Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Rhana Natour
It never gets easier to read the headlines about Lebanon. The Lebanese lira hit an all-time low this week, lawmakers selfishly jumped the line for COVID vaccines, and the people are back in the streets again literally protesting for their lives.
On top of all of this, we’ve gone over 240 days without an actual government. And today marks seven months since the Port of Beirut blast, still without any answers or justice.
Each day, it feels like there’s something new that pushes the people further to the brink. So when I see stories about Lebanese “resilience” I get infuriated. The only thing “resilient” is this awful system that has completely put the people down for generations. A system that has ransacked the people of their resources and their livelihoods. A system where government officials point fingers instead of taking any meaningful action. A system where people are forced to either find a way to leave the country or bend to the needs and the will of the government.
This is a system that has and continues to be propped up for too long, both by people living in Lebanon and the diaspora. And it’s breaking us to desperate points.
I recognize that I talk about this often, and I don’t really have any new points here. It’s just painful to see friends, family, and loved ones being held hostage by the Lebanese government — by the system — and to feel helpless watching it all unfold.
With that, let’s get into it. I am really excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Rhana Natour!
Rhana is a journalist and producer who most recently worked at PBS NewsHour as a reporter and field producer where she covered a wide swath of stories including politics, arts & culture, breaking news and enterprise stories on technology, gender and race. Before that she was a news fellow and associate producer at ABC News in New York where she was part of the Emmy nominated team for the Nightline special ‘Crisis in Syria.” She lived in Ramallah for a year to produce “Speed Sisters” a feature documentary that followed the first female race car driving team in the Middle East.
Rhana has tremendous passion for the culture and I had been dying to ask her about her taste in music. And y’all, I am HERE for it:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
“Come Down” by Anderson .Paak from his album Malibu. It instantly brings me a shot of joy and energy. His concert also happened to be the last concert I went to before the pandemic shut all that down. I nearly lost my mind when I heard Paak is teaming up with Bruno Mars for this new project/band called Silk Sonic. I am sure a song on that album will be high in the rotation when it drops.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
“Le Beirut” by Fairouz. I’m in the early stages of developing a short documentary on the Beirut explosion and the aftermath’s long tail. This song reminds me of the stakes involved. Her lyrics and the sorrow in her voice reminds me that, at the end of the day, this is a place of beauty and joy and that this needs to shine through in the final product.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
“Sunday Best” by Surfaces. I remember I played it on repeat this summer to keep positive when I was really worried about my parents who were stuck overseas because of covid. It reminds me of those summer days my husband and I visited our family in Michigan when it was still warm enough to hang outside. Now that it is almost springtime that song is back in the rotation.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Anything Beyonce and Mariah Carey. I recently finished Mariah Carey’s memoir and that of course reignited my middle school obsession with her. I also know every single word to every single Beyonce song. I’m not sure how it sort of just happened.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Arabic wedding songs are like a jolt of caffeine for me. Anything by Fares Karam, Amr Diab and that song “Ti Rash Rash” by Rami Hussein.
Big shout out to Rhana for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Rhana’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Also want to make a plug for a cool event that Rhana will be hosting tomorrow (Friday, March 5) at 2pm ET. Rhana will be interviewing ‘Ramy’ and ‘Succession’ actor Hiam Abbass (you can register here).
This marks the launch of her new interview series Creators’ Corner in collaboration with the Middle East Institute. The series will feature conversations with leading Arab and Arab-American actors, comedians, directors, writers and cultural influencers. Upcoming guests include the director Cherien Dabis and comedian Mo Amer.
Rhana shared, “There has been some really ground-breaking work from Arab and Arab-Americans that we’ve all enjoyed. I wanted to learn more about their process and their journey. I also hope these conversations will inspire others in the community to become creators and storytellers themselves.”
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Arab Flows (Middle Eastern & North African artists) 🎧
Bluetooth - Laila Al Habash
Tisal - Haykal featuring Ranisalameh
Qa3 - Shouly featuring Ibn Itaka
Oul InshAllah - Iwan
Jade - Lol Zouaï featuring Blood Orange
Ya Zaman - Artmasta featuring Kemo
Azara Alhai - Rasha
Shankooty - Essam Karika
Blinding Lights (D33pSoul Remix) - Rachid Aseyakhe
Maalish - Smallx
🎤 Las Vibras (Latinx & Hispanic artists) 🎤
Suelta - Bella Dose
Ingobernable - C. Tangana featuring Gipsy Kings, Nicolás Reyes, and Tonino Baliardo
Flotando - Christian Pagán featuring Raquel Sofía
Que Te Vaya Bien - Joana Santos featuring Denyerkin
Discípulo - Lenny Tavárez featuring Dalex
A Solas - Maria Becerra
Pretinha - FMK
ILY - Delfina Dib
No Consigo - LeMagic featuring Ozuna
Báilalo Mujer - Flor De Rap featuring Denise Rosenthal
🎼 Other Music 🎼
Toxic - Digga D
Sometimes - Britney Spears
Ladbroke Grove - AJ Tracey
Ajke Kalke - DJ LYAN featuring Nish
Sleepy Eyes - The Aces
All Around The World (R3HAB Remix) - A Touch Of Class
Dracula’s Wedding - OutKast featuring Kelis
Torn - LeToya
Dilemma - Pryme Kingz
Kingston - Faye Webster
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
‘I might not go back to school’: childhood dreams fade as poverty forces Lebanon’s young into work - Abbie Cheeseman, The Telegraph
An economic crisis compounded by the pandemic has led to soaring levels of child labor.
