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Guest Feature: Omar Foda
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Quick programming note: The newsletter will be on hiatus for two weeks as I’ll be on a much-needed vacation. We’ll be back with the next edition on September 30th!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Omar Foda!
Omar Foda is an author and stay at home dad. He’s a graduate of the PhD program in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He has published articles and a book on the history of Egypt, Egypt’s Beer: Stella, Identity and the Modern State (University of Texas 2019), and has taught at Towson University, Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania. His writing draws from family lore and his expertise in Egypt’s literature and history. He was born in the United States, and lives in Syracuse, NY.
Omar has probably one of the wittiest Twitter accounts I think I’ve ever come across. He’s written a super fascinating book on Egypt’s beer, specifically Stella (Omar’s grandfather was the CEO of the company that produced Stella!!), and how it contributes to the country’s identity. On top of that, he has his own newsletter that I highly recommend subscribing to, where he shares “weird history and fiction about the Middle East”. So when I asked him to share his go-to music this week, I had a feeling he would hit us with some gems:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“Wretched” by Bartees Strange. Bartees Strange is a great place to start because his genre-defying work encapsulates my musical tastes, everything all at once undergirded by a love for indie rock. I would listen to this dude make a yacht rock reading of the phone book.
“Glory” by Burna Boy featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Afro-fusion banger. This song, like the best pop songs, overwhelms critical analysis with its catchiness.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“My Love” by Rick Danko and Richard Manuel. Danko is more famous for being a member of The Band, my all-time favorite, but his solo work(this song features his old Band mate Richard Manuel) produced after a long drug and alcohol filled life has some gems that combine simple lyrics with his weathered but still emotion-filled voice. This is a cover of a Lionel Richie song which actually amplifies the power of the cragginess of Danko’s voice. I dare you to listen to it and not ache.
“Just a Dream” by Tobias Jesso Jr. This song is about a first time dad and I became a dad right when it came out, so it hits extra hard. I’ve cried the majority times I’ve heard it. I also love that Tobias Jesso made one awesome album, Goon, hated his life as a rock star and then just gave it up. Good for him, I hope he has found as much joy as his songs give me.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Surrender” by Cheap Trick. The first time I heard this song was on the Small Soldiers (1998) soundtrack, which I bought because soundtracks were awesome back in my day. JK, I was just a huge nerd, but this and the Godzilla soundtrack ruled. The reason it feels like home is not because of Small Soldiers, but because very soon after my family went to Egypt and my parents being really cool, or perhaps because I constantly complained about the family’s old car that had no air conditioning, a bad radio and a cassette player, bought a Best of Cheap Trick cassette. That, plus a cassette of Beatles One, soundtracked my time in Egypt for a few formative years.
“Sawah” by Abdel Halim Hafiz. I remember sitting in the back of a Cairo cab, windows down, cool night breeze jumping into the window as I sped somewhere and this coming on, tarab soon followed.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“The Weight” by The Band. See, I told you they were my favorite. I knew 80 % of the words before I sang it to my daughter one night when she would not go to sleep. Of course my beautiful voice calmed her. I must’ve sung this to her every night for two years. She’s too cool for that now. Oh God, we’re all getting older all the time and there’s nothing we can do about it.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
I’m going to cheat here and say there are two genres that never fail to hype me up. Mahraganat and Trap. I love how both genres blur that line between singing and rapping, because while I love lyrics, it’s the melody and a singer’s voice that always get’s me. They don’t have to have a good voice, I just have to hear something human in there—weird because auto-tune features so prominently in these two.
Big shout out to Omar for joining and sharing his song selections! All of Omar’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Go check out Omar on Twitter, buy his book, and subscribe to his newsletter right now!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
The Woods - Nadine El Roubi
Nejmeh - Illiam
Afkar Galbi - Ghada Sheri
Cabana - 77 featuring Soulja and Swani
Kan Li Kan - ZXEDD
Giza - Almas
Khaleeki - Molham
Mugiwara - Syc
Baby - G. Oka
Donya - MARCELINA
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Luces De Néon - Myke Towers
Bellacon - J Balvin featuring El Alfa
Rápida - Corina Smith featuring KEVVO
Mi Salida Contigo - Ha*Ash featuring Kenia OS
Una Como Yo - GRECIA
Rudio - Jay Wheeler
The Change - N.O.R.E.
Tan Flojo - Leia Destruye
Barquinho - LA LOU
Aeropuerto - Camilo
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
curious/furious - WILLOW
Rolling Loud - Somadina
Drive - IDK
All Over This Party - Sans Souci
No More - Ruff Endz
Ghost - Kamo Mphela featuring Daliwonga and Falo Le Tee
Holla - Mopao Mumu
Hadithi - Barnaba featuring Diamond Platnumz
Boy Bye - Ari Lennox featuring Lucky Daye
Late At Night - Protoje featuring Lila Iké
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Families slam plans for 2nd judge to probe Beirut port blast - Bassem Mroue, Associated Press
Dozens of relatives of the victims of Beirut’s massive port blast protested Wednesday against the judiciary’s plan to name a second investigative judge, calling the move an attempt by the country’s political class to prevent justice after one of the world’s largest non-nuclear explosions.
