Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Maya Salam
Devastating wildfires have been raging through Algeria this week with no signs of stopping soon. Many people died trying to put out the fires, while families and others essentially remain trapped as the flames around them continue to spread.
I asked my good friend Rim-Sarah Alouane, herself Algerian, about what people can do to provide help and assistance to the people right now. Here are a few ways she suggested:
Rim-Sarah is collecting funds to buy medication and medical supplies to send to Algerians via Medical Hope, a healthcare association based in Toulouse, France. If you’d like to help or would like more information, please email Rim-Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a verified GoFundMe organized by Algerian diaspora in the United States where people can donate as well.
For those of you in France or in Europe, there is this PayPal campaign collecting donations for Algerians impacted by the wildfires.
Keep Algeria in your thoughts and please do whatever you can to raise awareness and help 🇩🇿
Okay my friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature this week: Maya Salam!
Maya is a Senior Staff Editor on the Culture desk at The New York Times. In her six-plus years with The Times, she’s taken on many roles, including as a breaking news reporter and as a gender reporter and columnist. Maya’s family moved from Beirut to the United States in 1984, and she is passionate about untangling the struggles of identity and assimilation experienced by those separated from their land of origin. She has written about her immigrant experience for The Times, most notably in a story about those distinct “immigrant blankets” and in an essay about Nine Inch Nails. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review, most recently reviewing Hala Alyan’s new novel, “The Arsonists’ City.” When she’s not tapping away at her keyboard, she’s spending time wandering through the woods with her wife and two dogs, cooking Lebanese food and generally getting lost in thought.
Maya is truly an incredible and empathetic writer and human being. Her story about Nine Inch Nails resonated with me so much, how one band/artist can help navigate truly challenging moments in life — especially as a first-generation Arab-American. I’ve had the honor and pleasure to connect with Maya over our shared love of and care for Lebanon, and was so excited when she agreed to share some of her go-to songs for the newsletter:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Tash Sultana, a 26-year-old Australian musical genius who plays more than 12 instruments, has been a healer to me over the past year. On their arm is a tattoo in Arabic that when translated reads, “In peace, not in pieces.” I have my last name, Salam, meaning peace, tattooed in Arabic on the back of my neck. Seeing that we had the same word imprinted on our bodies further deepened the connection for me. For me, “Blackbird,” which Tash said they wrote while lost in a cave, is one the most transcendent tracks ever conceived, in my opinion. On their studio album “Flow State” (2018), they perform it on an oud. It’s life-changing and life-giving.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
As a young girl, just a couple of years after my family arrived in the States, I heard Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ track “What I Am” on the radio. I generally consider this to be my favorite song of all time. The lyrics opened up a whole new world to me of philosophical thinking, and it has affected me in different ways with every passing chapter of my life.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Arabic music is the soundtrack of my family home and always has been. (Both my parents were around 40 years old when we immigrated.) It’s embarrassing now to admit that I couldn’t stand it as a teenager, primarily because it was a stark reminder of how different we were than everyone else in Kentucky, where I was mostly raised. But as I’ve gotten older, my appreciation and enjoyment for Arabic music has grown so much. Some artists the Salams always have (and have always had) on rotation are Faruiz and Um Kalthoum, of course, as well as Sabah and Mohammed Abdel Wahab.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
One of my greatest strengths (or greatest weaknesses, depending how you look at it) is my intense memory. I also have an obsession with song lyrics. That combination means I have a bank of song lyrics in my head of probably a thousand songs. It would be impossible to pick one, or even 10!
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Another question that I have so many answers for! Growing up in the South gave me a solid knowledge base of hip-hop and R&B, and a lot of my get-hyped go-tos to are in these genres, as well as in rock music. Some of my choices might be too cringy to share here, but some other, less silly picks include “Regulate,” by Warren G and Nate Dogg, “Give It Away,” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “On & On,” by Erykah Badu, “Long Live the Chief,” by Jidenna, “Push Up,” by the Freestylers and just about any track from The White Stripes, Gossip and Outkast.
Big shout out to Maya for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Maya’s songs are included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. And please be sure to follow Maya on Twitter and check out her writing. Trust me, you will not want to miss out!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Beldiya - TripleGo
Yumi - Didine Canon 16 featuring Viviane Mrad
Derta Bidi - Tflow
Ashat Eedak - Big Hass featuring Freek, Narcy, and Big Moe
Madeya - Fodi featuring WalGz
Drama - Alaa Al Hendi
Cariño - Leil featuring Mocci
Awadeeh - Abo El Anwar
Analaw - Ghalia featuring Idreesi
Tizi Ouzou (Live) - Idir
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic artists 🎤
La Chica de los Ojos Cafe - Renato
Como Yo - Raka Dun featuring Los Rakas
Muchos Quieren Tumbarme - Ivy Queen
Canalla - Romeo Santos featuring El Chaval de la Bachata
Amor de Mis Amores - La Sonora Dinamita featuring Margarita
ROXXXE - La Factoria
Delincuente - Sebastian Yatra featuring Jhay Cortez
Canela - Sarah Silva
Pobre Diabla - Don Omar
Bossanova - Zenon Pereyra featuring Ainda
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Coastin’ - Victoria Monét
Father Bird, Mother Bird (Sunbirds) - Khruangbin featuring Kadhja Bonet
It’s Okay - LION BABE featuring OSHUN
All for the Love - The Lox
Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) - Dua Lipa featuring Elton John
Puff Lah - KAYTRANADA
Just for me - Pinkpantheress
Fashion Killer - Ayra Starr
Sunshine - Mont Duamel
Air Force Ones - Nelly featuring Murphy Lee, Ali, and Kyjuan
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Life and Death on the Margins: On the Double Trauma of Migrant Workers - Farah Salka, The Public Source
For migrant domestic workers, the effects of the explosion on August 4 cannot be separated from the everyday realities of racism and kafala — a deadly configuration that determines their experiences during and after a catastrophic event, deciding who would or would not be found, rescued, treated, or left for dead.
