Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Lebanese Dance Troupe Mayyas Wins "America's Got Talent" (17th Season)

Lebanese dance group Mayyas مياس  has just won TV's  “America’s Got Talent” 17th season--including its $1 million prize and a headlining show at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  In doing so, the all-female dance troupe brought much joy and pride to their native country which has been in turmoil for years.

In their breathtaking winning performance in the finale, Mayyas brought together traditional belly-dancing techniques from the Arab world combined with influences from India.  

During the climactic final number, the group formed a snow-covered cedar tree, Lebanon’s national symbol--a move that left audiences worldwide in awe.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati congratulated Mayyas on social media, while President Michel Aoun said that he will award the dancers Order of Merit medallions upon their return.

Mayyas first excited AGT fans with an amazing audition in June 2022. Judge Sofia Vergara was so impressed that she gave the group her Golden Buzzer and sent them straight to the live shows. She remained the Mayyas's strongest supporter among the judges this season.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

New Netflix Series "Mo" Defies Stereotypes, Entertains, Educates

You may already recognize Mo Amer for playing a sidekick on the Hulu hit series Ramy but you’re about to rediscover him as the star of his own Netflix series, Mo, which began streaming on Netflix (USA) on August 24, 2022.

Mo is a semi-autobiographical dramedy about a Palestinian refugee “laughing the pain away” as he tries to navigate life in Houston and the US immigration system.

Watch the trailer below or at https://youtu.be/dtohea4CFbE

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Ramzi Salti Moderates Discussion of Lebanese Film "1982" in San Francisco (July 31 at 4:30 pm)

Screening and Q&A on Sunday July 31 at 4:30 pm (Opera Cinema Plaza in SF)

The critically acclaimed Lebanese film "1982" is playing in the bay area this week and Dr. Ramzi Salti will be conducting a Q&A with the Director Oualid Moueness following the 4:30 pm film screening on Sunday July 31 at the Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco.  

The film stars Lebanese superstar Nadine Labaki (Capernaum, Caramel) and Mohamad Dalli (in his acting debut) alongside an extraordinary ensemble cast of professional and non-professional actors (In Arabic and some English, with English Subtitles).

1982 is a life-affirming coming-of-age tale set at an idyllic school in Lebanon’s mountains on the eve of a looming invasion. It unfolds over a single day and follows an 11-year-old boy’s relentless quest to profess his love to a girl in his class. As the invasion encroaches on Beirut, it upends the day, threatening the entire country and its cohesion. Within the microcosm of the school, the film draws a harrowing portrait of a society torn between its desire for love and peace and the ideological schisms unraveling its seams. In his debut feature, writer/director Oualid Mouaness delivers an ode to innocence in which he revisits one of the most cataclysmic moments in Lebanon’s history through the lens of a child and his vibrant imagination. The film demonstrates the complexities of love and war, and the resilience of the human spirit. 

Watch the film trailer below or at https://youtu.be/ly1jyhqyj7w

The film screened at OPERA PLAZA CINEMA located at 601 Van Ness Avenue, near San Francisco's Civic Center, San Francisco, CA, 94102.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Egyptian Oudist Ramy Adly Releases New Album

Ramy Adly's The Siege is now available on all platforms

Egyptian American musician and Master of the Oud Ramy Adly has just released a new album titled The Siege in which he is accompanied by an orchestra and the Oud in taking listeners on a musical journey that is fueled with feelings of pride but also despair.  the record is about those lives affected in wars throughout human history.

Ramy’s songs include the track Sahara, which takes us along the vast, warm desert, then to the waters of the shores in Alexandria, Egypt.  Listen to this track below or at this link.


Ramy Adly is an American/Egyptian artist, young master of the Oud, the versatile Guitar- like instrument that shaped Arab classical music. Grounded in the main Middle Eastern, ancient Egypt and the Arab classical styles thanks to rigorous training in his native Egypt, Adly has branched out repeatedly, incorporating jazz idioms and embracing conversations with other large musicians around the world.

