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Guest Feature: Yasmina Allouche
This week, over 400 journalists signed an open letter to U.S. media calling for more fair and more accurate coverage on Palestine. It’s thoughtful, and I highly encourage you all to read it, process it, and think through what the reporters are trying to say in this letter.
And if you’re a journalist who’s reading this and would like to sign, there are instructions on how to do so toward the end of the letter!
Let’s go ahead and get right into it. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature for this week: Yasmina Allouche!
Yasmina is a freelance journalist and researcher specializing on the Maghreb with a particular focus on Algeria. Her writings look at the socio-political makeup of North Africa as well as social issues in France that affect the Maghreb diaspora and French Muslims. Yasmina's objective has always been to push for more focus on North Africa in the Anglophone sphere and better cultural appreciation of the region's deeply rich heritage and history which is often not widely known. When she's not diving into politics, she loves a history throwback looking at key figures from the Middle East and North Africa who shaped the region and is a cultural and music enthusiast from each of the four corners of the globe.
I have had the privilege of having thoughtful, nuanced conversations with Yasmina about regional dialects in the Maghreb and the Mashreq, and about hip hop coming out of Algeria and Morocco. And Yasmina put me on to some really cool French rap! I was so excited when she agreed to share some of her go-to songs this week:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I tried to stick to one but in all honesty there's two songs that I have been playing over and over again recently: “Ténèbres” by Doni M and “Falasteen inti el ro7” by Mohammed Assaf. The French track is quite slow and almost hypnotic in its melody which mirrors the dark lyrics about the frustrations of “banlieusards” or those who reside in France's suburbs. Now, the reason for Assaf's song? Do I need to say more? It gives me hope that in our lifetime we will see a liberated Palestine and for that we need to keep up the momentum of the last month.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
When I'm in my feels and wanting to stay there, there's only one group that helps me get there: PNL, the duo that have defined France's prolific rap game. If I had to pick a song (or 2 👀 ) I'd say “A l'Ammoniaque” or “Blanka”. I usually need to be in a particular mood to listen to PNL because their lyrics are quite deep and their melodies are trance-like which is the reason why I rinsed them last year during the onset of the pandemic when moods were all over the place.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
For me home isn't so much a place but more a feeling or a person and its definition usually changes for me quite regularly. If I had to define it now I'd say home is my mother and one of her favourite bands growing up was ABBA so I'd pick one of my favourite titles from them: “Super Trouper” (Meryl Streep did a stellar job recreating it for the Mamma Mia film I thought!) .
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
That is a very, very long list so I'll choose a childhood favourite of mine that I can sing all the words to on demand: “Kont Fi Sertak” by Elissa and Cheb Mami. Growing up listening to modern Lebanese artists like Elissa and Nancy Ajram helped me become familiar with the Shaami Arabic dialect which I love. As a North African I unfortunately haven't received the same eagerness reciprocated by Middle Easterners who often dismiss our darija because they don't understand the Maghreb's particular Arabic dialect because they haven't bothered to engage with it. In Algeria we have an extremely rich music culture which I wish was more known and appreciated!
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Has to be Rai music for me, and there's way too many songs that get me hyped up to list! From Cheb Hasni to Reda Taliani you'll go from crying to jumping up and down in excitement in the space of 10 minutes and they make great car karaoke tunes too.
Big shout out to Yasmina for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Yasmina’s songs are available on Spotify and are included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. And please follow Yasmina on Twitter for her absolutely insightful perspectives (particularly on Algeria but really about everything).
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Arab Flows (Middle Eastern & North African artists) 🎧
Sahara - Almena
Mia Mia - Freek
Hobbak Bi Ye’wa - Nancy Ajram
Khod w Hatt - Wegz featuring L5VAV
Abeek - Shaikha Alaslawi
Fada - Soolking
Layem - NORDO featuring Blingos
Go Go - Leil
Frontera Nada - Tiiwtiiw featuring EL MORAD
Fawda - Molotof featuring Shobra El General
🎤 Las Vibras (Latinx & Hispanic artists) 🎤
Y SI NO VUELVO - juliana
Yonaguni - Bad Bunny
oop - VALÉ featuring Kat Dahlia
Ya No Sirvo Sin Ti - Tres Latidos
LA DE LOS DOLARE$ - El Chacal
Bésame - Luis Fonsi featuring Myke Towers
Usa - Yomil y El Dany
Que Rico Fuera - Ricky Martin featuring Paloma Mami
Te Equivocaste Conmigo - Daniela Darcourt
Destino - Immasoul
🎼 Other Music 🎼
Solar Power - Lorde
Competition - Amber Mark
Pempe - Seyi Shay featuring Yemi Alade
Glidin’ - Pa Salieu featuring slowthai
Out The Way - Samaria
Pasadena - Tinashe featuring Buddy
Over Time - Mysie
Strange Love - Cautious Clay featuring Saba
White Walls - GoldLink
Mama Amina - Marioo featuring Sho Madjozi and Bontle Smith
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Through someone else’s eyes - Lina Mounzer, L’Orient Today
“I cannot believe,” she repeated, again and again, tears in her eyes, “I cannot believe they did this and got away with this.”
