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Guest Feature: Omar Kurdi
So some shameless self-promotion — I don’t get to freelance write often, and this week I wrote a story for The New Arab about how artists in the Arab diaspora navigate their identities in their music.
It was an amazing opportunity to interview three phenomenal artists, Abir, Wafia, and Intibint. I definitely encourage all of you to support them and check out their music too — they are incredibly talented!
Hope you enjoy reading the story!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Omar Kurdi!
Omar Kurdi is Jordanian American and is from Cleveland, Ohio. He is the CEO of Friends for Life Rehabilitation Services, an agency that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from. Outside of work, he is a writer and a performing artist. He is a founding member of Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi, a theatre company within Cleveland Public Theatre that aims to connect with the Arabic-speaking communities in Cleveland. With Masrah, Omar has performed in sold out shows in Cleveland, Ohio and Dearborn, Michigan. He was also selected during the pandemic to be part of a diverse cast for a show that was performed live for The Kennedy Center via Zoom.
In June 2020, he was appointed to the Community Advisory Board of Ideastream, the NPR and PBS affiliate in Northeast Ohio to represent Arab voices in Northeast Ohio. In August 2020, he was selected as a Notable Immigrant Leader by Crain’s Cleveland Business Magazine for his work in Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi. In October 2020, he was selected as one of 40 Under 40 Arab Americans by the Arab American Foundation for his work in Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi. In November 2021, Omar was selected as one of 40 Under 40 Business Leaders by Crain's Cleveland Business Magazine for his leadership and work with adults with disabilities. He was the only Arab American on the list.
So basically, what hasn’t Omar done? His accomplishments and his advocacy speak for themselves! And so does his taste in music, which shines for any pop music fan:
1. What is your favorite song right now
This song just puts me in the right mood. I have been a fan of Calum Scott since his debut in Britain’s Got Talent, and then saw him in concert in 2018. I love this song and his venture into new sounds.
I can best describe this song as the new 3 Daqat but BETTER. The little kid singing in the beginning really sets the tone for a very hype song coming next. It’s positive, happy, easy to jam to, and catchy.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I grew up listening to Amr Diab, and this song was my go-to in 2009, and continues to be my go to for all my feels. Yehemak Fe Eih translates to “Why do you care?” and the song continues to describe a lover that is no longer known to the person: “Who’s this person in front of me, I can’t recognize them anymore? I am no longer afraid to hurt them anymore”. Deep, right?!
So I am a huge fan of Indian culture, and specifically Bollywood. This song is from one of my favorite films “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.” The song talks about this friend love his best friend and watches her marry someone else. Favorite lyrics:
I have taken your darkness,
and my bright shining star is yours now.
O my moon…
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Dalida’s story is not only enchanting but sad too. This song comes as a reminder that no matter where we belong to, our homes are beautiful. First love? Memories? We all have those in our home countries.
This song takes me to my mom’s warm embrace. It may be a romantic piece, but Omar Khairat’s music makes me miss home. This piece is very dear to me, and I listen to it whenever I feel nostalgic. I listen to it whenever I miss my mom, and I picture her in our home in Jordan preparing her Nescafe as she waits for me to join her for morning coffee too.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
I grew up listening to Om Kolthoum every night, and when I began studying music in Jordan’s National Music Conservatory, Inta Omri was the first song I learned. It’s significant because it was Om Kolthoum’s first song composed by Mohammad Abdul Wahab.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Cheb Khaled is Algeria’s global pride, and his music is a vibe. I automatically start dancing and vibing once “C’est La Vie” comes on. This song was Khaled’s come back after a hiatus, and what a great one.
My introduction to house music was through Edward Maya and “Stereo Love”. It doesn’t matter where the party is at, I am there if “Stereo Love” is on.
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. And please go follow Omar on Twitter!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Atmah - Nour Khan
El Ghalli - Flenn
Picasso (Outro) - O’d
Fik Khidod Smah - Faraj Al-Fayturi featuring Ayman Alsahby
Silent Fireworks - Yal Solan
Back to 90’s - Defame featuring SAFFWIZ and GAL3Y
Agana - Wingii
Money Cash II - Minerva featuring Pakkun
Marbella - Sandra Sahi
THE SNAKE - Lana Lubany
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
sola - riela
Adicta - Barovier
G3 N15 - ROSALÍA
q te vaya bonito - MARLENA
Cuando Llora un Corazón - El Chacal
Alta Gama (Remix) - Rochy RD featuring Ozuna
Bestia - Lao Ra
Nadie - Miky Woodz featuring Myke Towers and Nio Garcia
Cumbia Loca - Sarah Silva
Mereces Menos - La Ross Maria featuring Leon Leiden
Ausente - Tito Flow featuring Amenazzy and Eladio Carrion
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Phone A Friend - Sevana
bored of me 2! - N A E
Culture - Boj featuring ENNY
LL Cool J - Leikeli47
Summer Madness - Khruangbin
Iced Tea - Joyce Wrice featuring KAYTRANADA
Beauty in the Madness - Rexx Life Raj featuring Wale and Fireboy DML
Terrified - Childish Gambino
Sona - Diamond Platnumz featuring Adekunle Gold
By My Side - SAFE featuring Kaash Paige
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Who's running in May 2022? Here's the full list of candidates - Richard Salame, Farah-Silvana Kanaan, Kim Makhouf, Mohamed El Chamaa and Wael Taleb, L’Orient Today
Of those who filed, 155 were women, making up about 15 percent of the total, slightly higher than in 2018 when women candidates made up 11 percent of the total registered.
