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Guest Feautre: Sahar Amarir
Yesterday, Lebanon witnessed violent and terrifying sectarian clashes that killed six people and wounded 30 more. Children in the area were forced to shelter in place in their schools, exposing them to undue trauma at an incredibly young age.
All of this happened because of an investigation that could maybe finally bring some semblance of true accountability.
Instead of talking about the investigation, though, we are talking about sectarianism that continues to rear its ugly head into all aspects of Lebanese life. The families, friends, and loved ones of those who were killed in the port explosion last year will seemingly never be able to get any kind of closure or justice.
No one political party or leader will save Lebanon, period. We get nowhere when we retreat to our sectarian camps. But this system is deeply rooted in division, and those with power will do everything and anything to maintain the status quo, even if civilians are killed.
For more of what happened yesterday, here is a good explainer to check out.
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Sahar Amarir!
Sahar is currently working as a Middle East and North Africa researcher for a political risk management firm. She has a background in Law, Political Sciences, Arabic & Hebrew studies as well as Middle Eastern studies with a focus on politics, colonialism and human rights. She was born and raised in Paris within a family of Moroccan Amazigh immigrants, and now carries her different heritages with her after moving out of France. Sahar is a MENA nerd interested in all things MENA, from linguistics to anthropology to food and music. Sahar is currently working on a fiction writing project linked to revolutionary history and thought in Europe and the Middle East and on collecting traditional oral Amazigh poetry from the southern range of the Atlas mountains.
Sahar is the COOLEST human, I truly mean that. Sahar proudly reps her Moroccan Amazigh roots in everything she does. And as someone who follows her work closely, I’m grateful for Sahar and have learned so much from her. Plus, to be honest, she is very funny and witty on Twitter. Sahar also has an incredible and eclectic taste in music, one heavily rooted in identity:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
"Babylone" by Issam. He's an awesome Moroccan trap artist, with a completely crazy universe of his own. His latest album is amazing but this song in particular got me really obsessed and playing it non stop. I've been also re-listening on repeat to Alaa Wardi's solo take on the group Hayajan's "Ardon Wahed". I love both of their music, it just makes everything sound so light weight when some things make your heart feel heavy. This rendition is particularly beautiful and speaks a lot to the part of optimism that somehow survived to the pandemic, the little but reassuring glimpse of humanity we sometimes witnessed.
The last one I've been listening to on repeat is "Stormy Weather" by Ethel Waters. There is always one classic song I'm randomly obsessed with and right now it's this one.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
Shannon Van Etten's "Your Love Is Killing Me" is a piece of work, I feel like whether I'm sad or angry I always end up listening to it. Same thing for "This Is What It Feels Like" by Banks, an honestly underrated artist. Last one would be "The Greatest" by Cat Power. I discovered it while watching "My Blueberry Nights" which I watched for one silly reason -me loving berries and deciding that a movie named after one can only be good- and one less silly reason -Rachel Weisz, who is one of my favorite actresses and the only one that could lead me to watch a movie despite it starring Jude Law (probably the second most overrated British actor after Hugh Grant - and the list of overrated British actors is exceptionally long). The song always remind me of the atmosphere of the movie and the complex trajectories of the women it ends up following.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
I've spent some of the best years of my student life in the Latin Quarter in Paris. One of its most iconic street is Rue Mouffetard, and there, overlooking the Place de la Contrescarpe which feels like a little bubble during busy nights when the bars and sidewalks are crowded and the music blasting, there is this bar called Requin Chagrin. I believe it is named after one of Michel Sardou's song, who is a famous singer of what we call "variété française". "Requin" means shark and "chagrin" is a form of melancholic sorrow. And so there is this awesome French indie band that named itself Requin Chagrin. I love their sound and it always reminds me of my years studying in the Latin Quarter, and I love that they're a modern band referencing a classic of French music, especially as so many people try to impose a rigid vision and definition of what is "authentically" French music or not. The last one of their songs I've been listening to is called "Mauvais Présage" (“bad omen").
