Palestinian musician Rasha Nahas discusses her long-delayed debut album

Rasha Nahas. Carolin Saage
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Updated 04 December 2020

Palestinian musician Rasha Nahas discusses her long-delayed debut album

Palestinian musician Rasha Nahas discusses her long-delayed debut album

AMSTERDAM: In May 2019, life was looking good for Palestinian singer-songwriter Rasha Nahas. She had begun to establish herself in Berlin — having moved there from her hometown of Haifa in 2017; her debut album — wrapped in 2018 — was just weeks away from being released; and she had a prospective tour of the Middle East and Europe lined up. 

“I feel like a lot of exciting things are happening and hopefully the album will bring more,” she told me then. “I’m not in a hurry, but I’m going full-power with all of my will and passion.”

Fast-forward to today and that debut album is still just weeks away from release. Not long after we spoke last year, Nahas began to experience pain in her wrists and hands. It quickly became serious enough that she went to see a doctor who diagnosed her with repetitive strain injury. 




Nahas' debut album (cover pictured) will be out on January 29. Supplied

“It was really hardcore,” she says. “Both my hands and wrists had very, very bad inflammation. I couldn’t type emails or hold my phone or carry groceries and stuff. It was basically from overplaying. It had been a very busy time with shows and traveling, and a lot of stress. That was good, in some ways, because it meant things were happening for me, but the mental stress also wasn’t good for my body. I just had to stop everything, take a break and focus on getting better.”

Having psyched herself up for the release of her album, the necessary postponement — and cancellation of her tour plans — was something of a comedown. 

“Everything was a big frustration,” she says. “And I couldn’t really let that energy out in music, because I wasn’t able to (play).”

That last part, especially, was a huge blow to someone for whom music has been “a place of escape and expression and dealing with things and understanding myself” since her early teens and has become the thing from which she makes her living — an impressive feat for any artist, but particularly an independent musician from the Middle East. 




Nahas first picked up a guitar – which actually belonged to her sister – when she was a kid. Supplied

Nahas first picked up a guitar when she was a kid. It actually belonged to her sister, who “took a few lessons then stopped.” 

“I would tune it in very weird ways and strum it and sing out of tune,” she says. “Then I decided to study guitar. The only available option that my parents liked was classical music. So for nine years I did classical guitar and theory. I wanted to drop it (often), but I’m glad I didn’t.”

Music was popular in the Nahas household — from classic Arab artists including Fayrouz (“My mother’s a big fan”) to Western artists. Nahas chose to listen mostly to the latter. “We had a massive collection of CDs in the car and every Saturday we’d drive to the Galilee with the windows open and very fresh air and listen to John Lennon. That’s my main memory of music from my childhood,” she says. As a teenager she branched out into hard rock, pop, jazz and more. Oh, and Avril Lavigne (“That’s a bit embarrassing now,” she admits). 




Music was popular in the Nahas household — from classic Arab artists to Western artists. Supplied

She estimates she wrote her first original song around the age of 15. “It probably sounded like a normal indie-rock song, but I think the (lyrical) content was quite different,” she says. “It was about life as a Palestinian girl understanding her identity, and asking questions — about the political situation too. Looking at it now, I think, ‘Woah! That’s what I was dealing with at the age of 15?’”

It took a few years before she felt she was developing her own identity as an artist, though. She played her first gig as she finished high school, aged 18, by which time she had about an hour’s worth of original material. 

It makes sense that Nahas had classical training and listened to a wide variety of genres growing up — and that she composes music for the theater professionally. Her songs, and particularly her vocal delivery, have a definite theatrical vibe, and there are hints of several influences — pop, indie rock, jazz, rockabilly, surrealism, punk, spoken-word, and more. The result is something that seems entirely organic and entirely honest. It’s not necessarily easily accessible, but it’s certainly some of the most interesting work you’ll hear from a contemporary Middle Eastern artist, at least in the English language. 




A still from the “Desert” music video. Supplied

The two singles released from the album so far — “The Clown” and title track “Desert” — are good examples; both showcasing her distinctive style. The former was written a month after Nahas moved to Berlin, aged 21 (because “I just needed to be away, make music and take time to just be and understand things”). “It came from a few days of thoughts that were gathering and piling up — about being away from home, about artists getting on stage and getting labeled as Palestinian or as Israeli, about the political situation that never really leaves you.”

The latter, released in November, was written around the same time. “It’s a very personal song talking about searching and the things that are changing around us,” Nahas explains. “In the video (shot in Haifa), we played a lot with metaphors and images — we have kids with guns, we have a dancer crucified on an olive tree to symbolize the ties to the land. We have an old, abandoned building in Haifa contrasted with the big glass buildings to ask ourselves where our identity — as Palestinian 48ers — fits between tradition and modern colonialism.”




“The Clown” was the first single off her debut album. Supplied

The search for identity is a central theme of Nahas’ debut album, which will finally see the light of day on January 29. “It was very influenced by the relocation from Palestine to Germany,” she says. “So it deals with questions of identity and of what our responsibility to our identity is. I come from this place that has a certain political weight, traditionally. So how do I deal with that weight? How do I sing about it? Who am I in it?”

