Felukah: ‘I’m dealing with the split between my Middle Eastern and Western sides’

Felukah: ‘I’m dealing with the split between my Middle Eastern and Western sides’
Sara Elmessiry is a Cairo-born poet and singer/rapper. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 August 2020

Felukah: ‘I’m dealing with the split between my Middle Eastern and Western sides’

Felukah: ‘I’m dealing with the split between my Middle Eastern and Western sides’
  • The New York-based Egyptian songwriter and poet discusses her upcoming album, ‘Dream 23’

BEIRUT: Sara Elmessiry is a woman passionate about being in charge of her own destiny. “People are awakening — we can build alliances, we can push forward. We are all aggravated, agitated, and we’re waking up,” the Cairo-born poet and singer/rapper who goes by the artist name Felukah, says. “Rather than look away, I want to stare it right in the face and say, ‘How are we going to change this?’”

Based in New York since 2017, where she is studying for a degree in creative writing, the talented rhyme slinger is not only talking about the civil rights protests that have engulfed the US in recent weeks, but also about the mindset of her generation in general.

“I’m nothing but optimistic, but I’m also realistic,” says the 22-year-old, who has also published three poetry collections under the pseudonym Kahirati. “Anything that requires massive change and upheaval starts with demonstrations and conversations that cater to justice, to mental health, to collective consciousness.”




The singer is based in New York since 2017. (Supplied)

Felukah’s thoughtful, quick-witted and zeitgeist-minded demeanor is just as prevalent in her captivating approach to hip-hop and R&B. She recently released two singles from her upcoming album “Dream 23,” and both “22+1” and “Lookin’ at Me” are a testament to her zeal for her craft, as well as progress as a songwriter.

“I don’t have much to my discography; I started doing this only about two years ago,” she explains. “I had my brother’s studio equipment, I was messing around, and I had this strong impulse to share my art.

“I dropped a mix tape (her first EP, “Battery Acid”) on Soundcloud that wasn’t even mixed properly; the sound quality was terrible, but it put me on the map,” she says, with a hint of proud defiance in her voice. “People started hitting me up saying ‘Your flow and your lyrical quality are insane, but yeah, the music is miles apart and you have to do something about that.’”




The singer studied creative writing. (Supplied)

And sure enough, she’s followed that advice. Following up her 2019, neo-soul-charged debut album, “Citadel,” she’s releasing “Dream 23” with Abu Recordings, a London- and New York-based independent record label. “They helped me enhance the quality of the sound so much; sonically, it actually pops.”

Her sound is described by her label as “a gorgeous ode to the Golden Age of hip-hop,” culminating in a record that “tackles a wide range of concepts, including time, age, cultural identity, ambition and the rap game.”

In fact, “22+1” stands out both for its infectious hooks and Felukah’s skillful mastery of rhyme that effortlessly transitions between English and Arabic — a method of showcasing the connection between her heritage and influences that she frequently employs in her work. Thematically, the song is an ode to “circling around the sun 23 times and paying homage to both my Egyptian roots and New York culture with each turn around the sun,” Elmessiry explains. “I didn't only turn 22... I turned 22+1 just by taking into account the goals I've set for myself for this next year on earth.”




Following up her 2019, neo-soul-charged debut album, “Citadel,” she’s releasing “Dream 23” with Abu Recordings, a London- and New York-based independent record label. (Supplied)

Like the relationship between the two languages and cultures, there’s a lot of duality in Felukah’s music. “I like to think artistically in fluid terms; I like to resist binaries, and so, sometimes a way to highlight that resistance is to showcase a binary,” she says. “In this case I’m dealing with the split between New York and Cairo, between the Middle Eastern aspect of myself and the Western, more open, publicly sharing side myself, which is what gives that duality to the music I’m making.

“So, when I explore binaries, it liberates me as an artist; I join them, and they become one to me, so I end up overcoming that distinction,” she continues. “Sonically, this album is about Western beats, but I’m also talking about issues that pertain to our culture.”

Despite her energy and curiosity, Elmessiry is mindful of the obstacles facing artists in the Middle East. “It’s not easy to express yourself in the way that Western songwriters are able to, but I see that struggle as an opportunity,” she says. “I grew up in Egypt and I do intend to return home, just to relearn my culture. Now that I’m away, I get this urge to go back to the motherland. I want to be in the Arab world. The only way to really experience it is to be there.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic means a tour of the Arab world is off the table for now, but Elmessiry says that is her goal one day. Until live performances are possible again, though, she’s typically innovative about her approach to keeping in contact with her audience.

