Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Nadia Taha
First of all, rest in power to the great Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli military while doing her job and covering the injustices of the Israeli occupation. If there’s anything you read today, I encourage you to read Marwan Bishara’s tribute to this Palestinian icon and trailblazer (which is below but I’ll link it here too).
Now, before we get into this week’s edition, I have to give a shout out to the amazing Lara Atallah. If you subscribe and receive this as an email, you will have noticed a beautiful new logo for the newsletter! For those who read this elsewhere, check it out below
HOW COOL IS THAT??? That is Lara’s beautiful, colorful, and thoughtful design!!! It’s a play on the big trucks in Beirut, along with that super cool musical interpretation of el 3ein (the eye). So welcome to the official rebrand of Sa’alouni El Nas, y’all!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Nadia Taha!
Nadia is a labor organizer, a journalist, a Palestinian who lives on Tongva land in Los Angeles and a new parent. She grew up in New Jersey in the 90s, and as a child and teen visited Palestine often. The contrast between what she saw in her homeland and the perception in the West led her to a career in journalism. Somewhere in there, she also developed an affinity for the Spanish language and Latinx cultures – particularly Caribbean Latinx cultures.
Her first job after grad school was at The New York Times. There, Nadia channeled the lefty, activist energy with which she had advocated for Palestine as a younger person into union activity as a member of the NewsGuild: fighting for higher wages, stronger contracts and better job security for herself and her colleagues in a capitalist workplace. After nearly eight years, she left the newsroom to move across the continent and became a full-time union staffer, working with the employees of the LA Times as they secured a historic first contract in a notoriously anti-union town. Now Nadia heads the Southwest local of the NewsGuild, Media Guild of the West, which represents about a thousand journalists in three states.
Nadia considers herself wildly fortunate that this phase of her life – characterized for most by pandemic struggles – has been so fulfilling for her, professionally, personally and politically. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, she began organizing with SWANA-LA (Southwest Asian and North Afrikan Los Angeles) and then joined AMEJA (Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association). In late 2020, she had a baby, Zayn, with her partner, Danny (a different Danny), who shares her love of Spanish-language indie music and Caribbean dance hits he grew up hearing as a Salvadoran born in LA.
Honestly y’all, my question is what does Nadia NOT do?! I mean, look at this, she truly does it all! Nadia is a fighter for our collective rights and a staunch advocate for journalists. Nadia says her musical tastes have changed over time and have varied based on her location, but never has she experienced such a marked shift as when she became a parent. She chose to answer these questions through the lens of the last 18 months of her life – since Zayn was born:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I’ve never been able to sit still when a Warda hit is playing, and DJ KABOO’s fresh “Enta” spin on “Batwannis Beek” is a delight. Combine that with the fact that baby smiles are a drug that I will do almost anything to elicit, and you get Mama dancing around the kitchen with a tea towel while preparing breakfast each morning. “LA CANCIÓN” is more widely known as a Bad Bunny hit, and while I adore his music, this one song is so emotionally evocative when done in maye’s Indie style. That and “Malas Amistades” are my chill-vibe-driving-around-LA songs, perfect for staring out the window and musing.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Both of these songs remind me of my Baba, who died in 2012. I completely lost it the first time I watched Coco, in the theater. The storyline of a girl who lost her father and missed him for the rest of her life was too familiar for me to keep from sobbing in public. That effect has worn off, but I can’t hear this without thinking that missing my Baba profoundly is lifelong condition.
Baba was a Billy Joel fan, and this particular song, which Joel wrote for his daughter, is a reflection on the passage of time, mortality, and close connections between generations. Baba used to sing lullabies and wake-up songs to my sister and I, and I’ve incorporated this one into our bedtime routine. My favorite part of the night is when Zayn’s moon-shaped little baby face stares raptly at me while I sing this right before bed.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby (I know, curveball)
Given that the very question of what home is can be so complex for Arabs in the diaspora, this can’t be answered with just one tune. Home is a perpetual Fairuz soundtrack on car rides with my mom. Home is a campfire on the Birzeit campus with a dozen of my nearest friends, singing what I now think of as classic camp songs: “Nassam 3alayna el Hawa”, “El Bosta”, “Al Bint El Shalabiya”, etc. “Nassam 3alayna el Hawa” poetically expresses the wistfulness I feel for Palestine, and those summer nights.