​Adly has performed around the Middle East, Europe, and North America. He has composed music for theater and film, and gathered a large number of students around the world, via an innovative online curriculum he created, called School of Oud Online. His sensitive, robust playing has been heard from the Library at Alexandria to American cathedrals and schools. Now based in Washington, DC, Adly continues to expand the possibilities of his instrument. “I want to bring the oud to the same level as the guitar culturally, the instrument that’s everywhere and can do everything,” he exclaims.

​For Adly, the oud has always been like a member of the family. Nearly everyone in his family played the oud when he was growing up in Cairo, including uncles, siblings, and his beloved grandfather, who gave him his first introduction to the complex, evocative instrument. “I grew up listening to the oud,” he recalls.

Listening is one thing, and mastering the instrument another. Adly plunged into his study of this age-old instrument at the Arab Oud House, with Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma. Adly found himself practicing for a dozen hours a day, and loving it. "It was a lot like the system Paganini established for his students," Adly explains. “You have to go through the fire to be trained as a performer and composer. I graduated as both composer and soloist.”

​Under Shamma’s direction, Adly played at major Cairo venues as part of small chamber groups and large orchestral ensembles. He performed at international oud conferences, book conventions, film festivals, and, notably, at the Library in Alexandria, where he became an Artist in Residence and gave numerous talks on the history of music (including one as part of a TEDx event at the Library).

For more info, see ramyadly.wixsite.com/

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

New Podcast and Music by Yacoub Abu Ghosh

Yacoub Abu Ghosh's new podcast is now available on all online platforms

Yacoub Abu Ghosh يعقوب ابو غوش  has recently launched a new podcast in which he highlights and discusses some of the most influential musicians and singers in the Arab world and beyond. He has also been releasing a slew of groundbreaking music which is now available on most online platforms as well as on his YouTube Channel.

Yacoub's new podcast (in Arabic) is called ليش أسمع  [Why Should I Listen] and thus far includes 9 episodes that seek to highlight a slew of influential musicians/singers, ranging from Nancy Ajram to Michael Jackson,  Each episode is eloquently presented by Yacoub who provides detailed info about each artist or genre.  The Playlist for this podcast is available below or at this link.


In addition to his new podcast, Yacoub Abu Ghosh has released an new and exciting 2-part musical project titled اشتقنا للشام  [We Miss Damascus] in which he brilliantly resurrects visual and musical pieces that so many will associate with the rich cultural heritage of Damascus and Syria.  The first part features popular songs from Syria's golden age, rearranged by Yacoub and featuring female vocalist Salwa Jaradat. Watch below or at this link.

 اشتقنا للشام ١ تتكون من ثلاث أغاني:- عالمايا عالمايا - من التراث الفراتي - محبوب قلبك - من تراث السويداء وجبل العرب - يا طيرة طيري يا حمامة - من تراث حلب الشهباء فكرة، إعادة توزيع وتنفيذ: يعقوب أبو غوش غناء: سلوى جرادات كلارينت: غسان أبو حلتم إي بيانو: يوسف مشربش مونتاج وإخراج الفيديو: أحمد زكي الجريري

In the second part, Yacoub is joined by Yazan Elrousan  يزن الروسان in highlighting the music of the late Fouad Ghazi.  The result is a brilliant 3-song tribute that will appeal to all generations.  Listen below or at this link.

اشتقنا للشام ٢ هي الأغنية الثانية في مشروع اشتقننا للشام. الأغنية تتكون من ثلاثة أغاني للفنان العظيم الراحل فؤاد غازي، أحد عمالقة الموسيقى الشامية في القرن العشرين. اشتقنا للشام ٢ تتكون من ثلاث أغاني: - تعب المشوار- كلمات حسين حمزة، ألحان زهير عيساوي - صف الفشك - كلمات وألحان سهيل عرفة - لازرعلك بستان ورود - ألحان عبد الفتاح سكر فكرة، إعادة توزيع وتنفيذ: يعقوب أبو غوش غناء: يزن الروسان كلارينت: غسان أبو حلتم إي بيانو: يوسف مشربش مونتاج وإخراج الفيديو: أحمد زكي الجريري

Yacoub Abu Ghosh is a Jordanian composer, performer, producer and arranger who is considered one of the pioneers of alternative music in Jordan. His 15-year music career and experiences established some of the leading bands in Jordan’s alternative music scene; such as Sign of Thyme, with whom he released two highly acclaimed albums: “Like All People" including a unique fusion of jazz and funk music that has attracted an unfailing streak of sold-out venues in Amman for over 18 months.