“I want to send merch to people so they can, like, rock out in their Felukah gear while they’re watching me on the computer,” she says. “Why not? I’ll adapt. I’ll try to make it a new experience in terms of listening to and consuming music and art.”


Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
Updated 28 February 2021

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
  • The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years
  • Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions

DUBAI: A haven for humans craving furry feline company, a cat cafe in Dubai also doubles as an adoption center for some of the United Arab Emirates’ many strays.
The Ailuromania Cat Cafe, which was the Middle East’s first cat cafe when it opened in 2015, hopes the relaxing properties of its 25 rescue and shelter cats will help find them their forever homes.
“Anyone who is stressed just has to find a cat. All your stress will go away,” said Omnia Fareed, whose two cat-loving sisters Allaa and Iman started the cafe after university, taking inspiration from similar establishments in Korea and London.
The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years. Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions.
The cafe’s name Ailuromania is a play on the Greek-derived English word for a lover of cats: ailurophile.
The cafe has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they cannot keep a cat at home.
“They are so cute, they love playing,” said visitor Shaasthra. She said she appreciates how the cafe looks after the cats’ welfare by advising people not to hold them or wake them up.
Another regular visitor, a street cat who would stare in through the window, was also invited and eventually adopted.
Since Dubai began lifting coronavirus lockdown measures last summer, the cafe re-opened with capacity and sanitization restrictions.
Dubai has a large number of stray cats, with many abandoned on the streets by their owners. In 2018 UAE authorities made it illegal to abandon animals, but animal welfare activists in Dubai have for years called for a large-scale trap-neuter-release scheme and feeding programs to bring numbers down humanely.
In August, Dubai municipality issued a circular restating a policy of fining anyone caught feeding strays, saying it increases the spread of diseases.


Sneaker giant New Balance releases latest line with French-Moroccan label

New Balance x Casablanca Drop III. Supplied
New Balance x Casablanca Drop III. Supplied
Updated 28 February 2021

Sneaker giant New Balance releases latest line with French-Moroccan label

New Balance x Casablanca Drop III. Supplied

DUBAI: The latest collaboration between Casablanca x New Balance dropped yesterday on casablancaparis.com and, naturally, it sold-out within minutes – Footwear designer Amina Muaddi took to Instagram to show off her pair – But, if you didn’t manage to click “add to cart,” then we have some good news for you: You can still get your hands on a pair of the highly covetable footwear when they drop in the region next week.

Drop III comes in two silhouettes. The 327 boasts an octopus-like outsole that extends up the shoe and an interlocking Moroccan tile print that stays true to the French-Moroccan designer Charaf Tajer’s North African roots.

New Balance x Casablanca 327 silhouette. Supplied

Meanwhile, featuring a wedge heel, suede, mesh and nylon upper, as well as Casablanca’s signature monogram design, the 237 is an entirely new silhouette. Unlike the 327 style, the lugs on the outsole are less bold and don’t extend up the back of the shoe. 

Both trainers feature a clean white, pink and green colorway and an oversized “N” logo on the upper.

It’s not the first time the Paris-based apres-sports fashion house and the footwear company have joined forces. In fact, this recent drop marks their third footwear collaboration together.

New Balance x Casablanca 237 silhouette. Supplied

Casablanca’s first collaboration with New Balance debuted last year, when the 327 dropped in zesty orange and green colorways, inspired by Moroccan sweet oranges and tennis uniforms, respectively. 

The Casablanca x New Balance 327 and 273 sneakers will be available to purchase on March 5 at 9am (KSA time) on newbalance.co.ae and will be retailing for $163 for the 327 and $150 for the 237. Given how quickly the shoes sold out online on Feb. 27, we suggest setting an alarm.


Oscar-nominated ‘White Eye’ asks the hard questions

“White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Supplied
“White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Supplied
Updated 28 February 2021

Oscar-nominated ‘White Eye’ asks the hard questions

“White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Supplied

LONDON: “White Eye” — a short film from writer-director Tomer Shushan — serves as a masterclass in concise storytelling. After all, the pivotal moment at the heart of Shushan’s semi-autobiographical (and recently Oscar-nominated) short involves little more than a dispute over a stolen bicycle, with no lavish set pieces or special effects required to create an enthralling atmosphere. Furthermore, “White Eye” is shot in a single, continuous take that follows Omer (Daniel Gad) as he tries to retrieve his stolen bike.