“White Christmas” reminds me of both the home where I grew up – a place that was blanketed in snow several times each year – and my home now. The unknown original lyrics establish that the character is in Los Angeles, enjoying the sunshine, as I now do every winter. At each listen, I remember that the composer, Irving Berlin, had a weeks-old son who died on Christmas Day 1928.
LCD’s “Home” was a song my partner and I bonded over early in our relationship, and it’s a staple in our lockdown-era at-home dance parties of three.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
The entire discography of Adam wa Mishmish. Adam wa Mishmish is an illustrated video series featuring catchy, educational songs in Arabic. It’s aimed at toddlers and young children, but listening with Zayn has advanced my own vocabulary quite a bit in the last year. “Daynasorat”, “Mejmo3at al Shams (the Solar System)”, “7aywanat al Safana (Animals of the Savannah)” – these aren’t terms I learned before getting hooked on this series, and I’m thrilled that having a tiny person in my house has led me to develop my language skills.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Both of these songs have the same, very basic value for me: They’re immensely fun, and my kid gets a huge kick out of them. Around one, Zayn began dancing to most music, but nothing gets the hizzing started quite like Egyptian pop music, new and old. The naughty double entendres of Sa’d Soghayer’s discography paired with the hilarious 80’s videos, and the boundary-pushing themes in Mohamed Ramadan’s music presented in a scandalously modern video make these go-tos for us to watch, not just hear.
Big shout out to Nadia for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Nadia’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Check out Nadia on Twitter, and remember to practice solidarity, ditch respectability politics and organize your workplace!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Shabah - LAÏ featuring El Waili
RACORE - Marwan Pablo
Enty Bachata Rai - Bilal Assarguini
El 3elba - Felukah featuring Ma-Beyn and Kamikazem
Nikes - Uzu & 77
Hola Ouais - Yanso featuring ElGrandeToto
Crush - Amira Jazeera & Papi Beatz
Calm Down - MaMan featuring Niile
Iraq Cypher - Big Hass featuring Kira The Blurryface, Armando Rap, Odd Khalid, Nayomi, Disser, KC Hamada, Alrong, Genesis, and El Seen
Man On Fire (North Africa Remix) - Idahams featuring Jaylann
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Otro Atardecer - Bad Bunny featuring The Marías
Inminente - Juliana featuring Clarissa
Jaguayuken - Maffio featuring ChocQuibTown
Castigo - Feid
Úsame - LATENIGHTJIGGY
BAILÉ CON MI EX - Becky G
Desde Mis Ojos (Remix) - Chris Lebron featuring Sech and Jay Wheeler
Aquí voy a estar - Luz Pinos featuring Maréh
La Carta - Las Villa
Yo Me Muero Por Ti - Antony Santos
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Count Me Out - Kendrick Lamar
Therapy - Stonebwoy
Reasonable - AJ Tracey
Instant Classic - Leikeli47
Came In The Scene - Headie One
Breathe - IDK
Cassandra - Florence + The Machine
celebration - Orion Sun
To You - Mallrat
Slow Jam - Usher featuring Monica
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Daughters of the Lebanese diaspora return despite the crisis - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
Since the start of Lebanon’s economic crisis, much has been written about the latest exodus of its citizens, looking for a better life elsewhere, adding to the already massive Lebanese diaspora. Less noticed are the Lebanese formerly living abroad who have chosen to move back to Lebanon during what is arguably its most tumultuous time since the Civil War.
'Better the devil you know': Lebanese citizens share blunt opinions on upcoming elections - Maghi Ghali, The New Arab
Any optimism borne from Lebanon's October 2019 revolution seems to have dissipated, with most Lebanese citizens broadly apathetic about real political change in the country. The New Arab speaks with potential voters about their electoral grievances.
