egypt 1919

Music of the Egyptian Revolution

by: Elizabeth Blair

 

Musicians have not been silent in the movement that brought down Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps the most popular song of the Egyptian revolution is by Mohamed Mounir, a singer so revered, he’s known as “The Voice of Egypt.”

The song is called “Ezzay,” which means “How come?” Dalia Ziada, a blogger and human-rights activist in Cairo, says Mounir compares Egypt to a lover in the song.

“He’s telling it, ‘I love you, and I know you love me, too, but you have to appreciate what I’m doing for you. I will keep changing you until you love me as I love you,’ ” Ziada says, adding that that’s exactly how Egyptians feel about their country. Mounir’s song was not played on Egyptian state radio, but the video is online, and it’s been watched hundreds of thousands of times.

Artists can often express the feeling on the streets better than anyone else, says Hani Almadhoun, who writes the blog Hot Arab Music. He says you can hear this phenomenon in Haitham Nabil’s “Sefr,” one of the first protest songs to be released. Sefr means zero; Almadhoun says Nabil’s message is that “Egyptians’ dignity became the equivalent of zero.”

A lot of songs have been inspired by the protests in Egypt. Almadhoun, who goes by the name Hanitizer online, says some songwriters are exploiting the opportunity.

“But the majority of the stuff,” Almadhoun says, “has been really good and drives the message home.”

One song that’s been very popular with Arab-Americans in the U.S. is called “January 25,” or “#Jan25,” after a trending topic on Twitter. Arab-American and African-American musicians living in different parts of North America contributed to the song. The first verse, which was written by rapper Omar Offendum, begins, “I heard them say the revolution won’t be televised / Al-Jazeera proved them wrong / Twitter has them paralyzed.”

“I wanted to open up that way because it symbolizes how a lot of people were hearing about this revolution,” Offendum says.

“#Jan25” has been viewed more than 100,000 times online. Offendum says he’s proud of the song, but that the real music that defines the revolution in Egypt was created on the streets there.

“The protesters were coming up with amazing call-and-response songs and chants on the fly, as Egyptians do, because they’re so creative,” Offendum says. “And to me, that’s the real true music of this revolution: the voice of the people.”

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