Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Mikey Muhanna
I want to make a quick plug at the top today for a cool initiative by my friend Adam Benkato. He has a collection of Libyan music on vinyl, and he’s been working to digitize them and upload them to SoundCloud so people can listen and stream the songs. He added a few new songs earlier this week and I think everyone should go check them out. Click here to listen!
Let’s go ahead and get into it. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature this week: Mikey Muhanna!
Mikey Muhanna is the founder and executive director of afikra, a movement to convert passive interest in the Arab world to active intellectual curiosity. Starting from a rooftop in Brooklyn, Muhanna has grown afikra into a global education & media platform with over 50,000 members across 30 chapters globally and has a content library of over 500 presentations/videos/podcasts that have been accessed over 300,000 times. afikra has been covered by both international and local press, such as The National, U.S.News, Foreign Policy, Bespoke Magazine, Gulf News, and Arab News.
Prior to afikra, Mikey spent over a decade working at firms Morgan Stanley and PwC and most recently helping lead the Muhanna Group. However, his passion for education remains at that center of his career. Mikey taught high school Algebra in the New Orleans public school system as a Teach For America corps member and launched the education non-profit Positive Space NOLA. He is the youngest member of the Board of Trustees of the American Community School of Beirut and serves as an advisor to many education organizations.
Mikey is a graduate of Duke University (BS 2007) where he studied Economics and Jazz Piano.
Well, what DOESN’T Mikey do? Clearly he is a jack-of-all-trades, am I right? With all of the work he’s done with afikra to promote our culture in a thoughtful way, it was a no-brainer to have him share his go-to music:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Chyno is a buddy of mine and I'm loving his latest album - Mamluk. This track plus Nike Air are two of my favorites. The flow on the record is so laid back. Very Tribe - mid 90s. So often Arabic rappers don't sit in the pocket and just try to say as many words as possible “Kayfouni” is exactly the right way of doing it. Fun fact, I play a tiny keyboard line on here!
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
In December 1996, my eldest brother gave me a Dizzy Gillespie CD for Christmas. He had just come back from his freshman year in the US and I was his 10 year old brother studying classical trumpet. I vividly remember putting it on my little boombox and hearing the slow boil of the drum and conga interplay with the baritone sax syncopated pattern. And then at 18 seconds, Dizzy comes in with the slickest line I had ever heard. That song is the reason why I started to study jazz and became addicted to Afro-Cuban music.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
My mom is a singer and musical director. The background music of my childhood was the sound of rehearsals in the other room. Mostly close harmony versions of jazz standards, musical theatre, and the American songbook. In terms of close harmony groups, you can't get much better than Manhattan Transfer, Take 6, etc. This song in particular is what my childhood feels like.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
I was in Chicago in 2006 doing an internship when my buddy Mo said that he wanted to go this small neighborhood concert (the Intonation Fest) to go hear this new kid named Lupe. His debut album (Food & Liquor) hadn't dropped yet and I had never heard any of his mixtapes. When the music started, I was completely floored: Kick Push, I Gotcha, Daydreaming, Sunshine, and Hurt me Soul are huge standouts.
Honorable mention karaoke classics: “Big Poppa”, “Regulate”, “A Milli”, “Everything is Everything”, “All Falls Down”, “What A Man”, “Fu-Gee-La”, “7 Days”, “Motown Philly”, “No Diggity”, “People Everyday” - Aight I'm done.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Before COVID/Thawra, I used to host a monthly dance party in Beirut called Tacos & Dancing that was designed for adults who like to dance but also need to wake their asses up in the morning. It was from 7-11:59pm on a weeknight. Strictly music that makes you want to dance. Think "Wedding dance party without the wedding". I'm not a DJ but I am a good selector, so I would play music that made me wanna dance. Emotions is a perfect dance song. Its part of sub-genre of music that includes "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston, "If You Love Me" by Brownstone, "Confessions, Pt. II" by Usher, "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child, and "Freak Like Me" by Adina.
Big shout out to Mikey for joining and sharing his song selections! All of Mikey’s songs are included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. And keep up with afikra on Instagram for all of their latest updates!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Leeh - Azira featuring BUGGATINO
Hoot - Beykay
Hada Ghareeb - Issam AlNajjar featuring Elyanna
La Team - Ily featuring Skizo Beats
Marsilia - Flenn
Mesa El Nour Wel Hana - Warda
L3arbeya - Tchiggy featuring Gati
Mawwal - Omar Souleyman
Ya Benti - Inez
Ymkin - Dalia
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Vestido - J Balvin
Memoria - Combo Chimbita
Ocho - Michael Brun featuring Fuego, LASTMONDAY, and Ms Nina
La Funka - Ozuna
Señor - Desta French
Amor Amor - Bomba Estéreo
Ambar Bossa Nova (Spotify Singles) - Ambar Lucid
No Quiero Amor - Omar Montes featuring Rvfv
Ahora Es Que Falta - Alejandra Feliz
Moscas en la Casa - Shakira
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Where Were They - Tion Wayne
Replay - Tems
Love Me - Juls featuring Niniola
Song In E - Julien Baker
Champagne Poetry - Drake
Tape Night - K-Trap
A Heart’s For The Breaking - Amerie
gracias a la vida - Kacey Musgraves
Never Give Up - 박혜진 Park Hye Jin
I Look To You - Miami Horror featuring Kimbra
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
‘It’s not a crisis, it’s a collapse’: Life in a total economic meltdown - Bevan Shields, The Sydney Morning Herald
“Every day, you are depleted of your energy, depleted of your soul and depleted of hope. This is the first time in my life I have lost hope.”
