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Guest Feature: Soha Yassine
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Fourteen Palestinians have been killed over the last three days in the Occupied West Bank, marking one of the deadliest weeks for Palestinians this year.
My thoughts are always with Palestinians, but especially this week given the violence against the community in Jenin and the young lives cut short.
For more on what’s been happening in Palestine, click here. Please continue to call this out and continue to pay attention to what’s happening.
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Soha Yassine!
Soha is a Beirut-born, LA-based guerrilla storyteller focused on the Middle East and North Africa.
When she’s not in her sleepy LA suburb with her three kiddos, Soha is either traveling for her podcast, The Safe House Travel Diary, or she’s in Dubai hosting The Safe House Live (coming soon!), a studio show about emerging artists representing the Middle East and North Africa.
Her world view was shaped by her experiences growing up in LA and traveling back to Lebanon in the summers. Soha’s birth in Beirut was sandwiched between the bombings of the US Marine barracks and American Embassy in 1983. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s, she spent her weekends, holidays, and school breaks at the Market Street Swap Meet in Inglewood where her family clothing store catered to LA’s hip hop community. It was the era of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac. That's where Soha experienced the ability of rap music to reflect, transmit, and shape culture.
Soha’s curiosity about the world and people led her to study World Religions (UCLA 2005) and Islamic Studies (CGU 2012) in college, and she worked in non-profit communications for over a decade with organizations such as Oxfam America (where she spent three months as “the NGO roadie” for Coldplay), UN Women, Neumann Foundation, The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, Bayan College, and more. In classic post-pandemic style, Soha started asking herself how she wanted to spend this next chapter of her life. The Safe House Travel Diary is her space to explore the questions of where she’s from, what local music says about home, and her role in the story.
Starting with her motherland, Lebanon, Soha is passionate about exploring the global path charted by hip hop as the voice of the marginalized.
I highly encourage everyone to check out her story in GQ Middle East about the Lebanese scene specifically. When she shared some of her go-to songs, Soha made sure to rep a lot of the talent coming out of Lebanon right now:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
This song holds a special place in my heart. On the track, Jamul talks about a big turning point in his life saying (translated from Arabic): “this is about changing, this is about evolving.” This track helps me articulate how deeply vulnerable and personal this experience has been for me and you can hear it prominently featured on one of the episodes this season.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
This track is a polite way of telling someone to fuck off veiled as a chill summer tune. I have a special connection to it because Lipos showed it to me in his home studio before he released it, so hearing this song always brings a smile to my face.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
You don’t have to even close your eyes… This song takes you straight to Al Manara, Beirut’s famous promenade along the Mediterranean Sea.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Ok I lied, I don’t know all the words YET to this song that's part diss track part political statement. Whenever I hear it I find myself slipping into a daydream about performing it on stage with El Rass. I saw him pull fans from the audience to perform it on stage with him in Beirut last year, and I’m making sure that I’m going to be ready the next time I go to one of his concerts!
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
This one is for a fast drive: volume high, bass up. Nuj and all his eccentricities are on full display on this track before he passes the baton to Ziggy. They feature often on each other's work, but this joint performance is my favorite.
Big shout out to Soha for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Soha’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Follow Soha on Instagram, check out The Safe House Travel Diary wherever you stream your podcasts, and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Lamouni - Smallx featuring Wegz and Soufiane Az
Dab7 - Blu Fiefer
GHYAB - Dania
Mish Asfeh - zeyne
Geto - Artiste featuring 1da Banton
W Ras L3zayyez - W.Z.A
Rafat Rafat - Jad Halal
Khli koulchi BEHIND. - Meta4 Planet
Arif ino - Nassi
Jabarout - ZEUSAEED
Aalam Tany - Gohary featuring Camelman and Hosny
Ya Lel - Bashar Murad
Zizy - Sanfara
Didi - Benab featuring Naza
TP - Sadek featuring Ninho
malahy - Ma-Beyn featuring Solty and Sudma
Original - Oualid featuring Douaa Lahyaoui
Parano - Tagne featuring Niro
SUPERMAN - Mishaal Tamer
Work - Shobee featuring Madd
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Maníaca - Abraham Mateo
Acurrucao - Ir Sais featuring Sofia LaSanta
mr. titubeante - VALÉ
La Más Linda - Nino Freestyle
Como Yo :( - Tiago PZK & Marshmallo
ZAPATA - Peso Pluma
Chulo, Pt. 2 - Bad Gyal featuring Tokischa and Young Miko
Sintonía - Immasoul
Oversize - La Gabi
Tuci y Perreo - Dan García featuring Yvng Lvcas
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Work Hard Play Hard - D Smoke featuring SiR
Pick Up - Tiwa Savage
Basquiat - Asake
PINK MARMALADE - BLK ODYSSY featuring Eimaral Sol
Gone - Kiana Ledé featuring Bryson Tiller
Odo Dede - Camidoh featuring Sarkodie
BAD HABITS - Ambré
Toxic Trait - Stormzy featuring Fredo
Luna - Roosevelt
Keeping You Around - Nothing But Thieves
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Ramzi Choueiri: A tribute to Lebanon’s iconic, record-breaking chef - Amanda Haydar, L’Orient Today
“I think Lebanese cuisine is the best ambassador for our country. And I had the honor and pleasure of being the ambassador of this cuisine.”
