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Guest Feature: Nader Durgham
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In the span of just a few days this week, more than 2900 people in Morocco and more than 11,000 people in Libya died at the hands of natural disasters. Today also marks five full months of war in Sudan which has also claimed the lives of too many people.
This week feels incredibly hard to fathom and all thoughts and prayers are with Moroccans, Libyans, and Sudanese.
Please consider taking some time to provide any monetary support you can for those impacted by the earthquake in Morocco and Storm Daniel in Libya. Here are just a few places where you can donate:
Donating will not fix everything. It is the very least we can do.
I do want this newsletter to be a source of joy this week, even for a brief moment. Especially because I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Nader Durgham!
Nader is a Lebanese writer and masters student currently based in London, studying Democracy and Comparative Politics. Before that, he was a journalist in Beirut mostly covering Lebanon and Syria.
Nader has been into music since he was nine, when his parents signed him up for recorder lessons. Nader then moved on to the flute, which remains to this day his favorite instrument. He spend my free time gaming, watching series, playing (bad) tennis and trying to re-incorporate his music into his routine!
I’ve gotten the opportunity to know Nader over the past few years and he’s an incredibly thoughtful person. He was someone I relied on for news about Lebanon when he was writing for The Washington Post. And he’s become my tennis friend, sharing our mutual hatred (but also respect) for Novak Djokovic. Plus, he’s a big Coco Gauff fan, and we’re all psyched she finally won the US Open!
Anyways, I got so excited when he agreed to be part of the newsletter and share some of his go-to music:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
There are so many contenders, but several of my current “favorites” will be mentioned in other questions below, so I think for this I’ll go for “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure! I discovered this song in June while cruising around Beirut with a friend, and I could not stop listening to it since! I really love wholesome band music, and I think this song perfectly captures the energy I need regardless of the mood I’m in.
I also want to give a special shoutout to Jordanian indie band Autostrad. There are too many songs I love from them for me to just pick one, but I have been playing their songs on repeat this entire summer. I definitely recommend “Alber”, “Safar”, “Beghyabek” and so many others!
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Again, I’m a sucker for good melodies with powerful vocals, and “Golden Hour” has exactly that to me. While the lyrics aren’t exactly what I’m looking for in this one, the piano is just gorgeous. I base my opinion of some songs on whether I’d like to cover them on my flute, and Golden Hour is definitely a song I enjoy playing.
As for “Tell Me I’m Alive”, it has the perfect punk-rock vibe I never stopped enjoying. I was always a fan of rock and metal, but punk-rock is where my real soft spot lies. The melody isn’t sad per se, but the theme of having a messy life, mixed with Alex Gaskarth’s epic vocals just make for a great song to let off some steam.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
I could simply mention Fayrouz’s entire discography, as I am now one of those people who enjoy a peaceful morning walk with “Sa’alouni El Nas”, “Zourouni” or “Nassam Alayna El Hawa”, but I also have another suggestion in mind. “Succar Ya Banat” by Khaled Mouzanar never fails to make me miss home like never before. A few months ago, a Lebanese woman on Instagram posted a reel with his song while showing a rainy day in Beirut, and I still go back to this video whenever I feel like missing my city a bit more than usual. The video shows areas I’m very familiar with, and veers away from the typical “look at how pretty the fancy Downtown Beirut is!” It shows a Beirut we are all more familiar with, messy and flawed but lifted by our incomprehensible love and longing for it.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
This one has to be “Questions On My Mind” by Faraj Suleiman. I have been obsessed with this song for over two years now and can probably recite it by heart. I am, quite frankly, devastated that I’m missing Faraj’s first concert in Beirut on August 25, and that he doesn’t seem to have a concert in London this year. Faraj, along with songwriter Majd Kayyal, are an incredible duo who never fail to capture a beautiful Palestinian story with every song, and I would love to experience this live one day.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
This is a tie between “Matrooh” by Autostrad and “Am I Dreaming” from the Across The Spider-Verse soundtrack. Matrooh has such a happy and vibrant melody that I love listening to whenever I’m getting ready in the morning, even though it’s a breakup song! I guess I’m also not used to hearing indie/rock/pop music in Arabic, and I have to say it works like a charm.