To stay updated with latest projects by Yacoub Abu Ghosh:

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Tarik Saleh's "Boy from Heaven" Makes a Splash at Cannes Film Festival 2022

Boy from Heaven (Arabic title ولد من الجنة) is one of very few recent films that have dared to address the increasing tension between religion and state in Egypt today--a fact that was explained by Director Tarik Saleh's comment at Cannes in which he stated that “Egyptians who live in Egypt cannot tell the story. It’s impossible to do so.” Saleh, a Swedish citizen now, took a risk in making this film and, judging from the response that he received at Cannes this year, his efforts seem to have paid off.

Tawfeek Barhom as Adam in Boy from Heaven

The setting is Al-Azhar Mosque/University in Cairo is known as "the Seat of all Muslim Learning"--but the film was actually in shot in Istanbul. This new location allowed Saleh to film truly gorgeous and powerful scenes, settings, characters and colors--beautifully edited and interwoven so as to capture and retain the attention of the audience throughout the film (which runs over 2 hours).

Tarik Saleh's Boy from Heaven: Official clip from Cannes Film Festival 2022

The film stars Tawfeek Barhom (Adam), Fares Fares (Ibrahim) and Mohammad Bakri (General Al Sakra). It has received rave reviews by (mostly) Western critics after it screened at Cannes but has also proven to be quite controversial in certain countries, particularly Egypt where it has reportedly been banned.

Director Tarik Saleh + cast at the Cannes film festival 2022

This is not the first controversial film by Director Tarik Saleh whose movie The Nile Hilton Incident caused quite a debate upon its release in 2017 (see trailer below).

Sunday, June 5, 2022

"The Blue Caftan" Film Review (by Dr. Ramzi Salti)

The Blue Caftan  (2022) is one of the most moving films I have ever seen, not only in terms of Arabic films but as a global cinematographic gem.  

Lubna Azabal (left) and and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

Directed by Maryam Touzani  (who wrote and directed the unforgettable Moroccan film Adam two years ago) this film takes on the topic of gay men who, all too often in certain societies, get married to a woman who, sadly, becomes victimized twice over--once by society and once by her troubled husband who cannot reveal the secret of his torment to her.

Lubna Azabal (left) and and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

Unlike most such narratives, however, The Blue Caftan spotlights the often dismissed feelings of the wife's feelings in such situations; her experience, for once, transcends her attempt to coexist and/or completely reject her husband's secret love.  Her pain, her view, her empathy--even her flaws--are all brought to the forefront here,  She matters in this film and we find ourselves rooting as much for her as we do for the husband who, despite being gay, does not simply act out on his feelings without any consideration for his wife and her needs.

Left to right: Ayoub Messioui, Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

The married couple is played here by two seasoned Arab actors, Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri, both of whom deliver stunning performances.  There are no outdated representations of a typical love triangle here, just a series of tender and unanticipated moments that restore one's faith in love as well as in the the power of cinema.

Ayoub Messioui (left) Lubna Azabal and Saleh Bakri in The Blue Caftan

Film review above by Dr. Ramzi Salti

Halim and Mina run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. In order to keep up with the commands of the demanding customers, they hire Youssef. The talented apprentice shows an utmost dedication in learning the art of embroidery and tailoring from Halim. Slowly Mina realizes how much her husband is moved by the presence of the young man.

  • The Blue Caftan (French title: Le bleu du caftan) is in Arabic with English or French subtitles.
  • The film premiered this year in the 'Un Certain Regard' section at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. The section name means "a certain glance" and it presents 20 films with unusual and non-traditional stories seeking international recognition
  • Film is currently seeking U.S. distribution.
  • Directed by Maryam Touzani. France/Morocco/Belgium/Denmark. 2022. 122 mins.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Stanford MACA Banquet Honors Hussam Ayloush

The 2022 Muslim American Contribution Award (MACA) Banquet took place on Saturday, May 14, 2022 at Stanford University.  This year, the MACA award was given to Hussam Ayloush (CAIR-California Executive).

