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Guest Feature: Laura Albast
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Okay friends, we’re going to go ahead and just get right into it this week.
I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Laura Albast!
Laura is a Palestinian-Syrian-American journalist, editor, and photographer based in Washington, DC.
Her publications and appearances include The Washington Post, The New Arab, Al Jazeera, Arab American News, Doha News, TRT World, KPFA and other outlets. She also regularly contributes commentary about the Middle East for the Black Star Network. She is also an Arabic/English translator who has completed dozens of projects in video, audio, and print for outlets including Bloomberg Businessweek, The Nation, and Skin Deep magazine — she guest edited a special issue of the magazine titled Palestine: Ways of Being.
Laura has always strived to share knowledge about the Palestinian struggle, while documenting how so many communities are subject to erasure. She uses her media expertise to train social justice organizers.
Her Arabic poetry has been published in Romman Cultural, Sekka Magazine, and the Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Anthology. She holds degrees from the American University of Beirut and Boston University, and is currently the Senior Editor of Digital Strategy and Communications at the Institute for Palestine Studies-USA.
Talk about an incredibly gifted writer, editor, and human being! I had the honor of writing for the Institute of Palestine Studies, and Laura’s editorial skills significantly helped make that piece stronger. And on top of that, she is a dear friend who cares deeply about the success of our community, the preservation of our cultures and traditions, and the humanity of Palestinians everywhere.
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“Est-ce que tu m’aimes?” By GIMS. There are only two non-Arabic songs in my list, and both are by GIMS! The lyrics in this one are honestly painful and I hope no one experiences that kind of falling out of love, but mashallah this man’s voice is divine, I don’t have to relate to listen to him.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I tend to write poetry when I'm angry, read books when I'm sad, and listen to music when I'm happy or nostalgic. Lots of emotional rituals! There is no in-between: if I have music on, I'm probably dancing or in trance, definitely not drowning. A song that really encompasses this combination is “Wahshani Bladi” (وحشاني بلادي) by Carole Samaha.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Umm Kulthum's “Enta Omri” (انت عمري).
Let me give you a picture (literally, see below) of what my "temporary" home looks like. My walls are draped with prints of Umm Kulthum, Dalida, Sabah, Asmahan, Fayrouz, and Samia Gamal. I grew up in an environment that saw music as vital to belonging — whether a quiet night of classics or an upbeat evening of belly-dancing and dabke. When I was a child, our family gatherings consisted of fish Fridays: my late grandfather would buy it fresh from the market on the corniche, and it would be cooked to a crisp by teta. In the evening, she would gather the family in the garden, put on an Umm Kulthum cassette, prepare tea with maramiya, and listen to my mom and uncle sing along – my mother used to be a soloist in a children’s choir. Perhaps this was teta’s attempt to recreate the memory of her older brother and mother singing old Palestinian ballads in Syria. Maybe in another life — one in which the Nakba didn’t chase us to the refugee camps of Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon — we would have been vocalists, dancers, and poets living in al-Safiriyya in Yafa.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
I used to be a member of Siwar youth choir led by Lebanese maestro, Nabih el- Khatib. I also used to perform a lot of Fayrouz songs at events and gatherings when I was in college in Beirut (shout out to the Music club at AUB!). Because of that, I know the words to so many classics. I’m also a lover of Arabic poetry, which was often used as lyrics for classical tarab. Nizar Qabbani is my favorite — I know all the words to his poem, “Qare’at El Fingan” (قارئة الفنجان) sung by Abdelhalim Hafez. But, if you were to ask me to sing something right now, I’ll break into “Moukawem” (مقاوم) by Julia Boutros. It’s currently my anthem, fitting for a Palestinian.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Listen, this isn’t an ad for FIFA World Cup 2022, but a single from the tournament soundtrack really hypes me up — probably because GIMS is involved. It’s called “Arhbo”.
Un salam ou un sourire!
Big shout out to Laura for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Laura’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Be sure to go check out Laura on Twitter and her beautiful photography!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
CLONES - Lana Lubany
Minni - Bahjat
Taji - Nubi
ELGHIRA - Mc Artisan featuring Didine Canon 16
Ena w Lil - NORDO
Paranoia - Xena Elshazlii featuring Ouzzy
Syrian Cypher - Big Hass featuring Assasi, Moudy Al Arabe, Chyno with a Y?, HWS, OBAYDAH, Sarbasst, and Rayan
Murder - Aya Senusi
Farta - Skinnyvibez featuring Professor Z and Hazan
Murder Your Show - Rhita Nattah
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Todo Lo Que Se Fue - Dread Mar I
Frío - Nicki Nicole
Ulala - Myke Towers featuring Daddy Yankee
Marianela (Que Pasa) - HUGEL featuring Lirico En La Casa and Merk & Kremont
AMNESIA - Ingratax
CONTINGENTE - Junior H
Desacatá - Ptazeta featuring L-Gante
Ojos Rojos - Leo Bash
PASARLA BIEN - Crissleger
Por Deporte - Paulo Londra
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Diarabi - Khruangbin & Vieux Farka Touré
Te Amo - Ria Sean featuring Yseult
Primal Design - Maina Doe
Konibaje - Skales
Tamina - Kady
I Know You Care - SOMOH
Insensitive - Tamera
On My Way - Emotional Oranges
Do It Right - Don Toliver
So What - Abigail Asante
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Why did Pelé visit Beirut a week before Lebanon’s Civil War erupted? - Farah-Silvana Kanaan and Mohamad El Chamaa, L’Orient Today
With the FIFA World Cup underway, Farah and Mohamad revisit a moment of magic from Lebanon’s football history: When Pelé came to visit.