The end to the record’s long delay will doubtless come as a huge relief to Nahas, after what she describes as “one of the heaviest years for me.” Her almost-complete recovery from injury all but coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the year also included the death of a close friend — one of the dancers in the “Desert” video. 




The search for identity is a central theme of Nahas’ debut album. Supplied

“That challenged my relationship with the (record). He was part of the creation, in a way. And the release was postponed because of the injury and the pandemic. I wished it had been finished and that he could have seen it, because he really put everything into it. So it just added another layer to everything.”

That heavy year hasn’t been entirely without positives though, she stresses. “Even though it’s been very unsettling, with my injury and the pandemic, it did ground something in me. It forced me to look inward more, but also to look at what’s around me and appreciate it and grow from it.”




She played her first gig as she finished high school, aged 18, by which time she had about an hour’s worth of original material. Supplied

Given the years between the album’s completion and release, I wonder if Nahas still feels as connected to the work. Her answer is a definite yes. 

“It captures a period in my life that I needed to capture and I’m really happy I did that. The songs came from a very honest place. That’s the most important thing — I feel like that doesn’t get old,” she says. “ So, it doesn’t matter when it comes out, because it’s real and it’s truthful — and I’m sure that will be reflected in the interaction with the people who are going to listen to it.”


’The Crown’ sweeps Golden Globes for television

’The Crown’ sweeps Golden Globes for television
Updated 44 min 7 sec ago

’The Crown’ sweeps Golden Globes for television

’The Crown’ sweeps Golden Globes for television

LOS ANGELES: British royal drama “The Crown” and comedy “Schitt’s Creek” won top television honors at the Golden Globes on Sunday in a mostly virtual bicoastal ceremony that took place under pandemic conditions and a furor over diversity.
Newcomer Emma Corrin, 25, who played a young Princess Diana in “The Crown,” was named best TV drama actress, beating veterans Olivia Colman and Laura Linney. Josh O’Connor, who played Prince Charles in the Netflix series, won best TV drama actor.
“I’m just sorry I am sitting here in my tragic little office and not surrounded by the people who make this show so lovely, ” said Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown,” who appeared on a webcam.
A surprised Corrin said, “Thank you so much to Diana. You taught me compassion and empathy.”
Dan Levy, the co-creator of “Schitt’s Creek,” called the best comedy series win a “lovely acknowledgement” of the show’s message of inclusion.
Jason Sudeikis, wearing a hoodie, was equally taken aback by his best comedy actor win for TV series “Ted Lasso,” about an American football coach who gets a soccer job in London. “That’s nuts,” he said. “That’s crazy. Wow!“
The Korean-American movie “Minari,” about an immigrant family starting a farm in rural America in the 1980s, won best foreign language movie.

The cast of  "Minari," the film won the award for best foreign language motion picture at the Golden Globe Awards. (Josh Ethan Johnson/A24 via AP)

Elsewhere, British actors Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega, and animated movie “Soul” were among diverse winners chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which has been lambasted for having no Black people among its 87 members.
Kaluuya won the movie supporting actor Golden Globe for his role as Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Boyega won TV supporting actor the “Small Axe” series about life as a Black person in 1970s London. “Soul,” the first Pixar movie to have a Black character in the lead, was named best animated movie and won best score.
Members of the HFPA appeared on Sunday’s show and pledged to do better. Ali Sar, the current president, who is from Turkey, said the group would create an environment where “a diverse membership is the norm, not the exception. We look forward to a more inclusive future.”

Webcams and gowns
The usual chummy gathering of A-listers at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills was replaced by webcams in the homes of glammed-up celebrities, small physical audiences made up of masked frontline workers, and a skit about self-involved celebrities consulting doctors with their coronavirus concerns.
Comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hosting from New York and Los Angeles respectively, opened the show with a series of jokes at the expense of the HFPA.
“We all know awards shows are stupid,” said Fey. “Even in stupid things, inclusivity is important and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I realize HFPA maybe you guys didn’t get the memo ... but you’ve got to change that.”
In the movie category, Netflix period drama “Mank,” about the screenwriter of “Citizen Kane,” went into Sunday’s show with a leading six nods, including for best drama movie, for actors Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, and for director David Fincher.
Netflix has yet to win a major movie awards prize.
The biggest competition comes from Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland,” a moving documentary-style drama about van dwellers in recession-hit America, and star-laden 1960s hippie courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” also from Netflix. The #MeToo revenge black comedy “Promising Young Woman” and the unsettling aging tale “The Father” round out the film drama nominations.
Aaron Sorkin won the Golden Globe for best screenplay for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” while British actress Rosamund Pike was awarded best comedy actress for the movie “I Care a Lot.”
The Disney+ TV film of hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” and Amazon Studios’ “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” a satire on the America of former President Donald Trump, are seen as front-runners in the best comedy or musical movie category.
“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman, whose death at 43 of an undisclosed battle with cancer stunned fans and the industry, is considered the favorite for a best actor Golden Globe. His last performance, as a brash trumpet player in drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was released after his death.


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.