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‘Songs of the Revolution’ – Egypt 2010-2011 (Part I) By: Cynthia Farahat*

Feb 23, 2012 by

Published by MEMRI on February 23, 2012.

Introduction

The Egyptian revolution of January 25, 2011 began on the Internet long before the massive protests in Al-Tahrir square took place. The 18 days of that revolution and subsequent events sparked a wave of popular creative expression, in the form of protest songs communicating the ideas and ideals of the liberal youth that led the revolution.

This creative drive, which continues today, reflects the frustration of the youth that led the revolution and its sense that the revolution has been hijacked by an emerging coalition of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Islamist circles – both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movements – which are presenting themselves as revolutionaries while shaping post-revolutionary Egypt in the image of its past. In an attempt to compete with the authentic creativity of the liberal youth, the Muslim Brotherhood even produced a propaganda rap video depicting itself as the true revolutionary.[1]

Similar to the online commotion prior to the January 25, 2011 revolution, the continuing creative endeavor by the liberal youth reflects an undercurrent that could indicate the coming of a possible second revolution.

The clips in this report, from the Internet, focus on the Egyptian youth’s resistance to the continuing SCAF regime; their critique of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic circles, and government media; and the original values and ideals that fueled the first revolution.[2]

This report is the first in a series on the cultural dimensions of the Egyptian revolution.

Following are the clips, with English translations:

‘Liars’ by Revolution Records


 Revolution Records is Egypt’s first underground rap label. It was established in 2006 by a group of young musicians from Alexandria who later participated in the Tahrir Square protests and are known for their pro-freedom songs and criticism of the SCAF.

The group members do not use their real names, because, as their Facebook page[3] explains, they wish to spread their message rather than promote themselves. Their songs and clips are distributed on the social networks and on YouTube.

“Liars,” the most recent clip by Revolution Records, includes footage of attacks by the military and security forces on protestors, and shows SCAF chairman Field Marshal Muhammad Tantawi making statements that are belied by the violent images.

English translation:[4]

“[We] reject the lying SCAF

“They speak nothing but lies

“And our protest gets us killed or thrown in prison

“Nothing has changed… Rise up, Egyptians!

“[Oh SCAF], you know that I know that it is you who are in trouble

“What can you to do to people that are used to suffering?

“[You can] keep lying from now until tomorrow

“Turn the revolution into a memory

“Kill us one by one, but I dare you to kill the idea!

“You’ve been exposed as lairs; you’ve been caught red-handed

“With blood on your hands, a bunch of traitors.

“Many of us are locked up, but we’re satisfied

“And you are hiding behind your lies

“Which one of us is the prisoner now?

“No one is protecting the revolution… [but] the revolution is stronger than you

“You sold it to serve your interest… and sold yourselves

“Every tyrant comes to an end… and your turn is coming [soon].

“[I am] ‘a word of truth’ [uttered] in the face of every dictator

“In the middle of the darkness… you’ll find me a ray of light

“You will find [that I am] ‘a word of truth’ flying above you like an eagle

“You will find me standing up to every mistake you make

“You’ll find me screaming into microphones:

“[We] reject the lying SCAF

“They speak nothing but lies

“And our protest gets us killed or thrown in prison

“Nothing has changed… Rise up, Egyptians!

“A year ago we were all Khaled Said[5]

“This year the death toll has risen. How many martyrs are there now?

“And every martyr has a will of steel

“To we continue our revolution… and we have begun to restore our pride

“But [your] tanks crushed us…[Your] army boots broke us

“Soldiers divided us… They made you watch a woman being dragged along by soldiers

“The thugs stripped her naked … [and the media and SCAF] made you say: ‘She shouldn’t have left her house [to demonstrate]!!’

“Some gangs have destroyed [Egypt]… [and] divided [the people].

“What has the revolution changed?

