Listen to YallaPunk founder Rana Fayez preview this year’s festival on the XPN Local Show

Rana Fayez
Rana Fayez | photo by Lauren Freney | courtesy of the artist

This weekend marks the return of YallaPunk, a multi-platform Philly festival celebrating Middle Eastern and North African artists in music, film, comedy and more — while also combatting negative depictions of them, not just in the cultural scene, but in society in general.

“In general, I think a lot of MENA individuals are painted as violent, as backwards, not cultured,” says festival founder Rana Fayez of her reasons for organizing YallaPunk. “[They’re painted in] really negative ways. That doesn’t really sit with me that well.”

In addition to being a DJ, an artist and an educator, Fayez is an Arab-American immigrant who grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, immersed in the East Coast punk scene but also feeling left out of it — at the shows she went to as a teenager, she remembers being one of only two non-white people in the crowd. That inspired her push to create her own events, including the festival, and she hopes that among other things, attendees walk away from YallaPunk with a better idea of what it means to take up space versus making space for others.

Fayez appeared on the XPN Local Show last night to discuss the festival and its origins, to share thoughts on how arts communities can be more inclusive, and to play music from eight of the performers at this weekend’s event. Continue reading →


The Week Ahead: Hardwork Movement, Ivy Sole, YallaPunk, Made In America and more

Hardwork Movement | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN |

We’re in the last week of summer, people. Even though the season officially continues for another three weeks, with school starting this week and Labor Day on the horizon, this is pretty much it — so let’s make it count. Here are 12 concerts you can see in and around Philadelphia this week, starting out tonight at Johnny Brenda’s with rapper Kuf Knotz’s classically-oriented new project, and wrapping up with the giant party on the Parkway that is Made In America.
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Yalla Habibi! Philadelphia’s first ever Middle Eastern punk festival, YallaPunk, starts tonight

Vancouver’s Puzzlehead plays The Barbary during YallaPunk | photo courtesy of the artist

“YallaPunk is a direct response to negative depictions of populations of Middle Eastern and North African descent in mainstream media. This event is meant to highlight creative accomplishments of MENA individuals and serve as a safe space forum for discourse about social issues. The idea is to celebrate music, art, film and other cultural artifacts created by this particular population in an intersectional and inclusive space free from sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and bigotry.” – From

Even though this is the inaugural YallaPunk, the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) punk festival happening this weekend at various venues including Johnny Brenda’s and The Barbary, its roots stretch back more than 16 years to Blacksburg, Virginia. Festival organizer Rana Fayez grew up there, a young Arab-American immigrant trying to adjust to a new country. She had been in the United States for just a year when September 11th happened and everything changed.

After a particularly bad altercation with some older classmates who accused her of being complicit with the attacks, “… I thought ever since that people think I’m violent now, people think I’m not a good person. I felt very separated from my peers. I felt very isolated.” She soon found a home in her local punk scene. As she explained, “[Punk] gave me the guts to say: ‘I am who I want to be, not who you tell me to be.’”

Punk wasn’t just loud, angry music and a feeling of rebellion, though that was all very important. According to Fayez, “It was liberating. It was free. Punk rock shows were a sanctuary for me because I could exist [there] and a lot of my friends really accepted me.” Continue reading →


From jazz to punk to traditional Middle Eastern / North African music, Nadah El Shazly showcases shape-shifting sounds at Vox tonight

Nadah El Shazly | courtesy of the artist

The bio for Egyptian musician Nadah El Shazly, playing tonight at Vox Populi, references American horror punk progenitors The Misfits, the traditional Arab melody sytem the maqam, African jazz, and Alan Bishop of the pioneering experimental rock band Sun City Girls. On paper that seems like an intriguing but possibly overwhelming mouthful, but when you listen to Ahwar, El Shazly’s debut album, it all very much falls into place. Continue reading →