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Guest Feature: Massoud Hayoun
It’s that time of year where everyone rolls out their “Best of 2020” lists in music. Whether you look to Pitchfork, NPR, Billboard, Rolling Stone, or other places, one thing is clear: music is totally subjective! Dua Lipa is both in the top 5 in one list and also barely in the top 50 in another list. Some songs (namely “WAP”) consistently rose to the top across all lists. While 2020 was and continues to be a challenging year for so many reasons, the year brought so much interesting, groundbreaking music along the way for all the moments we needed to laugh, cry, celebrate, commiserate, etc.
On the note about 2020 in music, Spotify recently came out with their 2020 Wrapped feature which puts together personalized stats based on your listening habits. I look forward to this each year and love seeing how I spent my year musically. Here were my top five songs in 2020 according to Spotify (and frankly, it’s too on-brand):
Borders - SAINt JHN featuring Lenny Kravitz
THE NEWS - PARTYNEXTDOOR
Einy - Hamid Al Shaeri featuring Hisham Abbas
Baddek Enayah - Mohammed Assaf featuring Gente de Zona
Crush - Yuna featuring Usher
We have so much to get into today. I’m very excited to welcome our next guest feature this week: Massoud Hayoun!
Massoud is an award-winning author and journalist based in Los Angeles. His book, When We Were Arabs, is a decolonial memoir of his grandparents and a political theory of Arabness and identity that won a prestigious 2020 Arab American Book Award and was an NPR best book of the year. Before spending several years as a journalist for Al Jazeera, he was a reporter in Beijing and Hong Kong, where he covered international diplomacy and business. You can find out more about the book at WhenWeWereArabs.Com or read his rare, old-manish tweets at @mhayoun.
More importantly, Massoud continues to be an important voice for the community, an incredibly thoughtful human being, and an empathetic and caring friend. He’s also a huge audiophile, and I was excited to learn more about his taste in music:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“It’s a War” by Blackbird Blackbird. It’s an old song that I discovered again after trying to recall it for years, Googling shards of lyrics. Or “WAP” because it came as a swift, invigorating slap in the face at a thoroughly miserable, unsexy, artless time when humankind really needed it.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Myth” or “Space Song” by Beach House: They are so beautiful, it hurts. I feel blessed to be a Beach House contemporary — both for the lyrics and the sound, which are like a spiritual bath to me, no matter the mood.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Ahwak” by Abdel Halim Hafez, of course. I talk about that song in When We Were Arabs — the combination of more endemic and Western influences is an anthem of the sort of colonial psychology I portray in the book. I’d also have to choose “Les Feuilles Mortes” by Yves Montand, because it’s a heart-rending song about love, death, and separation that Oscar and Daida, my grandparents who raised me, danced to at my bar mitzvah. Also, anything by Amr Diab and Nawal El Zoghby, although I don’t listen to them much anymore, because they also featured prominently at my bar mitzvah and other stand-out moments of my youth.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Ya Khabar” or “Beomri Koulou Habaytak” by Warda, and I’m a little proud of it to be honest, because they’re both around 30 minutes long. I consider this newsletter to be the only prize I’ll get for this kind of memorization, so thank you Danny Hajjar ya akhi el 3ziz.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Big shout out to Massoud for joining and sharing his song selections! All of Massoud’s songs will be included with this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend buying his book (also a great gift for the holidays).
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Arab Flows (Middle Eastern & North African artists) 🎧
Jazirat AlKanz - Makimakkuk
Dinosaur - Cairokee
Qareb - Molotof featuring Double Zuksh, Hafy, and Young Zuka
Esaal Alaya - Layla Mourad
Out of Here - Meryem Saci
D’accord - Abdeelgha4 featuring Ily
Faham - MaMan featuring Rotation
Kelma Wa7da - Gabs Masr
Enta Eih - Nancy Ajram
Sketch - Nour Khan
🎤 Las Vibras (Latinx & Hispanic artists) 🎤
La Bamba - Selena
Miedito o Qué? - Ovy On The Drums featuring KAROL G and Danny Ocean
Tus Ojos - David Jimenez featuring Lorena Santos and Calero
mé - riela
PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ - ROSALÍA
Memorias Caramelas - La Doña featuring Coto
Pa’ Que Retozen - Tego Calderon
Hecha Pa’ Mi - Boza
Bonito y Sabroso - Beny Moré
Waiting For Tonight - Jennifer Lopez
🎼 Other Music 🎼
Who Shot Ya? - The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy
Kakageste - Schillah
CALLIGRAPHY - Saba
That’s The Way Love Goes - Janet Jackson
What About Your Friends - TLC
If I Ain’t Got You (Remix) - Alicia Keys featuring Usher
Leila - Miami Horror
Grounded - Ari Lennox
Mi Amor - Whozu
Oh, What A World 2.0 - Kacey Musgraves
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Four months on, Beirut blast survivors struggle to rebuild - Abby Sewell and Kareem Chehayeb, The New Humanitarian
Four months after a deadly blast tore through Beirut’s port, some residents of the Lebanese capital say the help they have received has been sporadic, late, and insufficient – despite hundreds of millions of dollars of pledged international aid and the fanfare surrounding it.
