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.






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.


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.


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.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.


Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring current members of Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.


Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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