"Hussam Ayloush has been [a] lifelong human rights and democracy activist for causes here and abroad. He took his current position as Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) in 1998.  Through his work at CAIR, Hussam engages elected officials, law enforcement, media, and the public to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice. As an expert on American Muslim issues, Hussam regularly appears on local, national, and international media; and frequently speaks at schools, Islamic centers, churches, conferences, and universities." [Source: CAIR website]

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Warsha Wins Sundance Short Film Jury Award (International Fiction)

Scene from Warsha, Directed by Dania Bdeir

I first heard about the Lebanese short film Warsha when its Director Dania Bdeir was awarded the Short Film Jury Award (International Fiction) at the Sundance Festival (2022). Now that I've watched it, I can safely say that it more than lives up to the hype.

Everything about this film oozes with originality, from the theme to the cinematography to the acting to the soundtrack in which Umm Kuthum is remixed and resurrected in a subversive way.

Scene from Warsha

Khansa's performance as the lead is brilliant; although the character never utters a word, he leaves us stunned and amazed through powerful gestures, body movement, and facial expressions.

This is a courageous film that tackles issues related to gender, identity and the refugee crisis in a variety of unexpected ways.

On a side note, I was delighted to see Khansa in the main role, having interviewed this amazing performance artist/singer for my radio show a few years ago.  Since then, I had followed his amazing music videos and performance clips on YouTube but to see him star in this film takes our Lebanese icon to a whole other level.

You can listen to my interview with Khansa directly at THIS LINK or below (go to 37:07) 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ramzi Salti Interviews Director + Cast of "Salma's Home"

Watch at https://youtu.be/sm4GU10T0E0

Dr. Ramzi Salti recently interviewed Salma's Home Director Hanadi Elyan + Cast Rania Kurdi, Sameera Asir, and the legendary Juliet Awad.  This audio-visual interview was recorded at KZSU 90.1 FM (Stanford University) on April 13, 2022 and is available below or at https://youtu.be/sm4GU10T0E0

Salma's Home بيت سلمى film description: Three Arab women living in modern day Jordan must put their differences aside and work together in order to survive. For more info: salmashome.com

بيت سلمى من بطولة الفنانة القديرة جوليت عواد و النجمة رانيا الكردي و المبدعة سميرة الأسير اخراج هنادي عليان.  يمكنكم مشاهدة مقابلة الدكتور رمزي سلطي مع مخرجة الفيلم وبطلاته الثلاثة عبر هذا الرابط.

Watch this interview above or at https://youtu.be/sm4GU10T0E0

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Zaina Shihabi Highlights Women Composers and Performers in Egypt

Dr. Zaina Shihabi's article titled "A Brief Historical and Sociological Examination of Twentieth Century Arab Women Composers and Performers in Egypt" has been published in Part II of The Routledge Handbook of Women's Work in Music (2022). More info at this link.

From as far back as the turn of the twentieth century, when Egypt was still under British occupation, women in Egypt have been utilizing music as a medium in order to speak out against injustice. This research examines the position of Arab women as composers from a historical and sociological perspective by providing content analysis of online magazine articles, newspaper articles and blogs in both English and Arabic. A literature review identifies a gap in the research, which is the lack of academic scholarship concerning individual Arab women composers and their accomplishments throughout history. Opportunities are identified for further research concerning the history of women in Arabic music over the past century. The article concludes with an argument that women in the Arab world have played a large role in shaping the history of music, and that contemporary Arab women composers continue to utilise music in order to create change.

The Routledge Handbook of Women's Work in Music (1st Edition) was first published in 2021; Imprint Routledge; 9 pages; eBook ISBN9780429201080

Dr. Zaina Shihabi is a researcher and IB Diploma Programme Coordinator currently teaching DP Theory of Knowledge and English Language & Literature at an IB World School in Malaysia. Her doctoral thesis (2019) was supervised by Dr. Laura Hamer (Music, The Open University) and Dr. Joseph Maslen (Education, Liverpool Hope University) and has been examined by Professor Pamela Burnard (Education, University of Cambridge) and Dr. Manuella Blackburn (Music, Keele University). Her current interests include researching learning theories and differentiated instruction. For more, see this link.

