese authorities have long struggled to care for the more than 8,000 people stuck in the country's jails. But three years of an unprecedented economic crisis mean even basics like medicines are lacking, while cash-strapped families struggle to support their jailed relatives.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
The Austere Beauty of Egypt’s Long-Distance Hiking Trails - Patrick Scott, The New York Times
Two new routes, managed by Bedouins, will help preserve long-overlooked natural wonders and a vanishing way of life.
The Emotional Complexity of Morocco’s World Cup Success - Kareem Shaheen, New Lines Magazine
Watching the first Arab team advance so far brought on unexpected feelings of wider affinity.
Syria rights monitor obtains death certificates of hundreds of detainees in Assad prisons - Elis Gjevori, Middle East Eye
Syrian Network for Human Rights reports Syrian government has registered forcibly disappeared persons as dead without notifying families.
Journalists’ Adversity in Yemen - Abu Bakr Batheeb, Fanack
Harsh conditions pressured many Yemeni journalists to flee either abroad to practise their jobs more freely or to relatively stable Yemeni governorates.
This Stateless Refugee Has To Be Deported, But He Has Nowhere To Go - Rowaida Abdelaziz and Hamed Ahmadi, HuffPost
Motaz Alhelou, born and raised in Gaza, is one of at least 200,000 people who are currently in the U.S. but don’t have a country to call their own.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Filming for Redemption: An Interview with Dina Amer - Lylla Younes, New Lines Magazine
Lylla sat down for an interview with Dina Amer, the writer and director of the film “You Resemble Me”
A Tunisian artist is hoping to keep the memories of migrants alive - Leila Fadel, Taylor Haney, Shelby Ben Brahim, and Claire Harbage, NPR
Mohsen Lihidheb's collection of seaworn shoes, clothing, and books honors the migrants who die crossing the Mediterranean.
Confronting Music’s Mental Health Crisis - Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork
Experts and artists including Santigold, Jeff Tweedy, and Denzel Curry trace a web of pressing issues while imagining the paths forward.
Netflix’s “Farha” Depicts Palestinian Struggle To Preserve History - Maya Mustafa, New Lines Magazine
A new film portraying the 1948 Nakba triggers generational trauma for Palestinians and a slander campaign by Nakba-deniers.
How niche rap stars quietly conquered 2022 - Sheldon Pearce, NPR
The prolific, enigmatic artists beating the streaming game from the sidelines.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Brittney Griner and the Role of Race in Diplomacy - Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
Griner’s release recalls the lessons of the effort to free Robert Goodman, an African American Navy navigator, from Syria.
The Billionaire Oligarch Who’s Enabling Haiti’s Murderous Gangs - James North, The New Republic
Businessman Gilbert Bigio is facing penalties for his alleged involvement with the violence that’s engulfed the country during Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s corrupt reign.
Young people are using the courts to hold the US government accountable for the climate crisis - Ray Levy Uyeda, Prism
Youth advocates are suing the government for its support of polluting industries and suppression of climate change proof.
Dying for your high: The untold exploitation and misery in America’s weed industry - Paige St. John and Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times
California has largely ignored the immigrant workers who harvest America’s weed. Their exploitation is one of the most overlooked narratives of the era of legal cannabis.
Wok wizardry has this Chinese Australian chef flying high on TikTok - Jess Eng, The Washington Post
Chinese Australian chef Vincent Lim's flying noodles creations and wok guides have helped catapult him to FoodTok stardom.