In Lebanon, a search for medicine and a stranger’s help - Mariam Fam, Associated Press
As the country’s crises deepened, pharmacist Chadi Geha said he noticed more were eager to help strangers. Some of his customers started refusing to take back change, asking him instead to use the cash to pay for the medications of others in need.
“We Didn’t Even Try”: How Lebanon's Chaotic COVID-19 Strategy Let Thousands Die - Yara El Murr, The Public Source
Lebanon’s death toll has been steadily decreasing since mid-April, but people are still dying every day. Lebanon’s government has at least 10 official COVID-19 committees, as well as several advisory entities answering to parliament, syndicates, and ministries. But over a year into the pandemic that gave rise to competing and overlapping committees, none have come up with a comprehensive plan to manage the spread of the virus.
‘I Will Kill Myself’: The Enduring Nightmare of Lebanon’s Kafala System - Nicole Di Ilio, Newlines Magazine
In the moral void of Lebanon’s Kafala system, maids from Africa and Asia are trapped in a nightmare of inescapable cruelty.
No power means no water: Authorities warn of an impending crisis - Ghada Alsharif, L’Orient Today
Water shortages are expected to worsen across the country if no solution is found to electricity and fuel shortages that are putting water pumps out of action as Lebanon’s economic crisis persists.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Algerian rights groups call for implementation of laws to protect women - Soundousse Brahimi and Jennie Shin, France24
Women's rights associations in Algeria are calling for stricter laws to guarantee the right of women to live in dignity and safety, within their families and in the workplace.
'The marginalised': the tragic plight of Yemen's forgotten Black minority - Ali Mahmood, The National
Yemenis of African descent were treated as second-class citizens for centuries, but the recent conflict has worsened their plight.
Tunisian environmentalists are trying to fight pollution damage along their country's Mediterranean shores by installing artificial reefs to encourage sea life.
The Contested Politics of Coptic Diasporic Activism - Michael Akladios and Miray Philips, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
Ideological divides and a lack of collaboration have characterized diasporic Coptic activism over the last five decades.
The Maddening, Twisted Story of the Diplomat Who Became a Troll - Britt Peterson, Washingtonian
For more than a decade, the employees of a Washington think tank were traumatized by an unlikely harasser: a career Foreign Service officer. In hundreds of emails and voicemails, he called them “Arab American terrorist murderers” and ranted about how they should be cleansed. Yet there was almost nothing they could do.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Mickey Guyton Takes On the Overwhelming Whiteness of Country Music - Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker
The “Black Like Me” singer was always told she didn’t fit the genre, so she made it her own.
Return of the long player - Tom Gatti, The New Statesman
How we rediscovered the pleasures of the album in the digital age.
Five Years After Her Breakout Hit, Young M.A. Is the Real Mayor of New York City - Jayson Buford, Rolling Stone
The “OOOUUU” rapper talks about her new album and becoming a New York icon.
Meditation Apps Want Us to Chill Out. Musicians Are Happy to Help. - Eric Ducker, The New York Times
Music and mindfulness have become increasingly linked during the pandemic, and artists like Erykah Badu and Arcade Fire are teaming with tech companies to make it happen.
Adabai - Cheikh Nouh (translated by Sawad Hussain), Words Without Borders
In this excerpt from Cheikh Nouh’s novel Adabai, readers are introduced to the music, history, and myths of the eponymous Mauritanian village.
📚 Other Reads 📚
What Kamala Harris’ callous message to migrants really means - Jean Guerrero, Los Angeles Times
With those three words — “do not come” — Harris signaled disdain for the rights of asylum seekers under federal and international laws and dashed many people’s hopes that she might reform U.S. foreign policy in the region, which has long involved a contradictory combination of humanitarian aid and support for militaries that attack human rights.
Another Consequence of Traffic Stops: Deportation - Tanvi Misra, Bloomberg CityLab
Police pulled over a Haitian green card holder 20 years ago. He’s facing deportation today.
Rome Gets Its First Pizza Vending Machine. Will Romans Bite? - Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times
In a city with no shortage of pizza — or self-appointed food critics — an entrepreneur is betting on diners with a sense of adventure.
Caught in the middle: Peace activists in Cameroon try to end a brutal war - Jess Craig, The New Humanitarian
“This is a conflict without a head. Dialogue is really complicated, because who do you dialogue with?”
Ultimate Glory: An oral history of Julio César Chávez versus Oscar De La Hoya - Roberto José Andrade Franco, Los Angeles Times
“The fight between Chávez and De La Hoya became a proxy for all the complexities that come from being of Mexican ethnicity, living in a place that was once Mexico. And when the fight began, 15,283 people gathered in Las Vegas. Across Mexico and the United States, hundreds of thousands more gathered to watch Chávez, a man some saw as a god, box against De La Hoya, a man who sought to escape from the Mexican’s shadow.”