Health Needs of the MENA Region at Stanford School of Medicine

The Stanford Med MENA program aims to leverage Stanford Med’s expertise in health research, training, and education and apply them to the MENA region. They are building cross-cultural health research and implementation programming that informs policy. The program sends Stanford physicians and trainees to MENA for training, and brings MENA physicians and trainees to Stanford. The team is working to partner locally to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery in MENA. Stanford MENA Health is looking for advisors to join the board, and donors for their two programs.

With seed funding from our Stanford President and Dean of Medicine, the new MENA Health Program is focused on understanding and responding systematically to the health needs of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The project heads are Dr. Gary Darmstadt and Laila Soudi from Stanford. They work on three fronts: innovative community-led research, specialized education for health professionals, and regional training for organizations to inform health policy.

If you are interested in supporting their mission of building sustainable and preventive healthcare systems in the MENA region, please go to https://menahealth.stanford.edu/

VISION: A predictive and preventive healthcare system that is driven by data and local talent to maintain wellness and serve the health needs of the MENA population.

Check out this interview Laila Soudi, Founder and Director Stanford Med | MENA Health Program (Courtesy of TechWadi)

What is the healthcare landscape in the region?

The healthcare landscape in MENA is full of potential—yet also fraught with inefficiencies. MENA regional governmental spending exceeds $50B yearly without directly measurable impact. Our region comprises >6% of the world’s population yet contributes only 1.5% of scientific papers yearly. We lose 1.5M+ lives early that could have been saved with appropriate data and response. We spend money on short-term, culturally inappropriate, and costly solutions from abroad versus building local capacity. With the right research, education, and training, we can save lives and build a more robust healthcare system to better serve all MENA populations.

Can you tell us more about your journey?

Originally from the Middle East, born to a Syrian father and a Palestinian mother, I started going to refugee camps at the age of 13 in Jordan. Then, it became clear to me that working to ensure better access to healthcare for all populations across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was precisely my mission. After graduating with an undergrad in Psychology/Neuroscience from UC Berkeley and an MSc in Global Health Sciences from UCSF, I joined Stanford University School of Medicine as a neuroscience researcher examining early onset mood disorders. I used this job as an opportunity to meet faculty members across the University and, a year later, met the Vice Chair of Psychiatry at Stanford Med who offered me an opportunity as the first ever global mental health researcher to examine stress and anxiety in MENA refugee populations. In this role, I traveled to 6+ countries and talked to thousands of refugees about their experiences as well as implemented 2 large scale public health programs.

During my time in Greece, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, I appealed to Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne to do more to support refugees. After a pitch meeting with the President’s Office, I was personally funded and appointed to lead the University’s response to the refugee crisis, where I built several programs across the University (from health to education and coding) that continue to help refugees. Less than one year ago, I returned to the President’s office and pitched a base for Stanford Medicine in the Middle East. My request was approved and supported by the University’s highest leadership, including the President and Dean of Medicine. This is now the Stanford Med | MENA Health Program with a goal to serve everyone—regardless of ethnicity—in the MENA region.


For more info please see https://menahealth.stanford.edu/
Special thanks to Zeena Khazendar, a student at Stanford and an associate with the Stanford Med | MENA Health Program, for sharing this info with us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

El Far3i Completes His Acoustic Trilogy with “Nas Min Khashab”

El Far3i aka Tareq Abu Kwaik

After a decade of unequaled creativity and challenges, El Far3i has just completed his acoustic trilogy with his new album “Nas Min Khashab” [People Made of Wood].  In many ways, this album can be seen as the crown jewel of El-Far3i's oeuvre by taking listeners and fans through a musical journey that is filled with upheaval, courage, and an unwavering belief in the power of love.