The song that reminds me of my other home is an ode to Agadir sung by an icon of the Moroccan Amazigh south, who is a French woman renamed Raissa Kelly (Raiss/Raissa is the title given to those mastering and performing the art of sung poetry). People often speak of what cultural appropriation is, and there is so much of it that we rarely get to see and even less speak of what it sometimes isn't. Raissa Kelly deserves a whole article on her own - she is absolutely unknown to the general French public, but she was a superstar for all the Chleuhs (Amazigh from the Anti-Atlas), including those in the diaspora. She thrived in the local artistic scene, but never otherwise capitalized on Amazigh culture and mastered and performed it in a rather traditional way. In this song, she follows one of the traditional rhythm of local music from the predominantly Amazigh region of Souss, where my entire family hails from. It is a type of song we call "amarg" which refers to a sort of melancholic singing, usually chanting about the beauty of the land, the hardships of life, exile, separation and homesickness. She is accompanied by her mentor and late Amazigh artist Hassan Aglaou. This song is an ode to Agadir, which is the capital of Sousse, and was a city entirely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1960 and had to be entirely reconstructed. I love this city for its potential, the way it can speak to us both as Amazigh and Moroccan people, of how to preserve our heritage, traditions and who we are while being confronted to erasure and yet needing to continue to move forward.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
"Someone Like You" by Adele. If we've ever been to a karaoke night together, you know. It has become sort of a ritual to sing it, everybody knows it's my song. And I'm a huge fan of Adele in general.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
"The Lonely Boy" by The Black Keys has an insane vibe. It's so hard to pick just single song from the Kings of Leon and Phantogram, they're among my favorite bands and their musical evolution over the years has never disappointed. So I'll just pick the ones I've most recently listened to: "Reverend" for the Kings of Leon and "Don't Move" by Phantogram.
Big shout out to Sahar for joining and sharing her song selections! Most of Sahar’s songs are available on Spotify and will be included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. And please follow Sahar on Twitter — you will only be better for doing so!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Galbi Dalili - Emsallam featuring Narcy
Damaged Feelings - Neemz
Dark Night - Didine Canon 16
Ta3 - Bint7alal featuring 3arif!
La rwina - kouz1
Ah Yalali - Samira Tawfik
Je Me Remercie La Vie - Samara
3ini - Leil
Nobody (Middle East Remix) - DJ Neptune featuring MazMars, Seidosimba, Daffy, and Joeboy
El 3asal - Donia Wael featuring El Waili
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Te Quema La Bemba - Cimafunk
Tap - Dro X Yani
Bien - Ev
Amor Como Puñal - Loyal Lobos
Don’t Put Me In Red - Xenia Rubinos
La Vida en Rosa - Pantera Blue
LA MEMORIA - Jessie Reyez
Mi Nuevo Amor - La Doña
Juancho - Mochis featuring KAVVO
Dime - Milly featuring Akim
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Easy On Me - Adele
Pressure - Ari Lennox
LOVE FOR YA - Khi Infinite
Let Somebody Go - Coldplay featuring Selena Gomez
Rumour - Kaien Cruz
The Game Is Over - Frank Sinatra
Meu Amor - Joyia
All my friends know - PinkPantheress
OMG - Cina Soul
Alone - Fickle Friends
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Lebanon's crisis pushes mental health services to the limit - Maya Gebaily, Thomson Reuters News Foundation
An economic collapse, COVID-19 and a huge explosion in Beirut have taken a heavy toll on mental health in Lebanon, where support services are battling to cope.
No papers, no shot: Despite promises of equity, some refugees and migrants have been denied the COVID-19 vaccine - Tala Ramadan, L’Orient Today
While health officials have called for a push to ensure that as much of the population as possible is vaccinated, regardless of nationality or immigration status, some non-Lebanese citizens say they have been turned away for being unable to present valid residency documents.
Money for sale: Lebanese depositors sell cheques at half price - Chloe Cornish, Financial Times
New government faces huge challenge to reform broken banking sector amid crisis of trust in system.
