And welcome to the Cultural Reads Newsletter with book, music, and movie recommendations from around the world.
In this week’s newsletter: Voodoo Queen, Afghanistan Books, City Stories, Best Kept Secret, Congo History, Country Pages, Black Mirror
How much do you know about Afghanistan apart from the war?
Aside from author Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) or Sufi poet Rumi, maybe a little?
But we’re talking about a country with 40 million people inhabitants.
Today is your chance to change that and learn more!
Check out the 10 best books about Afghanistan right now.
I’m excited to say that I posted 20+ country pages with best books, movies, and music per country. Check out:
Europe: Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia
Asia: India, Iran, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan
Other: Chile, Peru, Libya, New Zealand
According to Paul Graham, cities tell stories.
The collective of everyone working and living in a place tells a story that differs per place.
New York tells people to be rich, LA to be famous, and Boston (Cambridge) to be smarter.
What story does your city tell?
And is it in line with how you want to live?
Last week, my sister and I visited a festival called Best Kept Secret.
It was my first time seeing one of my favorite bands, Tinariwen, and also my first time feeling like a groupie.
Afterward, we attended an intimate concert in a small forest. As the sun was setting, a few hundred people sat down and enjoyed the beautiful songs of a young Dutch band called De Toegift.
You can find the entire festival’s Spotify playlist here.
Before last month’s Fatoumata Diawara concert in the Hague, a DJ played a set featuring musicians with similar styles.
One that struck me as particularly intriguing was Moonlight Benjamin.
Moonlight Benjamin is a Haitian singer who blends Haitian voodoo music with blues, rock, and soul influences.
Her music is deeply rooted in Haiti’s voodoo traditions and often incorporates elements of Haitian folklore and spirituality.
Her powerful vocals and stage presence earned her a reputation as one of the most compelling performers in the world music scene.
My favorite song is Moso Moso.
Some weeks ago, I visited the Africa Museum in Brussels.
This beautiful building with its lush gardens has the appearance of a palace, much like the Versaille.
But looks can be deceiving.
Leopold II (Belgium’s 2nd kind) constructed the museum to promote colonial operations in Congo.
He financed the construction with colonial income and often depicted the Congolese in a condescending way that would play into European stereotypes of Africans.
In 2018, the museum decided it was time for a change.
They transformed the exhibitions in collaboration with African artists to tell an honest and complete story of Congo’s recent history.
The visit ignited my interest in the book Congo by journalist and historian David Reybrouck about Congo’s recent history.
Reybrouck combined facts with personal stories, which makes it read like a thriller that is difficult to put down.
Black Mirror is a fantastic sci-fi Netflix series that shows the flipside of technology.
What strikes me as most interesting is that almost everything is technologically possible already or something that scientists are working on.
The Personal Social Ratings system in the episode Nosedive reminds me a lot of China’s Social Credit System, and many of the episodes about artificial consciousness are being worked on by the Human Brain Project.