Album cover artwork and design by Samer Saem Eldahr

Palestinian-Jordanian artist, Tareq Abu-Kwaik, aka El Far3i  الفرعي , announced the launch of his long-awaited acoustic album “Nas Min Khashab ناس من خشب ” on the 25th of February 2022. The final album in his acoustic trilogy will be released in the year of the 10 anniversary of “Soat Min Khashab  صوت من خشب ”, the first of the trilogy, and the 5th anniversary of the second album, “El Rajol El Khashabi  الرجل الخشبي ”.

You can listen to the full album below or at this link in addition to streaming it on many platforms such as Anghami and Spotify.

Tareq Abu Kwaik has spent the past decade dedicated to embodying El Far3i’s identity by opting for minimalism and refusing to fit into preset molds. He was the first artist to release tracks that combined guitar strums and rap in the Arab World... or as he likes to describe it: “Rap in a power outage”.

According to El Far3i, this album marks the completion of a “10 year musical experience rooted in Amman and extends to the Levant and to Palestine’s diaspora, during a period where our issues haven’t changed, but in which we have witnessed major changes in the way we deal with those issues”. He adds, “the message remains unchanged, but the themes have become more diverse”.

● Nas Min Khashab: Track Overview

The themes of this third album range between love, philosophical and social issues, and critical and personal reflections. Some tracks try to get closer to the people, while others retreat back to the core of growing thought. The album was originally a ten track piece, but after El Far3i listened to the first full home recording, he felt that “Nas Min Khasab” was missing one last piece that wields some of his previous work with the final album— “Madineh Haditheh” and “Tadafoq Al Mukhattat” from his first acoustic album, and “Ya Sahbi” and “Estishraq Dakhily” from the second one. This last piece came to be the 11th track on the album, “Ya Nasi” or the “Extra Track” as he calls it.

Many of the songs on this album have been released along with elegant music video clips, such as “Mirtaha  مرتاحة ” (which was written before “Tghayarti”) in which El Far3i addresses the state of people’s confusion as they settle for their current reality.  Listen below or at this link.

“Lamma Tisfa لما تصفى  ” carries a call for internal reflection; you can watch the music video below or at this link:

“El Qalb El Tani” revives a track that was unofficially released just under ten years ago. Watch below or at this link:

“Madinet El Malahi” is the album’s love song. “It’s a song I wrote for a loved one, and it also represents the love for the city. Due to the pandemic, people lost their connection with spaces and places, and so that love dissipated”, El Far3i says. “This song serves as a reminder to me and the people about love wrapped with nostalgia and uncertainty, and it also expresses my yearning for my city, Amman,” he adds. Watch below or here.

To illustrate the increasing frustration we have been dealing with over the Pandemic years, El Far3i includes “Mahmoom”, a song he wrote in lockdown and an attempt to archive the general feeling that haunted the world. During the writing process, the world was shook by the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port, and the waves of normalization. El Far3i considered those pivotal junctures as messages from the universe, ones telling us that it’s about time we reflected inwards, in order to drive change, so that we can finally help ourselves. Watch below or here.

“Thaghra” will remind El Far3i’s longtime fans of “Dfaf Al Nahir” from his first album. It’s a song that confirms his unique singing style, away from preset molds. This song is an “ode to all what has been”.

One track that is particularly unique amongst this collection, and even El Far3i’s previous acoustic tracks as a whole, is “Ma Iyhoon”. To this he says, “this song describes a specific personality type - The empath - those people who cater to the needs of the ones around them, neglecting their own”. He adds, “I believe that this personality type is prevalent in the Arab World, one that offers undivided sacrifices, it exists on the personal level in our society. In other words, this song speaks to a society as a whole and can be dedicated to many individuals, the mother, the sibling, the partner, and even the neighbor”.  

This album marks the debut of a unique musical experience by El Far3i in his song “Ala Allah Taoud”, one that he considers as the grand finale of the whole trilogy, and the beginning of a new era. This song is the only one that includes other instruments alongside the acoustic guitar in its production, and is a collaboration with producer Hamza Arnaout, aka “El Jehaz”, and an orchestra arrangement by musician Eliane Correa and vocal coach Ribal Al Khudari’s student choir for the chorus. The song’s music video clip is directed by Jordanian artist Dirar Shawagfeh.  Watch below or here

With that, El Far3i’ concludes his trilogy with one clear message - “we are not alone”, as he adds to late musical giant Wadih El Safi’s famous sentence “Ala Allah Taoud”, a sense of responsibility on the people to work towards changing their current reality.