'Call this a pitch?!' -- Lebanon stadiums in sorry state - Ahmed Muhieddine, Agence France-Presse
Lebanon's top football stadium once hosted some of the world's best players, but today it has become a neglected, blast-hit arena.
A break to repair the imagination - Lina Mounzer, L’Orient Today
Looking out the window of her cabin in a small Swiss village, Lina Mounzer contemplates how impossible it seems that such a place is just a plane and train ride from Lebanon.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Algeria: Devastated villages and charred farmland left in wake of Kabylie wildfires - Selma Kasmi, Middle East Eye
Smoldering olive groves, decimated farms, burnt-out cars - after the deadly fires of the summer, the traumatised villages of Kabylie struggle to face the future.
How climate change is affecting Egypt’s mangoes - Nada Arafat, Mada Masr
This year, as a result of erratic climate and weather patterns throughout March and April, some three hundred thousand farms saw an 80 percent decrease in productivity, leading to a supply shortage in the market and a corresponding 40 percent increase in the price of mangoes.
Decaying oil tanker off Yemen could disrupt clean water supply for 9 million people - Radina Gigova and Kara Fox, CNN
The FSO Safer tanker has been left unmaintained for more than six years off the Yemeni port of Ras Isa.
Saudi-Newcastle soccer takeover prompts 'sportswashing' concerns - Alexander Smith, NBC News
Saudi Arabia is the latest petrostate to buy up a Western sporting franchise in what experts say is an attempt to boost its image abroad.
'Our whole life depends on water': Climate change, pollution and dams threaten Iraq’s Marsh Arabs - Charlotte Bruneau and Thaier Al-Sudani, Reuters
"The marshes are our life. If droughts persist, we will stop to exist, because our whole life depends on water and raising water buffaloes.”
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Cimafunk’s Quest to Create One Nación Under a Groove - Ed Morales, The New York Times
The Cuban musician’s new album, “El Alimento,” is a fresh take on funk that blends Afro-Cuban and African American rhythms using a cast of international collaborators.
‘This has brought me power to be myself’: Brazil’s Black jazz artists - Felipe Maia, The Guardian
Black musicians have often been sidelined in Brazil, but by diving deep into their complex heritage, the likes of Jonathan Ferr and Amaro Freitas are making themselves heard.
Rosaline Elbay On Arab Representation In Hollywood - Rand Al-Hadethi, GQ Middle East
While the landscape for Arabs in the entertainment industry outside the region remains a familiar struggle, Egyptian actress Rosaline Elbay is crafting success on her own terms.
Reggaeton dances to a new beat, as lilt of dembow gives way to thump of EDM - Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times
This past year has seen a sizable uptick in dance fusions climbing the Latin charts, among them Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez’s “Dákiti,” Karol G’s country-disco track “Location” and Rauw Alejandro’s electro-pop hit “Todo De Ti.”
The Passion of Questlove - Jazmine Hughes, The New York Times Magazine
The drummer, D.J. and producer is everywhere and loved by everyone. But few understand what drives him: an obsession with spreading the joys of Black music.
📚 Other Reads 📚
For Gabrielle E.W. Carter, cooking is about the culture — and how to preserve it - Aaron Hutcherson, The Washington Post
Gabrielle Carter is a cultural preservationist documenting her own food history and culture and wants to encourage others to do the same.
Jon Gruden Just Put It In Writing - Jemele Hill, The Atlantic
The deposed Raiders coach expressed bigoted attitudes that are all too common in the NFL.
The Shooter’s Wife: Noor Salman, Wife of the Pulse Nightclub Gunman, Is Ready to Speak - Rhana Natour, VICE News
In 2018, Noor Salman was prosecuted then acquitted for helping her husband plan his attack. But the verdict was far from vindicating.
Biden’s incoherent immigration policy - Nicole Narea, Vox
President Biden proposed humane immigration reforms but continued harsh, Trump-era enforcement policies at the border.
By boat, by motorbike, by foot - Samantha Schmidt, The Washington Post
The journey to vaccinate Colombia’s remotest communities.