Lebanese lira drops to record low of LL10,000 to the dollar as political stalemate persists - Omar Tamo, L’Orient Today
As hard currency reserves at the central bank dwindle toward a critical level, the Lebanese lira continued its free fall on Tuesday, hitting a record low against the US dollar amid a stalled government formation process.
Lebanon’s queue jumping affair threatens World Bank vaccine lifeline - Chloe Cornish, Financial Times
International lender is reviewing the case of 16 MPs receiving the BioNTech/Pfizer jab.
Protests ignite in squares and streets throughout Lebanon in the wake of the lira's record plunge - Emily Lewis, L’Orient Today
Protests have broken out across the country after the value of Lebanese lira dropped to record lows Tuesday.
Head-Spinning Photos from Lebanon's Drifting Scene - Benjamin Guillot-Mouiex, VICE France
“Even in the midst of this pandemonium, people in Tripoli have found a way to let off some steam”
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
‘Like a Warm Hug From an Angel’ - Maya Salam, The New York Times
“For a handful of cultures across the globe, the Arab world among them, these distinct blankets deliver not only an impossibly warm, soft hug but a great sense of belonging”
Arab Americans, deemed 'white' in government records, suffer an unseen COVID-19 crisis - Marc Ramirez, USA Today
Arab Americans and their advocates fear alarming rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths in their communities – but there is little data to back up these concerns because most are categorized as "white" by the federal government.
It’s official. Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Hold him accountable - Sarah Leah Whitson and Michael Eisner, Los Angeles Times
“Release of the intelligence assessment is an important step in revealing the truth about Khashoggi’s assassination. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has also decided to impose no meaningful penalty against Bin Salman.”
For Egyptian activists abroad, a growing fear - Shaun Tandon and Farid Farid, Agence France-Presse
Egyptian activist Sherif Mansour speaks to AFP about harassment against his family.
Tick the box: why the Arabic-speaking community should embrace the 2021 Census and be counted - Layla Maghribi, The National
Despite lockdown restrictions this year's census will go ahead in England and Wales.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Decolonizing Electronic Music Starts With Its Software - Tom Faber, Pitchfork
With the release of two free programs that encourage experimentation with global tuning systems, the musician and researcher Khyam Allami is challenging the Western biases of music production software.
24 Hours With Andra Day: Afrobeat and the Nixon Tapes - Alexis Soloski, The New York Times
At home in Los Angeles, the star of “United States vs. Billie Holiday” finds inspiration in African music and the autobiography of Assata Shakur.
The brilliant Bunny Wailer pushed reggae forward on his own terms - Lloyd Bradley, The Guardian
The Jamaican star, who has died aged 73, returned to his roots after global fame with Bob Marley to deepen and diversify reggae with a powerful sense of creative freedom.
Sneakerheads Have Turned Jordans and Yeezys Into a Bona Fide Asset Class - Joshua Hunt, Bloomberg
When the pandemic presented a buy-low opportunity, one college dropout hit the road and filled his truck with $200,000 worth of kicks.
Black women are taking over the footwear industry - Aaron Dodson and Nick DePaula
These stars in sports, music or fashion double as designers, trend leaders and representatives for major brands.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State - Ben Mauk, The New Yorker
Survivors of China’s campaign of persecution reveal the scope of the devastation.
Black Seminoles were left behind in COVID-19 Tribal relief - Juliana Clark, Prism
This is just the latest example of Black Seminoles’ health and livelihood being deprioritized.
An American Reckoning at the Golden Globes - Shirley Li, The Atlantic
The show felt lost in time. The winners did not.
One Year Into the Pandemic, How Are Health Reporters Doing? - Chelsea Cirruzzo, Neiman Lab
Health reporters are holding officials accountable, documenting the virus’s devastating toll, and balancing the pandemic’s impact on their own lives.
Female Athletes Are Under Covered. These Olympians Want to Change That. - Kevin Draper and Talya Minsburg, The New York Times
Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Simone Manuel and Chloe Kim teamed up to create TOGETHXR, a media and commerce company designed to elevate women’s voices.
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