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Guest Feature: Sama'an Ashrawi
This week, in continuing to highlight awesome organizations and companies during Arab Heritage Month, I want to give a shout out to one of my favorites, Ya Habibi Market!
Based in Los Angeles, Ya Habibi Market is a collective of multidisciplinary MENA creatives, artists and designers from all around the world. They cultivate a graphic-led approach to create unique products with the common goal of giving back to our communities.
They not only create incredible products designed by MENA artists, but they also donate part of their proceeds to nonprofit organizations working in the region. So far, they’ve donated to charities working in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.
Okay friends, let’s do this. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Sama'an Ashrawi!
Sama'an is a writer, filmmaker, music producer, and host of the Nostalgia Mixtape podcast. His work has featured Drake, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Chris Rock, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer, the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz, Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco, A$AP Rocky, Clint Dempsey, Nneka Ogwumike, Gary Clark Jr, Leon Bridges, Hannibal Buress, DJ Khaled, Mac Miller, Thundercat, Ana Tijoux, Khruangbin, and dozens more.
If there is anyone that truly understands artists and music, it’s Sama’an. Just look at that list of artists! Sama’an is an incredibly down-to-earth person who works tirelessly to see people in the community succeed in music and arts. It was a no-brainer to have him share some of his go-to songs:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
Zahar is a Moroccan band led by Hassan Hakmoun that plays the Gnawa style. Omar Offendum sent me Zahar's music randomly one day and I haven't been the same since. This song specifically blends Gnawa with rap, reggae, and dub. It's incredible and cosmic to me.
Speaking of cosmic, Sun Ra is considered the godfather of Afrofuturism. I was first introduced to his music in college and I now believe it's essential that everyone has a Sun Ra phase just like kids from my generation had their Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, and Sublime phases. Most of his music is very avant garde, but this one is a more digestible entrypoint that comes from his early years as a composer who liked to fuse doo wop with jazz. I love the chorus, "Dreams come true / they just have to / if you believe in love."
I was definitely in my feelings after watching the Janet doc. This is timeless music. If we had to make a time capsule and we could only preserve 100 songs for future civilizations to discover and understand ours by, this would be one of them. Please watch the video if you've never seen it, or rewatch if you have.
Okay we're back in Morocco now; that's where London rapper AJ Tracey filmed the video for this song. My friend Kareem sent it to me a few summers ago and I've been hooked ever since. An infectious garage track with a Jorja Smith sample, and AJ raps so effortlessly over it.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I travel a lot for work and while I love that feeling of independence and derive a lot of my sense of purpose from it, it can also be lonely. Also, home can be lonely too when you're going through tough times. This song is the medicine for that, it's like a warm, weighted blanket on a cold night.
When she sings "am I losing you for good?" and reminisces about the times she and her former lover used to kiss all night... who can't relate to that? And what a special thing to have loved enough to be able to relate to it in the first place, even if it hurts now.
I cry a lot as an adult, and while I don't usually gravitate to songs that are so on-the-nose, I keep coming back to this song. Sometimes songs choose you more than you choose them, that's the case with this one.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
I used to drive a silver Scion xB, it was like a toaster on wheels. I spent a summer's worth of lifeguarding money installing some nice speakers in my trunk so that I could drive into the high school parking lot blasting this at very high decibel levels. This song will always remind me of home for that reason.
This is a song by my dad's band, Al-Bara'em, they were the first original Arabic rock n roll band in Palestine. This particular recording was done by my uncle Samir. It reminds me of the home I wish I could visit more often. The home that I wish was free. Shoutout to our mutual friend Adam for being such a big supporter and encourager of my project of preserving the band's legacy.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
This was originally written by John Lennon, but as far as I'm concerned it belongs to Donny now. He absolutely smoked this. I wish more karaoke places had this in their catalogue. Imagine being able to sing this good live, couldn't be me.
After being depressed for a long time, I took a road trip and this song came on shuffle and I belted it at the top of my lungs. And that's when I knew I was starting to feel better. The lyrics don't have anything to do with what I was going through, I just love the way they're sung.
Here's another cover that I wish was available at more karaoke places. Aretha took this one to 11. Also a road trip staple.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
I feel like I can't really do a lot of explaining here, just throw this on and you'll understand.
This song makes me miss my Scion and those speakers.
This song is absolutely chaotic in the best way possible.
Azealia remains one of the most talented artists of our time and this is my favorite song of hers.
Big shout out to Sama’an for joining and sharing his song selections! Most of Sama’an’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And definitely go follow Sama’an on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on all the cool initiatives he’s got in the works!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Persian Girl - Bayou featuring yef
Marra Kaman - Aziza
Black and White - Didine Canon 16
sun and moon - anees
Fruitseller - Felukah
Retro - Hoda Sherbeeny
1993 - Amon
Comfortably Numb - Hayajan
Guava - Side Effect
A Thousand Nights - Mougleta
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Apretaito - Ozuna featuring Boza
LONDON - BIA featuring J. Cole
Maquina de Dinero - El Alfa featuring French Montana, Braulio Fogon, and Kaly Ocho
Piketona - Lele Pons featuring Kim Loaiza
Un Viaje - Jotaerre featuring KAROL G, Alejo, and Moffa
Dolorosa - Ampersan
Bajo - Elisama
Dime - Ptazeta featuring Juacko
TUS LÁGRIMAS - Moro featuring Sech
Nada - Raquel Sofia
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
MATERIAL GIRL - Darius featuring Lo Village
BMHWDY - Syd
livin wild - Gunna
Taco - IDK
Twice a Day - Selah Sue
City of Gods (Part II) - Alicia Keys
fade - Mysie
Soft Life - Sefa
Why - Digga D featuring AJ Tracey
Heaven Takes You Home - Swedish House Mafia featuring Connie Constance
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Why Can’t Beirut Be Your Base? - Farrah Berrou, Bambi’s Soapbox
“I keep wondering if this sense of belonging I can’t find here in America is my stubborn resistance to being at ease. It’s my rejection of this trade-off.”