“Am I Dreaming” starts with a beautiful violin that really carries the track, along with its theme of confusion and ecstasy over reaching a certain place or stage in your life. If you watched the movie, which I HIGHLY recommend if you haven't, you will know what scenes correspond to this song, and the extra weight it carries with this context.
I must say, while I despise chores such as doing the dishes or vacuuming, the idea of listening to these songs while doing them gets me excited to just get work done.
Big shout out to Nader for joining and sharing his song selections! All of Nader’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Make sure you follow Nader on Twitter and Instagram!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Where Did You Go? - Nicole Sabouné
EXCUSE U - Narcy & Tribe of Monsters
Zaman Elflos - Shorouk Elzoghbi
Figures - Beykay
HALF LIFE - Didine Canon 16
Sharara - Jamila
LOCATION - TUL8TE
Baghi Ntoub - 777YM featuring OUENZA
Wana Maly - Lil Baba
Banadi - HIYA
ELSAHAR - HADY MOAMER
Khadm - Sulisizer featuring Venom and Helal
La Peuf 6 - Hornet La Frappe
Venus (Wall of Sound Sessions) - fulana
Rapapap - Moha K featuring kouz1
MN 18 SANA - Papa Guede
Fakes - SADEK
Waiting For You - Majid Jordan featuring Naomi Sharon
Nasak - Clarissa Bitar & Nabil Bitar
Nfss Lhala - Mons
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Desbarata - vf7
BIPOLAR - Peso Pluma featuring Jasiel Nuñez and Junior H
Calor - Farruko featuring Manolo Ramos and Ghetto
NMM - Sofia Lafuente
Los Mismos - Juseph featuring Rafa Pabön
Dientes - J Balvin featuring Usher and DJ Khaled
QUIERIDO ABUELO - Becky G
Te Mentí - Ozuna featuring Saiko and Ovy On The Drums
ELLA TIENE - NATHY PELUSO featuring Tiago PZK
Energía Bacana - Sebastian Yatra
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Spend The Night - BJ The Chicago Kid featuring Coco Jones
Jealous Moon - Sarah Jaraosz
Normal - Skrapz
Petrol - Justin99 featuring 031CHOPPA, Ice Beats Slide, and Sbuda Maleather
Black Folk (Remix) - Tank and the Bangas featuring Kota the Friend, Rapsody, Orleans Big, Dee-1, and Alex Isley
Special - Tiakola featuring Dave
Rhythm & Blues - Ayra Starr
Reachin’ - Diddy featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Coco Jones
My Love Mine All Mine - Mitski
Snooze (Acoustic) - SZA featuring Justin Bieber
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
The muffled sound of Lebanon’s collapse - Emmanuel Haddad, L’Orient Today
Amid the clamor of the tourist season, Lebanon’s descent into chaos persists in eerie silence.
The Case of the “Dinniyyeh Child”: the Failure of the Child Protection System in Lebanon - Zeina Allouche, Daraj
A series of psychological, social, and security factors came together and contributed to the murder of the young girl from Dinniyyeh. The family, supported by the security forces, worked to conceal the crime and to pervert justice, using the pretext of family honor, given the breakdown of the State and its role as the primary entity for protecting children.
(Im)Possibilities of Healing Within the Mental Health System - Fátima Fouad el-Samman, The Public Source
Self-inflicted death sometimes remain unreported, as families refrain from disclosing their loved one’s actual cause of death because cultural and religious norms forbid funeral prayers for suicides. (*Content warning: this story discusses suicide. Reader discretion is advised)
US court rules case against company involved in Beirut blast can proceed - Nada Maucourant Atallah and Thomas Watkins, The National
Federal judge says a jury should hear the case against TGS.