The short film from writer-director Tomer Shushan serves as a masterclass in concise storytelling. Supplied

The camera buzzes around Omer, sometimes looking over his shoulder, then backing up to show events unfolding in front of him, or circling to show the audience what he can’t see. It makes for an intense 20 minutes of cinema, and it’s no surprise that “White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.

“White Eye” is shot in a single, continuous take that follows Omer (Daniel Gad) as he tries to retrieve his stolen bike. Supplied

Shushan keeps the scale of the film small. “White Eye” takes place in a single building and on the street outside. As Omer’s attempts to get his bike back escalate into a far more high-stakes situation, there’s a palpable sense of rising tension and, without giving away too much of the story (which would undo the strength of the narrative), Shushan begins to ask a number of uncomfortable questions — about assumption, about prejudice, about empathy and retribution.

“White Eye” takes place in a single building and on the street outside. Supplied

The 20-minute runtime flashes past in a heartbeat as the tiny world the film inhabits becomes both more familiar through repetition, and more uncomfortable as the severity of the situation dawns on Omer — and, by extension, the audience. Thanks to an understated performance from Gad, we see Omer begin to ask himself the hard questions about the strength of his own character. And by that point, we’re so taken in by Shushan’s carefully crafted microcosm that we can’t help but ask ourselves the same of our own humanity.


Bella Hadid shares insight on her autoimmune disorders

Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. Instagram
Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. Instagram
Updated 28 February 2021

Bella Hadid shares insight on her autoimmune disorders

Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. Instagram

DUBAI: US-Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid offered fans a glimpse into how she treats her autoimmune disorders in an Instagram post this weekend.

On Friday, the 24-year-old posted a series of photos showing her hooked up to an intravenous drip. “Living with a few chronic autoimmune disease = always finding time for my IVs,” she captioned the post.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012 alongside with younger brother Anwar, 21, and their mother, Yolanda, 57.

In 2016, Bella opened up to People magazine about dealing with Lyme disease while being in the spotlight.

“Life isn’t always what it looks like on the outside, and the hardest part of this journey is to be judged by the way you look instead of the way you feel,” she said at the time.


Part-Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi is the star of the Dundas Fall 2021 collection

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied
The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied
Updated 28 February 2021

Part-Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi is the star of the Dundas Fall 2021 collection

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied

DUBAI: Norwegian designer Peter Dundas presented the Dundas Fall 2021 collection this week with a little help from Malika El-Maslouhi. The fashion heavyweight tapped the Moroccan-Italian rising model to showcase the glamorous new offering, which was digitally presented in a look book format.

The 22-year-old, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father, features in the look book, shot by fashion photographer Charlotte Wales in London, wearing 31 looks that range from draped minidresses and velvet pantsuits to slender duster coats and the brand’s newest category — hosiery.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

“If we’re ever allowed to go out at night again, I promise I’m stepping out in @dundasworld,” wrote El-Maslouhi on Instagram alongside a carousel of videos and photos that included backstage clips from the shoot. “What a fun day it was and loved to rock these looks. Thank you for having me,” she added.

Indeed, the collection is perfect for post-lockdown revelry.

Inspired by the glamour of the 1930s and the 1970s, the collection was punctuated with flowy wide-leg trousers, tailored jackets worn over lavish dresses, fringed tops and skirts, feathered cardigan dresses and lots of animal print.

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied

The London-based designer chose rich and luxurious fabrics such as velvet and charmeuse and details like ostrich fur and sequins to dream up the latest offering.

El-Maslouhi, who is signed to VIVA Model Management, made her modelling debut when she was 18 years old at the Alberta Ferretti Fall 2019 show and went on to walk for the Dior Cruise 2020 show held in Marrakech a month later.

She would go on to quit her university studies to pursue modeling full-time, and completely captivate the fashion industry in the process.

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied

In addition to gracing the runways of storied fashion houses such as Hermes and Chanel, the rising fashion star has also appeared in international campaigns for the likes of Jacquemus and Zadig & Voltaire, and was selected as the face of Calvin Klein swimwear.

Meanwhile, the model, who splits her time between Italy, France and the Netherlands, was also recently selected as the cover star of the latest edition of Elle France.