'The status of women in our country is miserable': Lebanese women fight to be heard in the upcoming elections - Clément Gibon, The New Arab
After only a handful of Lebanese women were selected as candidates, many activists and international organisations are calling for a better representation of women in the coming general elections of May 2022.
Tracy Chahwan on making the visuals for all the best “strictly-vinyl” parties in Beirut - Elfie Thomas, It’s Nice That
The Lebanese cartoonist, storyteller and illustrator discusses her creative journey from being deeply involved in the Beirut music scene to being uprooted to America during the pandemic.
A survivor's story: After the Beirut blast destroyed her world, a teenager turns to the written word - Kim Makhlouf, L’Orient Today
Two months shy of her 16th birthday, Ariana Papazian had dreams, ambitions and problems common for anyone her age. Nothing could have prepared Papazian to lose her mother, Delia, in the Beirut port blast on the evening of Aug. 4, 2020.
Fearing civil war amnesia, activists fight to preserve Beirut port silos - Timour Azhari, Reuters
Families of victims of the 2020 Beirut port blast are pressuring Lebanon's government to keep its silos as a memorial, arguing the move would be a powerful acknowledgement of suffering in a country still struggling to come to terms with years of war and strife.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Iraq's farmers pushed off land as drought and heat cripple crops - Tessa Fox, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
Climate change-related losses are squeezing Iraq's parched farmers - and driving growing migration.
‘Recipes of resilience’: Bay Area chef Reem Assil’s highly-anticipated first cookbook, “Arabbiya” - Jessica Yadegaran, The Mercury News
Reem Assil, the owner of the Arab bakery and restaurant, Reem’s California, in San Francisco’s Mission district, and its commissary kitchen in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, wrote a deeply personal cookbook, a collection of “recipes for resilience” that illustrates how Assil’s Arab roots and hospitality have influenced everything she does.
'Silent pain' of Algerians banished by France to the Pacific - Thomas Bernardi and Amal Belalloufi, Agence France-Presse
On the 60th anniversary of Algeria's independence from France, descendants of the North Africans deported to the Pacific territory of New Caledonia remember the "silent pain" of their ancestors.
'Rape will not stop us': In Sudan, sexual violence is a weapon against women's resistance - Nadine Talaat, The New Arab
Women are on the frontlines of Sudan’s popular uprisings demanding civilian rule, but security forces have been using sexual violence as a weapon to deter women’s political participation and defeat the resistance.
The decolonization of Palestine demands dismantling patriarchal prejudice - Tamam Mohsen, Mondoweiss
Challenging patriarchal notions in Palestinian society is not a separate issue from ending Zionist settler-colonialism. In fact, it has been precisely through gender violence that the colonial project has thrived.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
“In the years since, Tapponi has provided the same gift of self-recognition for many thousands more women of the Southwest Asian and North African diaspora living around the world through Habibi Collective, which supports SWANA women’s video and film practice through programming, fundraising, education, development, production, and collaborative practice.”
The Appeal of K-Pop in the Arab World - Maan Abu Taleb, GQ Middle East
The Middle East’s love of K-Pop is more than just an homage to well-mannered celebrity and an obsessive fan base, it’s a cultural shift.
In Conversation with Lella Fadda, Egypt’s Rising Musical Gem - Yusha and Yassine Hariss, Mille World
The Abyusif-collaborator opens up.
Sharon Van Etten Is an Institution Now - Madison Bloom, Pitchfork
After more than a decade as an indie-rock fixture, and with her sixth album on the way, the singer-songwriter is resolute amid a world spiraling into chaos.
Janelle James Loves Being a Bad Boss in ‘Abbott Elementary’ - Julia Carmel, The New York Times
The comedian talks about her breakout acting role as a hilariously terrible elementary school principal in the hit ABC sitcom.
📚 Other Reads 📚
The Most Popular Chess Streamer on Twitch - Jacob Sweet, The New Yorker
The former chess prodigy Hikaru Nakamura was widely disliked on the professional circuit. Then he started streaming.
How Serena Williams Saved Her Own Life - Serena Williams, ELLE
Black women are nearly three times more likely to die after childbirth than white women. Serena Williams was almost one of them. Here, in her own words, she tells her story.
How three best friends turned a Mississauga basement into an iconic dance studio with millions of fans on TikTok - Madison Wong, The Toronto Star
If you’ve scrolled through TikTok, you’ve most likely stumbled upon the fun, energetic dance trio called the Basement Gang.
‘Soil justice’: How US Indigenous communities are using their land to overcome racial neglect - Anthony J. Wallace, The New Humanitarian
“We’re not just talking about it, we’re actually applying it.”
This was all part of Ime Udoka’s plan.