Lebanon’s new government only ‘a band-aid’, experts say - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
PM Najib Mikati is optimistic about getting Lebanon out of mire, but analysts say economic recovery is not on the horizon any time soon.
Lebanese cancer patients face frantic search for medication - Bassem Mroue and Fay Abulgasim, Associated Press
For months, pharmacy shelves have been bare, exacerbated by panic buying and suppliers holding back drugs, hoping to sell them later for higher prices amid the uncertainty. Hospitals are at a breaking point, barely able to secure diesel to keep generators and life-saving machines operating day to day.
Beirut legal - Dana Hourany, NOW Lebanon
A group of lawyers have been representing Lebanese anti-government protesters pro bono since 2015 and have been pushing for reform of the justice system by exposing abusive practices.
‘Lebanon is a prison’: Migrant domestic workers struggle to leave collapsing Lebanon - Tala Ramadan, L’Orient Today
“Repatriation had become a growing demand among migrant workers in Lebanon since the country’s sprawling economic crisis began two years ago, particularly after hundreds were abandoned by their employers, tossed out in front of their consulates, often with no money, food or even their official documents.”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
‘We Wrote in Symbols’ is a groundbreaking collection of Arab women writing about love and lust - Vanessa H. Larson, The Washington Post
The anthology “We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers,” which appears to be the first of its kind in English, could not be more refreshing.
Trouble in paradise: Libya's idyllic Farwa Island at risk of ecological peril - Austin Bodetti, The New Arab
A relative lull in the Libyan conflict has meant aquaculture prospectors have travelled to the remote Farwa Island in search of economic opportunity, causing ecological damage and degradation to the once unspoilt area.
A Night With Palestine’s Defenders of the Mountain - Mohammed El-Kurd, The Nation
For months, the people of Beita have been engaged in a fierce—and fiercely creative—struggle against the illegal Israeli settlement threatening their village.
Iraq elections: Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities deprived of vote - Nur Ayoubi, Middle East Eye
Iraq has one of the largest populations of people with disabilities in the world - and with elections around the corner, HRW warns of mass disenfranchisement.
Nurturing mindful eating: Meet Layla Al-Dorani, the woman behind Qatar's first vegan empire - Diana Alghoul, The New Arab
Realising that most Qataris didn't have adequate amounts of fruit in their diet, Al-Dorani, CEO of Raw ME and Fruity Friends, has pioneered health-conscious, vegan businesses aimed at revolutionising Qatari food.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Meet the Trap Artist Reigning Over Egypt’s Music Scene - Aravin Sandra, GQ Middle East
From his debut viral MV to topping Egypt's most-streamed song on Spotify in 2020, Wegz's rise to fame over the last four years has been nothing short of remarkable.
A Tidal Wave Is On Its Way - Amina Kaabi, Sole
Amina Kaabi takes a look inside who really controls the future of the burgeoning Arab music scene.
The King of Afropop - Edwin Stats Houghton, GQ
He’s the guy Drake and Beyoncé call up whenever they need a continent-spanning smash hit—and now, Lagos’s own Wizkid is taking over speakers everywhere with the sounds of home.
The UK rapper breaks down the inspirations behind “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”.
'The Activist' Is An Absurdist Show Concept For Our Absurdist Times - Hanna Phifer, Essence
“If we are being honest with ourselves, this public servant competition is the most accurate distillation of the current cultural landscape that has come out within recent years.”
📚 Other Reads 📚
After the 9/11 Attacks, Boston Found a Focus for Its Anger - Ellen Barry, The New York Times
“Terrorists boarded two planes in Boston and flew them into the World Trade Center. Massachusetts zeroed in on its top airport official, who has never quite recovered.”
The Man Behind Critical Race Theory - Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
As an attorney, Derrick Bell worked on many civil-rights cases, but his doubts about their impact launched a groundbreaking school of thought.
If you wear Paisaboys, you might be in on L.A. streetwear’s biggest inside joke - Julissa James, Los Angeles Times
“Paisaboys is a brand built on innuendo. Its ethos might best be described as a hint — a highly specific yet deeply relatable nod toward The Culture. It works precisely because it is without explanation.”
Boston faces its own monumental reckoning on race - Kimberly Atkins Stohr, The Boston Globe
Increasingly, a more complete truth is being told about the city’s most famous landmarks — and how the slave trade helped shape them.
Color coding, a matrix and ‘tired’ metrics: Inside NBA’s scheduling process with the people who get it done - Law Murray, The Athletic
For the 2021-22 NBA season, the league is looking forward to getting back to normal. And for the seventh year, the duties of making the NBA schedule were entrusted to a team led by Tom Carelli, senior VP of game schedule management, and Evan Wasch, executive VP of basketball strategy and analytics.