Discover more from Sa'alouni El Nas
Guest Feature: Tarek Benchouia
If Lebanon has anything good going for it right now, it’s their basketball team.
It’s been a while since the national team saw any success, but this year Lebanon has been pretty close to perfect. The team has been undefeated since February, when they last lost to Jordan in the group stage of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. Since then, though, they’ve gone on to win all of their World Cup qualifier matches, essentially securing for the World Cup (it’s not yet official, but the numbers show they’ll make it).
Now, Lebanon is in the semifinal round of the FIBA Asia Cup after sweeping all of the teams in their group and beating perennial favorites China on Wednesday in the knockout stage.
And guess who Lebanon just so happens to be playing in the semis? Jordan.
That game is scheduled for Saturday, July 23. The winner will move on to the finals where they’ll play the winner of the other semifinal game between Australia and New Zealand.
My money is on Lebanon, though. Sure, I’m biased — DUH! But they’ve also been the hottest team in the region right now with seemingly no end in sight to their success.
This team truly is the sole source of positive news for Lebanon.
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Tarek Benchouia!
Tarek is an artist and scholar from Austin, Texas. He recently defended his dissertation in Performance Studies at Northwestern University. His dissertation listens closely to Egyptian mahraganat music and engages hip-hop praxis as a mode of research. He now works in advertising.
Probably one of the most supportive people I know, Tarek is a hype man in every sense of the word. He truly wants to see the community succeed, he’s incredibly genuine and thoughtful, AND he truly is an expert on mahraganat. You have to check out some of his research on the genre. AND he is an emcee!! Tarek has a really dope album that y’all need to check out.
And, in a Sa’alouni El Nas first, we’ve got some country music thanks to Tarek! They don’t call him “The Arab Cowboy” for nothing, and he shared some of his favorites here:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
This is actually a T-Pain cover. My partner played it for me when it came out last year and it has been in constant rotation ever since. Sumney, who is a god, takes T-Pain's signature auto-tune to new heights and the production is textured bliss. Best listened to very loudly with good headphones.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I cry every time I listen to this version of one of Cheb Khaled's most famous song. It's an absolutely beautiful rendition because you can hear the crowd's ecstasy when the opening guitar riff registers in their ears. They're so overjoyed, they start singing the verse several bars before Faudel can even begin. Then at the 3 minute mark, Khaled begins the third verse but quickly steps aside and lets the diaspora take over. When this concert happened in 1998, Algeria was in the middle of a devastating civil war and you can hear what the event meant to its attendees, many of whom were likely directly affected by the violence. It's such an emotionally charged and enormously important moment in popular music history. I'm part of the Algerian diaspora, so this song gets me every time.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
I'm born and raised in Austin, TX and my family is all still there so I go back often. While The Austin Outhouse is no longer there, my favorite dive bar in Austin (Backlot) is right behind where it used to be. Additionally, I recorded my own album back in 2018-2019 just a few blocks away from where Blaze was shot. They say on the last night of his life, he was kicked out of The Outhouse for getting in a fight with a guy who said an anti-Arab slur (https://www.michaelcorcoran.net/blaze-foley-killing-of-a-songwriter/).
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
Memorizing lyrics is a pastime of mine, so I know many! But I'm going to stick with the country genre here. Townes was a friend and contemporary of Blaze Foley and also died too soon. This song makes me want to go to Houston (one of my favorite cities) and have a beer in Montrose in the middle of the day. It's also one of the first tunes I learned how to play on the guitar.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
I honestly could have used this song for most of these questions, as it's probably my favorite song of all time. But I thought it fit this question perfectly, because no matter where I am or what mood I'm in, this song will make me dance and scream.
Big shout out to Tarek for joining and sharing his song selections! All of Tarek’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Catch Tarek on Twitter to keep up with his latest work — and his spicy NFL and NBA takes!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Flows 🎧
Tigini (North African Remix) - Kikimoteleba featuring Liamsi and kouz1
SMOOM - Afroto
Magnifique - Klass-A featuring Comoriano, Maestro, and Ljasos
Tersana - Abyusif
STREAM FARMS - Narcy featuring Freek
Instant - Azmito
S5ana - Fodi featuring Xlavourx
Dum Tak - Dana Saleh featuring NASIR
Endal Endeed - Hana Malhas
Saudi Cypher - Big Hass featuring Big A, Al Young, Khalz, Blvxb, Dattune, and Al9ine
🎤 Latinx & Hispanic Vibes 🎤
Summer Nights - Lil Rob
Sistema de Patio - Tokischa featuring Treintisiete
VENGANZA - Cami
Sci-Fi - Tainy featuring Rauw Alejandro
Quieres - Aitana featuring Emilia and Ptazeta
Mi Palomita (Intro) - Paloma Mami
Sitting In The Corner - Cuco featuring Adriel Favela and Kacey Musgraves
Adivina - Totoy El Frio featuring Beéle
Mia - Tito “El Bambino” featuring Daddy Yankee
UN PASO - Trueno featuring J Balvin
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Hard Out Here - RAYE
Free Yourself - Jessie Ware
In Search Of - Kent Jamz
Bandana - Fireboy DML featuring Asake
What if… - j-hope
Yellow - Tegan and Sara
Not The Way - St. Panther featuring Pierce.blue
YaYa (OG Mix) - LION BABE featuring BbyMutha
Risk It All - Yuna
TV - Billie Eilish
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Seeking comfort in the coffee grounds: A tale of fortune tellers, their fans and skeptics - Ghadir Hamadi, L’Orient Today
Fortune-telling – the act of decoding the past and future, particularly through the patterns in a a drained coffee cup – has long been a staple of Lebanese culture. Although no one seems to know exactly when fortune telling became so common in Lebanon, 78-year-old Youmna Azzi said many believe that the “art of fortune telling was taught to the Lebanese by Moroccans.”
