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Guest Feature: Rajaa Elidrissi
Nobody should ever have to experience war or an invasion that completely upends lives and displaces families. Right now, the world is focused on the Ukrainian people — and rightfully so. We should stand with the people in Ukraine.
My hope is that our outrage toward violent aggression applies to any country or force that wages war and harm, and that we have that empathy for all people — be it Ukrainians, Palestinians, Yemenis, Syrians, anyone — living in fear of imminent danger.
It’s the people who are the ones that ultimately suffer in war, and it’s the people who will continue to feel the lifelong impacts of trauma caused by war. Nothing is worse than war.
I do hope you find the rest of the newsletter as a brief moment of escapism and as a source of some happiness and comfort.
And plus, we have an absolutely incredible guest feature this week. I am so excited to introduce the homie: Rajaa Elidrissi!
Rajaa works on Vox.com's foreign video team, where she researches and reports for producers on the team and occasionally produces her own videos. She's worked on videos about the explosion in Beirut, US failures in Afghanistan, India's oxygen crisis, Iraq's water crisis and more. She's also a Stabile investigative fellow at Columbia's Journalism School, where she's focuses on more domestic topics, like burials for unclaimed bodies in NYC and broken covid regulations in ICE detention centers. Rajaa holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies and is finishing up her master's in journalism at Columbia this year. She loves cooking Moroccan food, consuming Arab art, and watching soccer (Liverpool fan) in her free time.
If you’ve ever seen Vox’s videos on global news, basically you can thank Rajaa and her co-workers for how engaging, beautiful and well researched they are. She also dedicates her free time to local initiatives to ensure student journalists of color have the resources, recognition and opportunities needed to advance. Rajaa’s on the board of the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association, an organization that’s been an excellent resource for journalists in our community. We’ll forgive her for being a Liverpool fan though:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Right now, I've been listening to Nass El Ghiwane a lot. I got used to listening to Moroccan music that's a bit more satirical, so I went looking for something a bit deeper. A lot of their music is about social justice in Morocco and morality. My favorite song of theirs at the moment is “Mahmoune”. It's about a typical person feeling the weight of financial stress and oppression on their shoulders. It's in older darija (Moroccan dialect), so I've been enjoying the challenge to understand and translate this song fully.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Mil Canciones” by Carlos Vives. This song always cheers me up when I feel down. It puts me in a more optimistic mood.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
There are two songs at the moment. The first is “Ghadbana” by Najat Aaatabou and Mustapha Bourgogne. It's one of the first chaabi songs I remember my parents playing in our home. I found it hilarious because I was used to songs about heartbreak, but this song is about someone's wife being fed up with their mother-in-law, which is a very, very common theme in Moroccan music.
The other is “Aita Daoudia” by Daoudi. My parents played this song constantly, it’s especially at the forefront of my mind now. When my father was in hospice care last year, I played this song for him. It was nostalgic for him and he worked up the nerve to dance even though he was ill. It ended up being the last song we listened to together.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
“Aicha” by Cheb Khaled. I've always wanted to attend a Cheb Khaled concert and “Aicha” is one of his most famous songs, but it's in French. I don't speak French, so memorizing the lyrics took me an insanely long time. If I go to his concert one day, I now won't feel left out when everyone sings along.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
“International Players Anthem” by UGK and Outkast. Honestly, I have no explanation for why I listen to this song daily, but I'd be lying if I chose another haha.
Big shout out to Rajaa for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Rajaa’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Go follow Rajaa on Twitter and check out some of her incredible production!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Dakhle Ouyounak Ya Bayi - Sammy Clark
Je Cours - Taxi 404
Ishty Ansa - Intibint
LIAM - ZXEDD
El Masdar - Budgy featuring TaffyRaps
Suavemente - Soolking
Fibelna - El Castro
THEY UPSET - Dounia
Mnami - Othman Ouilki
Nowhere to Run - Amira Jazeera featuring Papi Beatz
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Sus Huellas - Romeo Santos
Como Tú - Lali
X2 (Remix) - Jossef featuring Mariah Angeliq
MARBELLA - Fano featuring Taylor Diaz
De Los Límites - Mariel Mariel featuring Lido Pimienta
I Am Bolero - Carolina Gaitán
GRACIAS POR NADA - Rauw Alejandro
CHICKEN TERIYAKI - ROSALÍA
2 PALABRAS - GIULIA BE
Te Venero - C. Tangana featuring Omar Portuondo
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Snitch - Ayra Starr featuring Fousheé
RUN TOO - EARTHGANG featuring Ari Lennox
COLD SUMMER - Wesley Joseph
Johnny P’s Caddy - Benny The Butcher featuring J. Cole
Introvert Hotline - Ego Ella May
Believer - Aṣa
Leverage - Baby Elz
Straight Back To It - Central Cee
Mufasa - Tekno
Foreigner - Nonso Amadi
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Russian invasion of Ukraine stirs both tensions and solidarity among Lebanon's Ukrainian and Russian diaspora - Rana Tabbara and Mohamad El Chamaa, L’Orient Today
Despite the history of tensions between the two countries, Ukrainian and Russian nationals in Lebanon have traditionally been part of the same community.