Lebanon’s top university hikes tuition 160 percent, citing crisis - Timour Azhari, Al Jazeera
The American University of Beirut’s president says he aims to keep the university afloat amid the country’s growing economic crisis, which has no end in sight.
Beirut silos at heart of debate about remembering port blast - Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press
A government-commissioned study in the wake of the disaster says the 50-year-old silos could collapse at any moment and should be demolished, sparking an emotional debate among the city’s residents over how to preserve the memory of the tragedy.
Lebanon’s prime minister charged over deadly Beirut blast - Tamara Qiblawi and Ghazi Balkiz, CNN
A Lebanese judge has charged caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers with criminal neglect over the huge explosion at Beirut's port that killed more than 200 people this summer.
The recent Beirut explosion revealed the fragility of LGBT+ rights - Omar Sfeir, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Life in Lebanon after the Beirut explosion will never be the same again - particularly for the LGBT+ community.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Midwestern filmmaker explores Middle Eastern identity through country western music - Abdirahman Mohamed, Sahan Journal
Moheb Soliman’s video short will stream as one of 60 films in this week’s Arab Film Fest Collab.
We need to talk about what 'foodies' are doing to hummus - Kareem Shaheen, The National
Creativity in cooking is not a crime, until it is.
The Iraqi British Creative Taking A Road Less Travelled - Rand Al Hadethi, GQ Middle East
Dalia Al-Dujaili on the holographic cultural identity of second-generation immigrants.
"Many, many people say 'thank you for working with corona patients' even on the bus," Samah Ibrahim Tuneiub says. "I feel very good inside. It helps me respect myself also."
Yemeni woman makes epic eight-month journey to reach UK - Diane Taylor, The Guardian
29-year-old Noor, who crossed eight borders, two deserts and one sea to get to the UK to claim asylum, spoke for the first time about her incredible journey.
🎶 Music & Culture 🎶
Meet Sama’ Abdulhadi, the DJ championing the Arab world’s music underground - Cassidy George, Document Journal
“Either I break techno, or techno breaks me.” Two years after her viral Boiler Room set, Palestine's 'queen of techno' is further amplifying the singular sounds of her homeland, even with nightlife on pause.
‘An unfinished masterpiece’: Revisiting Selena’s landmark crossover album, ‘Dreaming of You,’ at 25 - Suzy Exposito, Daniel Hernandez, Fidel Martinez, and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, Los Angeles Times
In light of the new Netflix series about the Tejano queen, four Latinx contributors at The Times revisited the album, as well as their own memories of Selena.
Got ’em by the throat: How Nike’s SNKRS app keeps the sneaker game in a vice grip - Wosny Lambre, The Athletic
For most of the people who use the app, its frustrating machinations occur on a weekly basis. But it’s a viable option, as coming into possession of a must-have Nike product at retail pricing is a near impossibility.
How Francis Ford Coppola Got Pulled Back In to Make ‘The Godfather, Coda’ - David Itzkoff, The New York Times
The director and cast, including Al Pacino, Sofia Coppola and Andy Garcia, look back at making “Part III,” which has been re-edited (and retitled) for its 30th anniversary.
The Year Megan Thee Stallion Became a Symbol - Rawiya Kameir, Pitchfork
In a time marked by a series of collective and personal tragedies, Megan turned “protect Black women” into a rallying cry and stood for something bigger than herself.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Trump Prepares to Kill Brandon Bernard Even As Jurors Say His Life Should Be Spared - Liliana Segura, The Intercept
Brandon Bernard was executed by the U.S. government last night, despite calls to commute his sentence, and was the youngest person in the U.S. to receive a death sentence in nearly 70 years for a crime committed when he was an adolescent. The Trump administration has disproportionately targeted Black men for the death penalty, and Trump himself becomes the first U.S. president in 131 years to use the federal death penalty after losing reelection. (*This story was published prior to last night)
Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic - Abha Bhattarai and Hannah Denham, The Washington Post
Retailers, police departments and loss prevention researchers are reporting an uptick in theft of necessities like food and hygiene products.
The Salam School Stars Are Bigger Than Basketball - Habeeba Husain, SLAM
Wanis Shalaby worked with the greater Muslim community to establish a girls’ team that could eventually play a full schedule and host home games at the Islamic school’s campus.
Yamiche Alcindor Wants America to See Its Flaws - Mattie Kahn, Glamour
The PBS NewsHour correspondent on covering Trump, writing her book, and rejecting “both sides” journalism.
How ICE Became The Face Of Trump’s Immigration Crackdown And Where It Goes From Here After Biden Is In Charge - Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News
"ICE put their MAGA hat on. They’re gonna try to take it off come January, but I don’t know how successful that will be."
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