Lebanon Holds Central Bank Chief’s Brother on Graft Allegations - Dana Khraiche and Youssef Diab, Bloomberg
A Lebanese judge ordered the arrest of the brother of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh over allegations of money laundering and embezzling public funds.
Beirut artists interpret experience of nonconformance in Middle East - Naima Morelli, Al-Monitor
A comic book artist and a photographer/editor speak of the queer community in Lebanon, and how it has changed over time.
Disillusioned Lebanese lose faith with politicians ahead of poll - Heba Saleh, Financial Times
“It was the politicians we voted for who brought us to this situation. Now I worry if I have to go to the supermarket or the pharmacy.”
'Basket beats borders': how an all-girls basketball team in Shatila shatters stereotypes and empowers a new generation - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
The Palestine Youth Basketball Club, the Shatila refugee camp’s all-girl basketball team, has a mission that reaches far beyond sports alone.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
As Cairo transforms, Egyptians fight to save their trees - Amr-Hussein Radjy, Associated Press
In recent years, grassroots groups have sprung up in different areas of Cairo to try to protect the city’s urban identity.
For Syrian survivors, Russia’s tactics in Ukraine eerily similar - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
After years of propping up President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, experts say Russian forces are using the same military playbook in Ukraine.
Born-again Palestinian: A tale of social and political awakening - Tariq Raouf, The New Arab
Due to reductive and harmful notions of iity, Palestinian-Americans have either had to hide their diasporic pride, or assimilate to survive. Yet, as we find out through the story of Tariq Raouf, many have now awoken to political engagement.
Yemeni city looks to ancient past to survive climate change - Maya Gebeily, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
As global warming fuels extreme weather in climate-vulnerable Yemen, restoring the Tawila Cisterns could help avert future disasters, officials say.
Mass Graves Identified in Syria Could Hold Evidence of War Crimes - Ben Hubbard and Marlise Simons, The New York Times
Two sites have been located, believed to hold thousands of bodies of Syrians killed in detention centers administered by President Bashar al-Assad’s government during the civil war.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
‘Warsha’: A Bird’s-Eye View of Beirut - Lylla Younes, New Lines Magazine
The new film explores the perspective, in picture and thought, of a Syrian migrant worker in Beirut.
From Beirut to New York, the fabulous destiny of Anghami - Fouad Gemayel, L’Orient Le Jour
Ten years after its launch, the Lebanese music streaming platform has become the first Arab tech company to be listed on NASDAQ. This is the story of a Lebanese entrepreneurial odyssey.
A Day With Koffee, Reggae’s Next Pop Star - Clover Hope, Pitchfork
She’s already won a Grammy, hit No. 1 on the reggae charts, and worked with Jay-Z but, she says, “I have a far way to go.”
When it comes to the L.A. sound, don’t get it twisted: DJ Quik is still the name - Jason Parham, Los Angeles Times
“His is the groove that never ends. The timeless house party anthem. Thirty years on, the wizard of perennial West Coast funk has remained at the center of it all.”
Studio 40Mustaqel challenges the discourse of design in the Arab Swana region - Elfie Thomas, It’s Nice That
The Cairo-based design studio was drawn together by a common interest in exploring how to tie their “complex and diverse Arab identity” into their design practice.
📚 Other Reads 📚
In the Ukraine Conflict, Fake Fact-Checks Are Being Used to Spread Disinformation - Craig Silverman and Jeff Kao, ProPublica
Social media posts debunking purported Ukrainian disinformation are themselves fake. That doesn’t stop them from being featured on Russian state TV.
Selling Hope - Wendy A. Woloson, Boston Review
A cancer diagnosis reveals how pervasive consumerism has become, infecting even the stuff meant to heal us.
How the Atlanta spa shootings — the victims, the survivors — tell a story of America - May Jeong, Vanity Fair
The rampage killed eight people, including six Asian women. But the ripple effects go far, to other countries, continents, and immigrant histories.
A Lucha Libra Wrestler Loved by Children - Susan Orlean, The New Yorker
Not much is known about the life of Súper Muñeco, which is exactly as he intended.
The Book of Joe - Joe Johnson, The Players’ Tribune
“There were plenty of guys that I had played with that I could have asked for help, but I’ll be honest, I really never reached out or sought guidance.”