‘Sending a message’: Lebanese act out their pain in a play - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
Get to Know Each Other is a play but also part of a wider social programme that includes group psychological support.
'I see you': Lebanon activists create flight tracker for politicians' private jets - William Christou, The New Arab
Despite Lebanon's economic meltdown, its elite continue to party. This flight tracker lets them know the world is watching.
‘Listen to our pleas’: Beirut blast victims demand global support - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
Relatives call for an international inquiry to help push forward a floundering local investigation into the deadly explosion in Lebanon.
Contracts show Lebanon's central bank obscured recipients of commissions - Timour Azhari and Samia Nakhoul, Reuters
For more than a decade, Lebanon's central bank charged commercial banks in the country commissions when they bought government securities without making clear that the bulk of those commissions went to a company controlled by the brother of the central bank's governor.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
What Is the Arabesque Kitchen? - N.A. Mansour, Eater
In the past few years, the publishing industry has embraced cookbooks and authors from the Arabic-speaking world. But the stories told and dishes served are often the same ones, repeated over and over again.
Egyptian labour in the revolutionary struggle - Hossam el-Hamalawy, The New Frame
The Egyptian labour movement has a long history of resistance, but the current repressive regime is coming down hard on independent trade union organising.
The U.S. must investigate the death of my Palestinian American father in Israeli custody - Hala Hamad, The Washington Post
"It should also ask why we are supporting a regime that human rights groups say is committing apartheid."
A “Simultaneously Hidden and Deliciously Obvious” History of Levantine Cuisine - Alexia Underwood, The Nation
Writer Antonio Tahhan and Anny Gaul, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, discuss a new collection of essays on the region’s food.
The U.S. census sees Middle Eastern and North African people as white. Many don't. - Hansi Lo Wang, NPR
Federal government standards require the U.S. census to count people with roots in the Middle East or North Africa as white. But a new study finds many people of MENA descent do not see themselves as white, and neither do many white people.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Broken Japanese: exploring exoticisation and stereotyping in graphic design - Ray Masaki, It’s Nice That
Delving into topics such as cultural appropriation, exoticisation, Japanese aestheticism and more, this thoughtful column helps us to consider the various wider implications of the issues at hand, especially if you’re someone who’s just really into Japanese culture.
Op-Ed: Mozart. Coltrane. Ellington. And J Dilla? Why the underrecognized beatmaker belongs among the legends - Dan Charnas, Los Angeles Times
Four of the six albums nominated for Grammy’s in the “Progressive R&B” category bear his unmistakable rhythmic signature.
Mbabila "Small" Batoh and his group would perform at funerals in Ghana through the night, singing the departed into the afterlife.
Rotana: On Our Erotic Lives as a Prayer, a Healing, and a Call of Freedom - Nazeeha Saeed (translation by Hiba Moustafa), My.Kali
“I have a deep connection with my body and the power it holds for my entire life.”
How Janet Jackson taught me the art of vulnerability - Michael-Michelle Pratt, gal-dem
The recent Janet Jackson documentary reminded me of how my mother and I have always bonded via her resilience, frankness, and artistry.
📚 Other Reads 📚
BBC Ukraine editor: There is no safe place any more - Marta Shokalo, BBC News
“I dressed my 10-year-old son. We had some breakfast, sitting as far from the windows as we could, but he was so scared he vomited.”
How the new banned books panic fits into America’s history of school censorship - Constance Grady, Vox
What’s at stake? Who gets to control the story of America.
The Many Dimensions of DeMar DeRozan - Mirin Fader, The Ringer
After enduring the darkest stretch of his life, the Bulls star has finally found joy in Chicago. DeRozan opens up about dealing with his grief, finding new success amid a record-breaking season, and discovering that life is about more than just surviving. “It’s about living.”
A drug for pregnant women doesn’t work, according to the FDA. A company is selling it anyway - Melody Petersen, Los Angeles Times
“Brittany Horsey of Baltimore was prescribed the drug Makena during two of her pregnancies because doctors believed she was at risk of giving birth too soon. Yet, both of her babies were born prematurely and Horsey said she suffered from Makena side effects, including migraines and depression.”
There still isn’t a roadmap to family reunification one year after repealing the Muslim Ban - Alexandra Martinez, Prism
Muslim Americans say nothing has been done to mitigate the damage, loss, and separation caused by the ban.