To those provoked by freedoms in Lebanon: The next wave will hit you - Chrystine A. Mhanna, Raseef22
“The real insult is when living conditions become so dire that army personnel are forced to work multiple jobs. Insult is when Lebanon's comedy scene is silenced, while those who embezzled money and those implicated in the Beirut Port explosion remain unaccountable.”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Thousands missing and feared dead after floods submerge eastern Libya - Sarah Dadouch, The Washington Post
Thousands are feared to have died in floods that engulfed Libya’s east after Storm Daniel smashed into the North African country, swallowing whole neighborhoods and, with them, an unknown number of residents.
In Wake of Morocco Earthquake, Frustration Fuels Solidarity - Catherine Porter, The New York Times
Anger is quietly growing against the government’s slow reaction and reluctance to accept foreign aid. But in a country where protest is a risk, perhaps the loudest response is action.
Sudan: Torture and sexual assault taking place in illegal detention centres - Mohammed Amin, Middle East Eye
Detainees and eyewitnesses accuse Sudan's army and RSF of torture, rape and abduction in new detention centres.
In Cairo's City of the Dead, demolitions are halted but 'damage already done' - Aina J Khan, Middle East Eye
Renewed demolitions in the centuries-old site have sparked criticism from those concerned with preserving the heritage of Egypt in the face of modernisation plans.
Syria's streets boil with discontent: The wrath of a starving nation - Adam Afram, Raseef22
"We do not want sectarian movements; we do not want symbols like crosses, crescents, swords, and the concept of five borders. We want one flag under which we can all unite, and feel we are equal in our demands and rights."
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Multidisciplinary Lebanese Artist Blu Fiefer Plays Chess in a Music Industry That Plays Checkers - Danny Hajjar, GQ Middle East
Shameless plug! I got to speak with the incomparable Blu Fiefer in-depth about her childhood, her decision to stay in Lebanon during its multiple crises, and the new era of her musical career that she is about to enter
Bad Bunny on Sex, Social Media, and Kendall Jenner - Michelle Ruiz, Vanity Fair
The genre-busting megastar opens up about his life off the global stage. Just don’t ask about his new music.
Shakira didn't just 'cross over' — she created a new multicultural pop stardom - Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, NPR
Her Video Vanguard Award win at the VMAs speaks to her transformative career.
The Evolution of the Hip-Hop Hunk - Clover Hope, Pitchfork
One fan’s journey through rap’s pursuit of the female gaze, from LL Cool J to Tupac to Drake.
Is the Relationship Between Fans & Artists Changing for the Worst? - Cat Cardenas, Remezcla
As fans become more deeply invested in the lives of celebrities, a range of fan behaviors has come under scrutiny.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Black history is ‘being attacked.’ These parents found alternatives. - Rachel Hatzipanagos and Emmanuel Felton, The Washington Post
Across the country, the teaching of Black history has come under a microscope. In response, Black parents are taking matters into their own hands.
“They Didn’t Know That We Were Here”: New York’s African Asylum Seekers - Eric Lach, The New Yorker
A Harlem nonprofit works on behalf of hundreds of African migrants who are languishing in shelters, struggling with language barriers, and trying to make it in New York City.
Can You Keep Breastfeeding When You Work 30,000 Feet in the Air? - Bryce Covert, The Nation
Flight attendants desperately need legal protection to ensure their right to pump on the job—but airline industry lobbying cut them out of a law that will provide just that for millions of workers.
Why Human Writing Is Worth Defending In the Age of ChatGPT - Naomi S. Baron, Lithub
Naomi S. Baron on the detrimental impact of artificial intelligence on literacy and cognition.
What does it mean to lose special places where Latinos gather in Boston? - Marcela Garcia, The Boston Globe
Maybe we should expect legacy landmarks like El Oriental and Merengue to evolve.