No longer riding the hashish high, Lebanon’s cannabis producers move to captagon - Abby Sewell, L’Orient Today
The economic crisis is changing the face of the local drug trade, pushing some farmers into the hashish business. Others have moved on to more lucrative — and dangerous — products.
As judges join strike for better pay and conditions ordinary Lebanese suffer - Nada Homsi, The National
Cases on everything from domestic violence to traffic tickets have halted, adding to the woes of a population enduring economic crisis.
Farewell, octopus; hello, lionfish: Lebanon’s warming seas change fishing - Sarah Dadouch, The Washington Post
Lebanon's fishermen and diners are changing their habits as the warming waters of the Mediterranean and new predators drive away familiar species of fish.
Always on the Move, Yet Trapped in Precarity: On the Buried Dreams of Gig Economy Drivers - Christina Cavalcanti and Yara El Murr, The Public Source
The delivery drivers who spoke with The Public Source described an exhausting daily reality shared with hundreds of other drivers operating in Lebanon, many of them Syrian, their status in the country making them all the more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Feeling less than human: The hell of crossing into Gaza - Hebh Jamal, +972 Magazine
Palestinian ID means I’m one of few able to enter the besieged Gaza Strip. But the journey via Egypt requires submitting to days of arbitrary humiliation.
Rising cost of living makes clean water a luxury in Syria - Nazih Osseiran, Thomson Reuters News Foundation
Many people in war-stricken northeast Syria cannot afford clean water with inflation rising due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The growing competition for energy alliances with Algeria - Yasmina Allouche, The New Arab
Algeria and its gas resources have taken on greater importance for Europe while it navigates its worsening energy crisis, with countries vying for stronger partnerships with Algiers.
Climate migrants flee Iraq’s parched rural south, but cities offer no refuge - Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, The Washington Post
As hotter, more-crowded cities become a warming world’s future, Basra shows the perils of a lack of preparedness.
Amazigh warrior queen inspires first women-led surf school in Morocco - Stephanie Conway, Fansided
Maryam El Gardoum found inspiration in an ancient Amazigh warrior queen in starting her surf school and becoming the face of surfing in Morocco.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
UK-Based TikTok Sensation Nxdia on Rekindling Egyptian Identity - Farida El Shafie, SceneNoise
In this SceneNoise exclusive interview, Staff Writer Farida El Shafie speaks with Manchester-based TikTok sensation Nxdia to explore identity, Otherness, and what community means to her.
Puerto Rican rapper Residente is challenging the definition of 'America' - Enrique Rivera, NPR
"Everyone is American on this continent," Residente says. "And it's how they took the word and made it for them," he adds. "It's like another way of colonization."
Lana Lubany: pop rulebreaker whose bilingual anthems are taking TikTok by storm - Hannah Mylrea, NME
The Palestinian-American artist is drawing on the vibrancy of her heritage to create sublime, exploratory soundscapes.
DJ Khaled’s Divine Inspiration - Sama’an Ashrawi, GQ
On album 13, God Did, he’s still able to call in stellar features from the likes of Jay-Z, Lil Baby and 21 Savage. The secret to Khaled’s success is simpler than it seems.
A ‘Virtual Rapper’ Was Fired. Questions About Art and Tech Remain. - Marc Tracy, The New York Times
Young people are increasingly at ease consuming culture via digital avatars or made with artificial intelligence. Should the same moral guidelines and laws apply to those works?
📚 Other Reads 📚
Frances Tiafoe Has Them Talking About Tennis in Freetown, Sierra Leone - David Waldstein, The New York Times
Tiafoe, whose parents emigrated from the war-torn country before he was born, is the youngest American man to reach a U.S. Open quarterfinal in 16 years, and he has enough talent for two nations.
Inside the most clandestine hall of fame voting process in all of sports - Baxter Holmes, ESPN
The election process for the Basketball Hall of Fame is so secretive, in fact, that the final ballots are destroyed.
Talking About Suicide Helps Us Stay Alive - Marisa Russello, Slate
It all starts with listening.
Climbing Up That Hill - Taylor Towsend, The Players’ Tribune
“The accolades, playing on the biggest stages, winning Grand Slams and stuff like that, are great. But greatness is more than that. And everyone eventually has to define it on their own terms.”
My rediscovered Game Boy Advance is a time machine I don’t want to get out of - Dominik Diamond, The Guardian
Unearthing beloved old gaming consoles that have been languishing in a freezer bag is a lesser-known plus side of moving house.