Music

Arab-American Songwriter Naima Shalhoub Sings of "Two (Rivers in the Desert)" (premiere)

Photo: Tarik "Excentrik" Kazaleh / Courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

Naima Shalhoub finds healing waters in her new video for the single "Two (Rivers in the Desert)".

Water trickles across Mojave desert sands as Naima Shalhoub strums the first solemn guitar notes of "Two (Rivers in the Desert)" and begins to sing. Precious for its scarcity and its necessity, such a substance in such an arid landscape serves as a poignant symbol for finding -- and making -- purpose and personal truth in what is so often a harsh and unrelenting world.

Shalhoub's inspiration is deeply and delightfully personal. "I smile every time I think about my family on FaceTime in a spirited debate about the Arabic translation of Isaiah 43:19 -- the song's inspiration -- and how it would best sound with the melody my father helped me with," she says, referring to a verse that speaks of divine creation in desperate times -- only too relevant today for many.

For the visual aspects of "Two (Rivers in the Desert)", Shalhoub enlisted nearby artist Excentrik as director, a first-time collaboration that she gushes, "was magical", with both bringing their whole selves and experiences to the filming. "Our respective Lebanese and Palestinian ancestry is extremely important to both of us," Shalhoub continues, "and the whole experience felt like we were in a portal of some sort."

Seeing Shalhoub among the near-otherworldly boulders and resilient flora of Joshua Tree truly truly is a dramatic way of setting the artist apart from the world. At the same time, it makes for a brilliant representation of Shalhoub herself, her music and self so strongly influenced by both her family history -- both parents are refugees from Rahbé, a town in northern Lebanon -- and her life in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as both artist and advocate, doing work in schools, juvenile halls, and other community facilities that are crucial to a number of underserved groups.

Much of Shalhoub's work focuses on concepts of healing, which her video evokes in a moment of total reverence, as Shalhoub kneels, face pointed upward to receive baptismal drops of water from the ornately adorned masked figure who has been wandering in the same space as she has been playing for the entirety of the film. Technically, it was a small miracle. "We had only one chance to get it right," says Shalhoub, "and thankfully, it worked out!" While visually, it is a moment of cleansing, the high desert sun shining down to illuminate the peace on Shalhoub's face. "For me," she concludes, "'Two' is ultimately a prayer."

"Two (Rivers in the Desert)" comes out ahead of debut full-length studio album Siphr, set for release on 19 June.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.