Lebanon election shuns climate issues, despite fires, floods and power cuts - Tala Ramadan, Thomson Reuters News Foundation
No major party has laid out climate pledges as the crisis-hit country goes to the polls, but some argue the issue is central to tackling Lebanon's economic woes.
Lebanon: Music as a Reflection of the Political Turmoil - Luka Baum, Daraj
Throughout history, music has always been a reflection of the political or social movements, and Lebanon and its recent uprising is no exception. Yet after the demonstrations came to an end, what is left of revolutionary music? What can music bring in a country where hope seems to be lost for a youth heavily betrayed by its political cartel?
Post-election depression: A psychological hazard waiting to happen in Lebanon - Dana Hourany, The New Arab
A few days separate the Lebanese from the 2022 parliamentary elections. As the electoral battle intensifies with the emergence of a promising opposition, psychological experts advise people to shield their mental health by moderating expectations.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Shireen: Voice of the voiceless victims silenced - Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera
Today, we mourn her, tomorrow we scorn her killers.
A New Mother in Yemen’s Time of War - Maali Jamil, New Lines Magazine
How Maali Jamil came into parenthood amid a brutal, deadly conflict and found serenity.
My Plea for a Sixth Love Language - Layla Kinjawi Faraj, The New York Times
Layla Kinjawi Faraj explores how for her Syrian family, scattered by war, a WhatsApp group chat — rife with silly videos and often regrettable photos — is everything.
Sudan's intensifying crackdown on pro-democracy protests - Mat Nashed, The New Arab
Since last year's coup, Sudanese forces have moved to consolidate power in the face of toothless international mediation efforts. But the popular resistance movement remains steadfast in its demand for civilian rule.
In Algeria, I Found Peace in Picking Olives - Saliha Haddad, New Lines Magazine
The pandemic pushed my family and me to return to our Berber village. Harvesting olive trees has transformed us.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Farewell to the iPod - Tripp Mickle, The New York Times
After nearly 22 yeaApple is stopping production of the devices that changed consumer electronics and led to the creation of the iPhone.
Lana Lubany: The Face Behind TikTok Hit ‘SNAKE’ - Farida El Shafie, SceneNoise
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Picadilly Street’s finest coffee chains, Lana Lubany - the face behind the TikTok hit ‘THE SNAKE’ talks all things algorithms, mental health, and writing.
How Cheb Khaled’s Music Rose as a Force Against Racism and Cultural Homogenization - Mirna Abdulaal, Egyptian Streets
Cheb Khaled’s music and live concerts pushed the image and identity of a global citizen, who as he quotes “talks about things directly” and “speaks to the point” about issues that anyone, regardless of their background, can relate to.
The lawyer on a mission to return Libya's 'stolen' Roman heritage - Layla Maghribi, The National
How Queen Elizabeth could face legal action in an effort to repatriate 2,000-year-old ruins from Leptis Magna.
Ibeyi Shares the Power of Healing on ‘Spell 31’ - Veronica Espinal, Remezcla
Since their debut, Afro-Cuban French duo Ibeyi established an artistic foundation of ancestral bonds and eternal magic.
📚 Other Reads 📚
The Realities of WNBA Stars Who Play Abroad - Sean Hurd, Andscape
It’s become a part of the fabric of a WNBA player’s career, one that could see significant changes next year.
Wisdom You Knead: What I Learned Baking With My Mother - Natalie Jabbar, Serious Eats
“Baking with my mother taught me how to love what we create—and when to let go.”
The Biggest Potential Water Disaster in the United States - David Owen, The New Yorker
In California, millions of residents and thousands of farmers depend on the Bay-Delta for fresh water—but they can’t agree on how to protect it.
What Happens After Your Town Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis? - Margo Snipe, Capital B
More than 200 places have taken the step since 2020. Two years later, little has changed.
No Airline Mask Mandate Means Disabled People Like Me Are More Isolated Than Ever - Hannah Sullivan Facknitz, TeenVogue
In this op-ed, Hannah Sullivan Facknitz explores the injustice of lifting the mask mandate on public transportation for disabled people.