“The media is still the same… The Interior Ministry is the same

“And on top of it all, they add the military police

“And a corrupt judiciary that does nothing but protect thieves

“They utter a million lies…

“They say that we’re thugs… that we are ‘opportunists’

“[But] we are revolutionaries capable of living in freedom

“And we will continue to:

“Reject the lying SCAF

“They speak nothing but lies

“And our protest gets us killed or thrown in prison

“Nothing has changed… Rise up, Egyptians!

“Liars, [your] lying is a disappointment

“There’s no greater disappointment than you

“Build barriers, open more jails, kill protestors, arm soldiers

“Hide the truth and wipe it out of existence

“Kill [people] in a million different ways, and increase the restrictions

“Blind us, and tailor laws to protect the remnants of the [Mubarak] regime,

“Increase the insanity, divide the people, destroy bridges and build walls

“To keep us from saying ‘no!’

“No to humiliation, injustice, oppression, and hopelessness. No to silence

“In the past we believed [your words], and we were silent. [But now] time is running out, and what did we get from you

“Except promises, speeches and slogans? We’ve had it!

“And the military ruled, oppressed, and subjugated us in order to protect evil

“They stand like chickens on the borders and harass women!

“But the revolution is still going on, it is still in our hearts

“We will not forget those who sacrificed their blood for our freedom

“They will live [forever] but we are dead [under SCAF]

“We have to get out of the house

“We have to topple the military rule

“And shout:

“[We] reject the lying SCAF

“They speak nothing but lies

“And our protest gets us killed or thrown in prison

“Nothing has changed… Rise up, Egyptians!

SCAF chairman Field Marshal Muhammed Tantawi: “We had no aspiration to seize power”

“[We] reject the lying SCAF”

Tantawi: “And we have not opened fire on any Egyptian citizen”

“[We] reject the lying SCAF”

Tantawi: “The Egyptian economy is deteriorating significantly.”

“Liars… Liars… Liars…”

‘Egypt Has Been Sold’ By Safwan Nasser El-Din

“Egypt Has Been Sold” is a short film produced by Safwan Nasser El-Din, a 22-year-old artist. Nasser El-Din became widely known among Egyptian dissidents with his first YouTube clip, “The Birth of a New Egypt,”[6] after Mubarak was toppled in February 2011.

“Egypt Has Been Sold,” Nasser El-Din’s second popular clip, is an analysis of the Egyptian power struggle and of the growing relationship between the Islamists, the regime, and the military in the country, on the one hand, and the Al-Tahrir protestors, on the other. It had over 190,000 views in its first week on YouTube.

English Translation:

Protestors: “Egypt, I want my rights.

“I will take my rights and the rights of my brother from you.”

The military: “These people call for democracy, which means homosexuality, decadence, and disobedience.”

Salafis: “Infidel!!!”

The military: “Beware; the Salafists will seize power from you.”

The Muslim Brotherhood: “You have no right to speak.”

Salafis: “You Brotherhood are corruptive.”

The Muslim Brotherhood: “We deserve to be in power more than you.”

The military: “Those two will strip you of everything you’ve got, and will cover up all women.”

Liberals: “No!!!”

Salafis: “Enough! Let’s cooperate against the enemies of Allah.

“Get out of God’s land.”

Police forces: “I’m just obeying orders.”

Egyptian media: “Protestors are attacking the army and police.”

Mubarak’s regime: “Go set Egypt on fire!”

The military: “Isn’t it our right to protect our facilities?!”

Liberals: “You all sold Egypt.

“Some of you betrayed us.

“Some of you tortured us.

“Stripped us,

“Killed us,

“Gloated over our death,

“Excommunicated us,

“Legitimized our murder,

“Expelled us,

“We aspired for freedom,

“And you aspired for power,

“In the name of Allah the most merciful: ‘Do not dispute and [thus] lose courage, and [then] your strength will depart.’

“Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: ‘Don’t differ as the people who came before you differed and perished.’

And Jesus said: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.’

Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: ‘do not ask for a position of authority, for if you are granted this position as a result of your asking for it, you will be left alone [without God’s help], and if you are granted it without making any request for it, you will be helped [by God].’

“The revolution is still ongoing.”

‘Infiltrators’ by Yasser El-Manawehli

“Infiltrators” criticizes the Egyptian media and the Egyptian regime for their systematic demonizing of reformers and protestors by routinely referring to them as infiltrators, spies, agents of Israel, Iran, and America, while blaming dissent, political unrest, and economic turmoil on foreign, international conspiracies, and international agendas. Although such accusations have been part of the regime’s political discourse for many years – and although the youth grew up hearing them – since the revolution they have been widely mocked and rejected by protestors.

Amateur Egyptian singer Yasser El-Manawehli, who wrote and performed this song, became well known among the Egyptian youth after this clip went viral on YouTube. It was produced by WellsBox, a new Egyptian production and digital media company.[7]

English translation:

“I once went to join a group, a group of ‘infiltrators’ that were never fully aware of their marginalization and oppression.

“I found them to be a large group of patriots – about a million – and they’re only increasing – so much for a ‘minority,’ and so much for ‘infiltrators’!

“They searched me upon my entry with ‘foreign hands’; workers’ hands smudged with poor people’s food; but I told myself this must be an ‘international plot’…

“I saw a girl from a distance, walking with a sign in the square, I wonder if she wrote it in Farsi or translated it in Lebanon; she probably wrote on it ‘this pretty girl is from Tehran,’ or maybe she tattooed her hands with the colors of the Iranian flag.[8] But as I got closer I found her to be Egyptian and holding a sign saying: ‘Why are we abused?’

“I saw a young man playing the lute, playing the lute with ‘foreign fingers’… he probably got his sheet music from an ‘international agenda’ … but when I got closer I discovered he was playing songs for Sheikh Imam,[9] and the crowd sang with him, ‘The people want to topple the regime.’

“Are these the ‘minority’ of ‘infiltrators,’ you scumbags of the media? You regime mouthpieces, you regime mouthpieces. You elementary school dropouts, there is an invention called satellite channels; haven’t you ever heard of something called a satellite dish?

“Haven’t you committed enough deception and fraud? And after all this, you still have the nerve to appear publicly? What’s with you media personalities? What’s with you and your duplicity? Your faces on TV advocate insolence. Stop insulting and undermining our intelligence.

“I once went to ‘infiltrate’ a group, a group of ‘infiltrators’ that were never fully aware of their marginalization and oppression.

“The whole system is corrupt from head to toe.

“The blood was shed in the streets, and they showed images of the Nile, our scandalous TV is a laughingstock, living in their delusions, they’re a disgrace to media; the people want to purge the media, the people want to purge the media, the people want to purge the media.”

‘Time Shall Be Our Witness’ by Ramy Essam

“Time Shall Be Our Witness,” by renowned “singer of the revolution” Ramy Essam, is a chronicle of the revolution in Tahrir Square, showing the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis as conspicuous in their absence. It also shows Egyptian Coptic Christians playing a major role in the protests, and refers to them as “the salt of the earth.”

During the revolution, Essam sang “Down, down with Hosni Mubarak,” and after Mubarak was toppled and the SCAF took power, he began singing “Down, down with the military rule.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired October 9, 2011,[10] Essam told of his abduction and torture by the Egyptian military at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, which the Mubarak regime had turned into a prison. Following the torture he was dumped in a garbage can in the street, where protestors later found him.

English Translation:

“Time shall be our witness; time shall be our witness.

“Here’s another Friday protest without the Brotherhood,

“There it is, another Friday protest without our Salafi brothers,

“And if they call us infidels, the Omar Makram[11] mosque will answer them.

“Time shall be our witness; the salt of the earth are protesting in Qasr El-Nile,

“They are the brothers of the martyrs, in the prime of their youth,

“Don’t say we’re a minority and listen to us [erupt] like a volcano,

“Here is another Friday [protest] made glorious by the revolutionaries

“A Friday named ‘warning,’ a Friday named ‘alert.’