Record inflation has hit even Lebanon’s garbage. ‘Trash just isn’t like it used to be’ - Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times
“Before, you’d find clothes, appliances, things people threw out you could sell for real money. That’s all gone. If someone has a problem with an appliance, they repair it. No one leaves that kind of stuff out anymore.”
Ghosn to fight 'to the end' as sues Nissan in Lebanon - Tom Perry, Maya Gebeily and Laila Bassam, Reuters
Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has filed a lawsuit in Lebanon against the Japanese automaker, demanding more than $1 billion in compensation following his ouster, a judicial official said Tuesday.
How Beirut's few communal gardens and spaces are under threat - Philippe Pernot and Frida Nsonde, Middle East Eye
A crippling economic crisis, the privatisation of land and fear of their revolutionary potential has put many communal spaces at risk.
Lebanon has deported hundreds of refugees back to their home country of Syria - Ruth Sherlock, NPR
Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been forcibly deported out of Lebanon back to their home country — even though they face dangers there.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Alone Together, Sudanese People Amidst Conflict - Qutouf Elobaid, GQ Middle East
Sudanese female-led platform Locale has a message for the global community.
Egyptian family awaits word on son as village mourns dozens feared drowned trying to reach Europe - Samy Magdy, Associated Press
The last time Sabah Abd Rabu Hussein heard from her son, Yahia Saleh, he was planning to board a migrant vessel from conflict-ridden Libya to Europe. That was two weeks ago.
A Syrian Woman Who Lost Five of Her Six Brothers to War Is Campaigning for Justice for Detainees - Yasmin Almashan, New Lines Magazine
One family’s tragedy has led them into a struggle uniting the relatives of the disappeared.
20 years after the United States invaded Iraq, Iraqis are still trying to emigrate to the US - Rebecca Santana, Associated Press
“You don’t have to keep me and my family suffering for, for years waiting,” said Ammar Rashed during a Skype interview from Jordan, where he lives. “It’s really frustrating.”
Yemen is in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises - Fatma Tanis, NPR
After years of fighting, hunger and destruction, people in Yemen reflect on what they've lost and their low expectations for ending a war that has devastated the country.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Missy’s Midas Touch - Brooklyn White, Essence
There’s a reason the rapper has made history with her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—and it’s about much more than her music.
Behind bars: how rap lyrics are being used to convict Black British men - Will Pritchard, The Guardian
Crown Prosecution Service claims no one is convicted solely via lyrics, but shocking new research finds juries being shown music and dance as evidence of guilt.
Tracy Chahwan is a storyteller, comics are her language - Dalia Al-Dujaili, AZEEMA
Following her group exhibition in Dubai, the Lebanese artist tells Digital Editor Dalia Al-Dujaili how she utilises the comic book style to relay political messages and how resettling in America has given her a different approach to her usual work.
Magda Saleh, Influential Egyptian Ballerina, Is Dead at 79 - Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times
Trained at the Bolshoi, she became a star of the Cairo Ballet and played a key role in making ballet accessible to people of all classes.
When AI Is Making Music, Where Do the Humans Fit In? - Julia Gray, The Ringer
The Drake and Weeknd song that went viral in April is just the beginning. In a time when ChatGPT is going mainstream and programs are allowing musicians to create once-unimaginable compositions, what’s the value of creativity?
📚 Other Reads 📚
The barista who fought Starbucks - Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post
Lexi Rizzo took on Starbucks. Now she’s out of a job. Today, a look at the U.S. labor laws that are supposed to protect workers who are organizing unions.
The Boot Camp for N.B.A. Hot Takes and Analysis - Sopan Deb, The New York Times
A two-day camp trains current and former basketball players in the lucrative art of broadcasting, podcasting and throwing verbal bombs on camera.
A boat carrying 180 Rohingya refugees vanished. A frantic phone call helped untangle the mystery. - Kristen Gelineau, Associated Press
Around one million Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, only to find themselves trapped for years in a squalid camp and held hostage by migration policies that have given them almost no way out. And so, in a bid to get somewhere — anywhere — safe, they are taking to the sea.
‘They don’t value life’: families fight for answers over Kenya plantation deaths - Emily Dugan, Edwin Okoth and Matthew Chapman, The Guardian
Del Monte launches investigation after guards at huge pineapple farm are alleged to have killed three men in the last four years, leaving relatives distraught.
The Supreme Court Upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Long Struggle to Implement the Law Continues. - Jessica Lussenhop, ProPublica
A recent ProPublica investigation showed how ICWA was being unevenly applied in some states, breaking up Native American families that should have received additional protections under the law. There’s still room for improvement, advocates say.