A popular podcast for the SWANA region, Bath ya Hashem is hosted and produced by Sara Eldayekh from Berlin and Hashem in Amman. The podcast’s title is a play on words since ‘th’ in bath — a difficult sound in Egyptian dialect — comes out as bas, which means broadcast or stop.
Many years ago, I was part of a secret social media group —which I’ll call “ASM” — I don’t recall how I got into the group, although it was most likely through a friend. I spent the early days mainly exploring what the group had published, until I gradually began to share snippets of news and publications with the group. My online relationship with the group members grew from strength to strength and we finally ended up meeting in person. There were never any limits to what we said or published there. The online group, and our meetings outside of it, in the real world, were an example of the absence of restrictions and subscribed to complete freedom. We participated in loud, rowdy gatherings that were far removed from the gloomy atmosphere overhanging Cairo at the time, and yet we also made sure to support our fellow members when they were going through health crises or the loss of one of their relatives. In the process, we got to know each other intimately. I personally recall one couple tied the knot, while another couple entered into a serious relationship. Others opted for fleeting relationships whereby I was not privy to the details.
It was there that I met Hashem, and began to follow his visual and musical works. I was struck by the work’s peculiarity and how it differed vastly from the works prevalent at the time. It wasn’t until later that I developed a true admiration for their originality and distinctiveness. I remember that every encounter with Hashem was a joy. Then I met Sara Eldayekh during one of my visits to “Beit Hashem” (House of Hashem), and so it was that over the years our friendship blossomed.
Hashem and Sara have a podcast called “Bath Ya Hashem” that they record from Amman and Berlin. I admire their boldness in addressing topics related to relationships between people, which now seem more complex than ever before. I like the structure of the podcast, how smoothly the dialogue between the two of them runs, how the episode is interspersed with ditties related to the topic at hand, and the general humor and intimacy the two project that I don’t find in any other Arabic podcast that I listen to.
I asked Hashem and Sara to introduce themselves to the readers of TMR, and because they both prefer radio talk to writing long essays, they each sent a voice message expressing their vision for the podcast. The following lines are a transcription of each message.
I am Hashem, a music producer, visual artist, and presenter of the “Bath Ya Hashem” podcast. Initially, when I first started the program, I came to it as I would a radio program, because I wasn’t truly familiar with the concept of podcasts or what they were supposed to do. “Bath Ya Hashem” podcast launched in 2020, during Covid, and was broadcast via an online radio in Amman, Jordan which had itself launched as an experimental project called “Micro Radio.” A few episodes in, Micro Radio ceased, which proved to be a milestone regarding the development of “Bath Ya Hashem.”
When I started the podcast, it was meant to be a personal one, about the music I was listening to and how that influenced me. When Micro Radio shut down, the guys at Radio Al-Hara expressed interest and offered that I continue the program with them, and so the second season of the program came to be. During this season however, the format consisted mainly of interviews. Each episode I would talk to a different guest, some I had met only during Covid, and others I had known before, like Sara. The talk centered around personal themes, either to myself or to the guest. We talked about the music that had had the biggest impact on a guest’s life and to which their memories strayed. The music that played in each episode consisted of the guest’s choice list.
However, this too became boring and so I suggested to Sara that she co-host the program with me. I like to work randomly. I do not like to stage anything or to prepare anything in advance. This is the opposite of Sara who prefers to prepare and organize everything beforehand because of her hectic lifestyle. So, we began to spend a few days, before the episode, to prepare the episode’s theme, on friendship for example or on good intentions, etc. However, we would allow everything else to be adlib. As such, the episode could easily begin with talking about friendship, for example, and end in talking about a million other things too unrelated to the theme.
The program has become a very personal project for me and Sara. We talk about purely social and societal issues that reflect on our own lives or those around us, particularly those of our friends. This has always been my vision for the program.
Sara and I will begin our third season soon, and again there will be a theme for each episode. Currently, we have been on hiatus since July, because I had work, and during the break, the war broke out in Gaza, and since then I decided that it would be best to stop the program for a while, and we will return as soon as the situation stabilizes.
Because the program is both personal and organic, even the format keeps changing, and I don’t mind as long as the program does what it was meant to do all along: talk to people that I like about personal subjects that face us all. In the end “Bath Ya Hashem” podcast is an intimate public-oriented radio program.
The entire podcast started with Hashem. I was a guest for the first time because each episode had a different guest. The first episode was just a collection of songs that I chose, and I talked about my memories with each song. When we found that there was a chemistry between us on air, we decided to co-host. Each episode was given a theme that certainly related to our personal experiences, and we discussed some theories on the topic that we derived from books or articles we had read on the subject. For example, when we chose topics such as “jealousy” or “forbidden love,” we related experiences we had gone through or that people we know had gone through, and we chose songs related to the topic. The podcast aired on “Radio Al-Hara” every two weeks, on Monday night. We stopped for personal reasons, and then the events in Gaza began, but we hope to continue. I think that the program is very intimate, and this is why it touches people’s hearts.
Because Hashem and I live in two different countries, we record on Skype and do not use a camera. It often feels like we are in a confessional session in church, and sometimes we forget that other people are going to hear what we tell each other. This is good because it allows us to talk more freely and to share more personal information about ourselves. The episodes that people liked the most were the episodes in which we spoke personally and from the heart, because this allows people to feel that they are not alone and that there is no shame in what they go through— that this is part of one’s life experiences. This is what touches us most about the podcast.
Sadly, a few years down the line, the secret group disintegrated. Many members became estranged and left the group, or got busy with life and work. I also noticed that many of us went to work in art, photography, or writing, and that most of the group’s members left Egypt and settled abroad. Of course, as happens in clandestine groups, some people boycotted certain individuals, or certain groups. I remember that at one point, the same group split into two factions, and this was accompanied by a lot of sadness and even anger. There are many members that I have not spoken to for a while, although if I run into any of them I enjoy talking to them, and there are a few that I no longer communicate with by choice.