Lebanon bank holdups: Who is the real criminal? - Nizar Ghanem and Alex Ray, Al Jazeera
Lebanon’s bank hold ups are the result of lawlessness created by banks, not desperate depositors.
The Disputed Border Where Every Shepherd Is Seen as a Potential Spy - Raja Abdulrahim, The New York Times
Lebanese herders say that Israel crosses an ill-defined frontier to abduct and interrogate them. Israel accuses the herders of espionage on behalf of Hezbollah.
The drunken, rumored history of Beirut’s famed doudou shot - Chelsea Dagher, L’Orient Today
The shot is a favorite among bar patrons in Lebanon, but its exact origins remain a mystery. Chelsea set out to exhume this elusive history, and discovered a savory mix of rumor and urban legend, as told by Beirut’s most grizzled bartenders.
Depreciating Lebanese pound fuels inflation as country's financial losses mount - Dena Kamel, The National
Lebanon's financial sector is 'too big to bail', with financial losses exceeding $72 billion, or more than three times the GDP in 2021, lender says.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Why the World Cup Belongs in the Middle East - Abdullah Al-Arian, The New York Times
This year’s tournament is a triumph for football’s millions of fans in the Arab world.
The price of leaving Gaza - Doaa Alremeili, Mondoweiss
My freedom ticket was not the mere $500 I paid to leave. They charged me 29 years of my life.
Atlas Lions’ Eyes Burn Brightly, but Their Future May Be Dark - Farah Abdessamad, New Lines Magazine
The story behind a once-formidable big cat now facing extinction.
Saudi World Cup win over Argentina unites divided Mideast in celebration - Sarah Dadouch, The Washington Post
The shock that reverberated around the world when Saudi Arabia beat Argentina in Tuesday’s World Cup upset quickly turned to a wave of euphoric joy not just in the kingdom, but across the region.
Deformities and death matches: Fallujah’s forgotten children - Saoud Khalaf, The New Arab
A US video game developer is planning the release of a long-delayed title which insensitively recreates the gruesome battle that left a generation of children born deformed in Iraq's Fallujah 20 years after the illegal invasion.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Portrayals of Latines — both in Latin America and in the United States — are overwhelmingly (and violently!) white.
Dynamic Acoustic Duo Ÿuma Allies with Tunisia and Derja - Melissa Chemam, The Markaz Review
If you haven’t yet discovered this tantalizing Tunisian duo, Ÿuma consists of Sabrine Jenhani and Ramy Zoghlami, two voices and a guitar — a “minimalist folk universe,” as they describe it, in contrast with today’s Arab urban productions.
Ukrainian-Lebanese artist Maro fuses pop and angst to find his own sound - Nasri Atallah, Esquire Middle East
Maro takes inspiration from his idol Justin Bieber's YouTube to stardom journey.
Esraa Warda is decolonising dance and reviving the rebellious roots of Rai - Dalia Al-Dujaili, AZEEMA
Esraa’s dancing, along with Cheikha Rabia’s vocals – the iconic Algerian folk singer – is as much interested in preserving the slowly declining visibility of marginalised Algerian culture as it is in empowering herself and her students.
Better Than Revenge: Swifties Help Expose Ticketmaster’s Monopoly - Krista Brown, Rolling Stone
Music industry behemoth price-gouged fans for decades; it now faces reckoning.
📚 Other Reads 📚
‘When You Win, You’re a French Player. When You Lose, You’re Not.’ - Andrew Gastelum, Sports Illustrated
France’s relationship with its diverse soccer-playing population is sometimes fraught, sometimes not. World Cup performance is a big part of the equation.
Yunus Musah Is From Many Places, but Just Found His Home - Mirin Fader, The Ringer
How did a rising soccer star from four different countries choose to play for the U.S. men’s national team? By looking within.
How gun culture and anti-LGBTQ hate came together in Colorado Springs - Heather Digby Parton, Salon
We don't know exactly what drove this gunman — but we know what's making America more dangerous for LGBTQ people.
A year in, the Taliban escalates its war against girls’ education in Afghanistan - Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times
“We worked hard, spent so much money on this and they’re so intelligent. And now they’re supposed to just sit at home? Every time I think about it I get a headache.”
One-on-one with Jayson Tatum: On becoming a superstar, Jay-Z, and being a basketball dad - Adam Himmelsbach, The Boston Globe
Jayson Tatum reflected on how quickly his time in Boston has gone by.