“We either live free or we die courageously.

“Time shall be our witness; time shall be our witness.

“Here’s another Friday protest without the Brotherhood,

“There it is, another Friday protest without our Salafi brothers,

“And if they call us infidels, the Omar Makram mosque will answer them.

“Time shall be our witness; we have never seen a martyr [acting] submissive,

“Kissing the hands of their oppressor

“And signing contracts for distant solutions,

“The solution is in Tahrir Square.

“Time shall be our witness; time shall be our witness.

“Here’s another Friday protest without the Brotherhood,

“There it is, another Friday protest without our Salafi brothers,

“And if they call us infidels, the Omar Makram mosque will answer them.

“Time shall be our witness.”

‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice’ By Ramy Essam


 

“Bread, Freedom, Social Justice,” also by Ramy Essam, sets out the goals of the revolution as he sees them.

English Translation:

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice.

“Bread in Egyptian means life,

“Egypt was a civilization for years

“And if the Nile runs dry,

“Egyptians will water it with their sweat.

“Bread in Egyptian means life,

“Egypt was a civilization for years

“And if the Nile runs dry,

“Someday it will overflow and pay its dues.

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice.

“Earning a living for the rich, the peasant, and the worker,

“Earning a living, not by servitude, and all [other] rights will follow.

“Earning a living for the rich, the peasant, and the worker,

“Earning a living, not by servitude,

“We will get it even by force.

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice.

“When you say the word ‘freedom,’

“You must raise your hand up high

“Freedom is earning a living

“Followed by all rights.

“When you say the word ‘freedom,’

“You have to raise your hand up high,

“Freedom is earning a living.

“We will get even by force.

“We will get even by force.

“We will get even by force.

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Bread, freedom, social justice.

“Bread, freedom, social justice

“Egypt, one nation.

Cynthia Farahat is a Research Fellow at MEMRI and an Egyptian political activist

 

Endnotes: 

[1] The Muslim Brotherhood clip was mentioned in The Washington Post, February 15, 2012.

[2] Two of these clips are also featured in MEMRI Special Dispatch Series Report No. 4515, “Egyptian Revolution Songs: Songwriter/Performer Ramy Essam Sings: ‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice’; Rappers Protest the ‘Lies of the Military’ against Backdrop of Graphic Images of Security Force Brutality,” February 22, 2012,http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/6109.htm

[4] The English is in the original clip; the text has been edited for clarity.

[5] Khaled Said, an Egyptian youth beaten to death by the Egyptian police on June 6, 2010, following his arrest for posting videos on the Internet showing police dividing confiscated drugs among themselves. Though photos of Said’s body bearing marks of violence were circulated online, police claimed that he had died after swallowing drugs. The incident sparked protests against the Mubarak regime and its use of torture in prisons, which eventually developed into the January 25, 2011 revolution.

[6] “The Birth of a New Egypt” captured the soul of Tahrir Square, where for the first time in 60 years, Egyptians were united by common dreams, not common enemies. They showed a sense of ownership of their country, manifested, inter alia, in street cleaning campaigns. See the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gLv80p0LnI)

[8] During the revolution, media and security forces often referred to protestors as agents of Iran or of Hizbullah.

[9] “Sheikh Imam,” or Imam Mohammed Ahmed Issa (1918-1995), was a blind Muslim scholar who in the 1930s left his post as sheikh of a mosque to launch a singing career. He is known in Egypt for his songs mocking the regime of president Gamal Abd Al-Nasser after Egypt lost the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1969 he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and was released 12 years later following the assassination of president Anwar Sadat.

[11] Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, preacher at the Omar Makram mosque, stood with protestors against the Islamists who repeatedly attacked him. The Egyptian Islamist television channel Al-Nas declared Shahin an apostate for defending Egyptian Coptic Christians.

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