According to El Far3i, this album is a call to action for people to come together, despite their differences. It is also a confirmation that his inspiration for the first and second acoustic albums came from the people, a theme that resonated with him when approaching the third and final album of the trilogy, where he set out to tell a series of short stories about humankind in his voice.

The album’s visual journey compliments the sonic message by focusing on human stories. Accordingly, El Far3i preferred to appear minimally in most of the music videos whose concepts range from the social, the personal, all the way to the existential. He is currently preparing for an upcoming album launch tour that includes performances in Arab and international cities around the world in 2022.  Check his website for details" https://elfar3i.com/

● The Journey of the 3 Albums (2012-2022)

The acoustic trilogy’s journey started off with El Far3i’s first acoustic album, “Soat Min Khashab”, an introduction to his project from his city, Amman, and branching outwards to engulf the rest of the Levantine region. The album was minimalistic in its production style and stripped down to him, an acoustic guitar with one missing string, and thoughts that are too hungry for contextualisation.

In that format, El Far3i found a new space, one that does not resemble any of his previous places as a rapper, percussionist, or as the co-founding member of “El Morabba3” at the time.

The songs of that album were written in the years leading up to the Arab Spring, and discussed the youth’s aspirations for that time. Songs that stood out from “Soat Min Khashab” included: “Dallik Malak”, “Madineh Haditheh”, “Tadafoq Al Mukhattat”, “Tab”, and “Sahib El Ra’i”, one that he still ends many of his live performances with. This album was launched alongside “Far3 El Madakhil”, a rap album.

The political situation escalated in the years that followed, and that was reflected in El Far3i’s rap album “Kaman Dafsheh” released in 2014. About that time, he says “we lost some hope, and we realized that the road to all the changes we called for is way longer than we thought”.

With that, Tareq felt it was the time for his second acoustic album, amid reflexive frustration. “El Rajol El Khashabi”, which was released in 2017, is “the voice of the guilty spokesperson, on behalf of the people”, according to El Far3i. Its most iconic tracks include: “Tghayarti”, “Fitna”, “Nossik”, “Estishraq Dakhily” and “Ya Sahbi”. To this day, Tareq still sees he second album of the trilogy as dark and mysterious, which is even evident in the album’s artwork.

As he was recording his second acoustic album, El Far3i came to realize there was more to be told. He felt he had compromised the hope he sang about in his first album, and the people’s interactions with the first and second albums left him with many observations and questions over the five years since 2017. The success of “Tghayarti” also that the issues he tackles echo the inner thoughts of his listeners. Eventually, these voices and his inner thoughts would morph into “Nas Min Khashab”, the final album of the acoustic trilogy, one so diverse in its themes and the issues yet close to the audience’s hearts. This comes after his latest rap/trap album, “Lazim Tisa” which was released in 2021.

After securing five albums under his belt, and a plethora of collaborations, particularly in the independent Arab rap scene, Tareq felt that a third acoustic album was needed to complete the stories told in his first and second albums that were released alongside three other rap albums. Remaining committed to the essence of “Nas Min Khashab”, Tareq opened up his previously very personal space in preparing for this album and welcomed the insights of those close to him like his manager Mohammad Kharousheh during creative brainstorming sessions.

The album was musically produced by Arab Drumz, and was recorded at London’s Soup Studios under the supervision of recording engineer, Simon Trought. Mixing, mastering and additional production was handled by Dave Scott from the Mix Room’s Hue Studios in Amman, Jordan. Tareq continues to affirm the duality of both the local and the international in his productions as he continues to launch his albums with the Jordanian record label, Immortal Entertainment.

The trilogy may be complete. But far from an end to the “wood” era, Tareq views this as the beginning of a new period of experimentation and musical projects for El Far3i’s project.

“Nas Min Khashab” was released on streaming services on February 25, 2022 via Immortal Entertainment /Levantine Music. Full format details are listed below.