Lebanese rediscover local flavours as crisis hits food imports - Timour Azhari, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
A scarcity of food imports due to the country’s economic crisis is fostering more sustainable alternatives in Lebanon.
Experiencing Beirut One Year On - Mai Elwakil, Mada Masr
Visceral memories stay with me, momentarily taking over my body. None, however, are as articulated as one survivor of the Beirut port explosion tells filmmaker Sarah Kaskas.
Roumieh prison: A graveyard for the living - Amer Shibani, Beirut Today
The economic crisis, coronavirus outbreak, and electricity rationing have broken through the bars of Roumieh prison and threatened the lives of around 4,000 inmates.
Dollar debate keeps Lebanon’s poorest families waiting for World Bank-funded cash assistance - Abby Sewell, L’Orient Today
As subsidies on fuel and other essential imports continue to crumble, implementation of a World Bank-funded program to give cash assistance to Lebanon’s poorest families remains on hold, with World Bank and government officials in a standoff over how the money will be disbursed.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
I am Middle Eastern. Not White. - Dalia Azim, The Washington Post
“I’m trying to raise my kids to be proud of their Middle Eastern heritage. But our contributions to diversity aren’t systematically tracked.”
Sur: where the drums of Arabic Swahili music are still beating in Oman - Saleh Al-Shaibany, The National
East African influence has been seen for centuries in this small coastal town.
Walking in Mosul - Ali Al-Baroodi, Newlines Magazine
For centuries a river couldn’t split Mosul, but a war did. Along both sides, culture and commerce are coming to life again.
Jordanian musicians worry that their national orchestra could be shuttered - Emilie Pons, PRI The World
Conductor Mohammed Othman Sidiq is on a quest to keep classical music alive in Jordan.
Why Palestine is a racial justice issue - Omar Zahzah, Mondoweiss
Understanding Palestine as a racial justice issue is to understand it as part of the broad fight for collective liberation.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Reggaeton’s History Is Complex. A New Podcast Helps Us Listen That Way. - Isabelia Herrera, The New York Times
“Loud” asks us to reconsider mainstream histories of the genre, and reveals critical conversations about its roots and evolution.
Aaliyah, Britney, and the Commodification of an Artist’s Legacy - Hazel Cills, Pitchfork
In 2021, amid contentious battles over master recordings and conservatorships, fans can no longer avoid the ugly truth that pop stars don’t control their artistry.
The Malevolent Madness of ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show,’ 30 Years Later - Rob Harvilla, The Ringer
Three decades ago, a neurotic chihuahua and his dopey partner burst onto TV sets alongside ‘Doug’ and ‘Rugrats.’ It would prove to be a lot more chaotic than its compatriots—and, for a variety of reasons, tougher to keep going.
In animated film 'Vivo,' Lin-Manuel Miranda draws on Cuban music's inspiration - Nicole Acevedo, NBC News
“Music and love are the exact same thing," says Miranda of the characters, who include the voices of Gloria Estefan and Buena Vista Social Club bandleader Juan de Marcos.
The Asian Pop Stars Taking Center Stage - Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times
In the West, Asian musicians have long been marginalized. Now, though, a new generation of women are transforming their respective genres.
📚 Other Reads 📚
‘Please pray for me’: female reporter being hunted by the Taliban tells her story - Anonymous, as told to Hikmat Noori, The Guardian
A young female journalist describes the panic and fear of being forced into hiding as cities across Afghanistan fall.
Wildfires Highlight What’s ‘Gone Wrong’ in Pollution Mitigation - Jennifer Hijazi, Bloomberg Law
Choking wildfires have been inundating swaths of the U.S. with smoke pollution this month as blazes tear through the West Coast, a health crisis created by gaps in national air law and forest management challenges, experts say.
Why Do American Grocery Stores Still Have an Ethnic Aisle? - Priya Krishna, The New York Times
This international hodgepodge strikes many shoppers and food purveyors as antiquated. But doing away with it isn’t as easy as it might sound.
What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind - Jennifer Senior, The Atlantic
Grief, conspiracy theories, and one family’s search for meaning in the two decades since 9/11.
The climate refugees are coming. Countries and international law aren’t ready for them - Omar El Akkad, The Globe and Mail
For generations, our approach to asylum has centred on war and political persecution, not natural disaster. Unless we change that soon, mass migrations to the developed world will end in violence.