Lebanon LGBTQ community suffers setback amid wider clampdown - Kareem Chehayeb, Associated Press
The setback is part of a broader clampdown on marginalized groups and freedoms that activists say aims to distract the public from Lebanon’s spiraling economic and financial crisis, which has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty.
'Cultural heritage is being massacred': The fight to save Lebanon’s crumbling history - Rosie McCarthy, The New Arab
Lebanon's unique cultural and architectural history is another casualty of the country's countless crises. Without proper resources, infrastructure or the willing of the government to intervene, many of the nation's most treasured sites are at risk.
Part family drama, part political statement, Mounia Akl’s debut is wistful and uncompromising.
Lights, nature, bass: AFAC concert marks 15 years supporting the arts - Tamara Rasamny, L’Orient Today
Artists from around the region came together on Saturday at Beirut’s Hippodrome, representing various styles of music, primarily from rap and hip-hop, but also including pop, afro beats and electro, as part of Midane, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)’s 15-year anniversary celebration.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
How power-blind accountability mechanisms failed Nayera Ashraf and countless other women - Ahmed Medhat, Mada Masr
“There remain questions about why both the formal justice system and the informal customary reconciliation sessions failed to protect Ashraf from being murdered in broad daylight. To unpack these questions, Mada Masr took a closer look at how both of these accountability mechanisms reinforce predominant power dynamics and short circuit any meaningful justice in cases of gender-based violence.”
To vote or not to vote? That is Tunisia's constitutional question - Faïrouz ben Salah, Middle East Eye
On the first anniversary of Saied's powergrab, Tunisians are set to vote on a new constitution rejected by its own authors as a prelude to 'a dictatorial regime'
What a Syrian family’s quest to reunite says about safe and legal pathways to the EU - Stefania D’Ignoti, The New Humanitarian
‘Trusting the system is the real gamble.’
Baghdad’s record heat offers glimpse of world’s climate change future - Louisa Loveluck and Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
Door handles blistering to the touch. Leaves yellowed and brittle. And a yawning divide between AC haves and have-nots.
'Tears and prayers': Moroccan villagers fight wildfires with faith and solidarity - Basma El Atti, The New Arab
Through volunteering, donations, prayers, or giving free transportation for villagers escaping the blazes, locals have come together to fight the wildfires. The Moroccan government has still not announced aid for affected villagers.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
An Ode to Desus and Mero, Forever Kings of New York - Rob Harvilla, The Ringer
“They broke up. We don’t want to talk about it. We’re gonna try anyway.”
A Middle Eastern Party Scene Is Thriving on Brooklyn’s Dance Floors - Sara Aridi, The New York Times
Several New York City parties offer spaces where anyone and everyone can let loose, come together and find comfort in Middle Eastern and North African music.
Rap Sh!t: Aida Osman’s Divine Journey to Issa Rae’s New Show - Yohana Desta, Vanity Fair
The rising star talks about working with Issa Rae, obsessing over Solange, and the thrill of making Rap Sh!t.
Meet Brent Faiyaz, R&B’s antihero: ‘It’s not human to be constantly writing love songs’ - Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times
The singer’s independently released and distributed new album, ‘Wasteland,’ debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard album chart, trailing only Bad Bunny.
‘She Wanted to Be Fantastic’ - Matthew Jacobs, Vulture
An oral history of Beyoncé in Austin Powers: Goldmember, a goofy anomaly in a now-rarefied pop career.
📚 Other Reads 📚
Wide World of Disney - Akhil Sharma, The New Yorker
“We went to Disney World not out of some ironic feeling for Disney and what Disney represents but because we wanted to ride Space Mountain.”
It’s Time to Stop Living the American Scam - Tim Kreider, The New York Times
To young people, America seems less like a country than an inescapable web of scams, and “hard work” less like a virtue than a propaganda slogan, inane as “Just say no.”
The street cleaners of Mogadishu: Doing Somalia’s riskiest job - Hamza Mohamed, Al Jazeera
Dozens of female street cleaners have been killed in the Somali capital by Improvised Explosive Devices since 2008.
Devaluation Of Black Women’s Lives And Labor Almost Disappeared Brittney Griner - Dr. Nana Afua Yeboah, Essence
Scholar and founder of Diaspora Praxis, Dr. Nana Afua Yeboah, explains how Brittney Griner’s story is an example of human rights violations against Black migrants during conflict and crisis.
My patients are suffering from climate change - Dr. Jennifer Camello, The Colorado Sun
The warming planet is exacerbating conditions that make people sick.