Nas Min Khashab - ناس من خشب
UPC: 196777756315

Track Listing:

1. Mirtaha - مرتاحة
2. Lamma Tisfa - لمّا تصفى
3. El Qalb El Tani - القلب الثاني
4. Law Sarakhna - لو صرخنا
5. Madinet El Malahi - مدينة الملاهي
6. Tlat Arbaa - ثلاث أرباع
7. Ma Iyhoon - ما يهون
8. Mahmoom - مهموم
9. Thaghra - ثغرة
10. Ala Allah Taoud - على الله تعود
11. Ya Nasi - يا ناسي


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Tania Saleh's "Tantune": New Collective Re-launch

We have received this exciting message directly from Tania Saleh who can be contacted directly via the links below.

Logo by Tania Saleh

"My name is Tania Saleh. You might know me as a singer/songwriter. I am also a visual artist. I have worked in media and communication for more than 25 years, mainly at Leo Burnett Advertising, MENA and as a freelance illustrator/animator and content creator for various media corporations, brands and artists, including myself. I have recently relaunched my design collective, "Tantune", aiming at creating content for musicians, bands and music-related projects. The services we offer are mainly brand identity, including logo and stationery, album covers, print and online design, photography, photo retouching, music video scripts and storyboards, illustration, and 2D animation. As of this year, I will be celebrating three decades of visual arts work. For that, I just compiled this show-reel edit spanning from 1992 to 2022."

Tania Saleh's Visual Arts edit 1992-2022:

Tania Saleh's "Tantune" Collective Project Presentation:

Tania Saleh's software knowledge:
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe In Design, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Animate, Pencil 2D, Final Cut Pro (Visual arts) Garage Band, Logic Pro X, Muse Score (Music)

Tania Saleh's major international awards in advertising:
“Khede Kasra” - Women Empowerment Project | Leo Burnett Beirut
-Winner - Cannes Lions 2009 - Gold Lion
-Winner - New York Festival 2010 - Gold Medal & Bronze Medal
-Winner - UNDPI 2010 - Gold Medal

“Fake It All” - Brand Protection Group | Leo Burnett Beirut
-Winner - Cannes Lions 2011 - Silver Lion
-Winner - Dubai Lynx 2012 - 2 Gold Lynx awards
-Winner - Mena Cristal Awards 2012 - 1 Silver Crystal + 10 Crystals in other categories
-Winner - Epica Awards Slovenia 2011 - Bronze Trophy
-Winner - Golden Drum Awards Slovenia 2011 - 2 Silver Drums

Tania Saleh's detailed portfolio:

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My Review of Salah Stétié's Poem "Seize paroles voilées"

In many ways, the short poem Seize paroles voilées* by Salah Stétié exemplifies the distinct sense of lyricism that characterizes much of the Lebanese writer and poet's prolific oeuvre. Composed in free verse and laden with natural and rich imagery, each of the sixteen stanzas in this poem broaches themes that have long preoccupied Stétié, from the pursuit of love and life to death and the occasional frailties of the human spirit. 

Cover of Salah Stétié's "Seize paroles voilées"

Dedicated "à un lieu de brûlure" which is never specifically identified, the poem is both deeply allegorical and deceptively simple. As such, it invites the reader not only to unveil each of the "paroles voilées" according to his or her own interpretation and experience, but also to participate in the poet's general celebration of nature and the wide range of human emotions. The oblique illustrations by Jean-Gilles Badaire that accompany each of the different stanzas in the limited-edition printing also contribute a great deal toward the air of mysticism that reigns over the work as a whole.

Reviewed by Dr. Ramzi Salti, Stanford University

* Seize paroles voilées by Salah Stétié and Jean-Gilles Badaire; FATA MORGANA; 1st edition (January 1, 1995); ISBN-10: ‎2851943928  ISBN-13:  978-2851943927

10th Anniversary of Dr. Ramzi Salti's Arabology Program Features All Episodes on Soundcloud + YouTube (Click here)

All 13 seasons of Dr. Ramzi Salti's  Arabology  podcasts  are now available on Soundcloud, for a total of 101 episodes. Additionally, al...