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Revolution Songs

A guest post by Kate G

A collection of songs shared during the Egyptian revolution, compiled here with some notes on their significance. I’ll start with two songs from Tunisia which proved influential in Tunisia and beyond:

Humat al Hima

Humat al Hima is the Tunisian national anthem, but its final lines have become an anthem for movements across the Arab world:

إذا الشعب يوماً أراد الحيـــــــا ة    Should the people one day truly aspire to life فلا بــدّ أن يستجيب القــــدر          then fate must needs respond ولا بدّ للــــيل أن ينجلــــــــــي         the night must needs shine forth ولا بـــدّ للقيـــد أن ينكســــر           and the shackles must needs break

[Translated by John Halliwell]

While most of the text of the national anthem was written by Mostafa Saadeq Al-Rafe'ie, an Egyptian poet of Lebanese origin, the iconic final stanza was written by Tunisian poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi.

El Général- Rais il blad (Head of State)

This invective against Ben Ali, released during the Tunisian revolution, landed Tunisian rapper El Général in jail, here provided with English subtitles (translator not credited). After the fall of Ben Ali,  El Général was released and can be seen collaborating with DonKoss & Shooma in a celebratory song shared on Facebook.

Moving to Egypt, many classic patriotic songs became sources of hope and inspiration for the #Jan25 revolution.

Ya Masr Ommy - Sheikh Imam

The chorus of this song translates to “Stand up, Egypt, and take strength. Everything you hope for is before me, and hopelessness will not defeat me, nor the night’

This song made a surprising appearance when I went to look at the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar Februrary 13th. The song started playing and the following pop up came up:

 The text is the title of the song, “Stand Up, Egypt!” There was no attribution on the image that would clarify whether it was an intentional feature of the site or whether it was the work of hackers.

Ya Beladi - Shadya http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPBe4d2PvXE

The title means "My Country," and the lyrics are all about love for Egypt, “the most beautiful country.”

Ya Beyoot el Sewees - Folk song from Suez http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtOncYv0NyQ

Sura - Abdel Halim Hafez

Abdel Haleem Hafez was the superstar of the last generation and has a following in the younger generation as well. This song was written following what many Egyptians remember as the ‘October victory’ of 1973.

Masr Helwa Baladi Al-Samra  - Warda http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ixRyKoEp-E

Another song from the same era, by Warda. This was posted by a friend on Facebook who said he heard it performed beautifully in Tahrir.

As for the newer videos circulating on social media sites, one favorite was the impromptu song from Tahrir created by Ramy Essam from common protest chants:

Irhal  “Get Out!!” - Ramy Essam http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahCwBBndlVY

Izzay- Mohamed Mounir http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1NlaIy6Ztk

This song by Egyptian pop star Mohamed Mounir was released February 10th, or the day before Mubarak was forced to leave. The song was censored, so most viewers did not see it until afterwards. Entitled ‘How?’ the song implores Egyptians to stand with the protesters.

Ihlam Ma’aya - Hamza Namira http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHZbZm69PCE

This optimistic song “Dream with Me” was not written for the revolution, but a Youtube user juxtaposed it with film clips from the revolution. The lyrics certainly fit: “Dream with me/of a tomorrow that is coming/and if it doesn’t come/we’ll bring it ourselves.” Hamza Namira records with Awakening Records, an Islamic-focused label that also produces work by Sami Yusuf.

A number of people juxtaposed images of Egypt with well-known American songs such as K’naan’s ‘Waving Flag’ (with Arabic subtitles), and Kanye West’s ‘Amazing.’

Waving Flag - K’naan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNeJmP9wTMA

Amazing - Kanye West http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MgCziE-Qxg

Rebel - Arabian Knightz featuring Lauryn Hill

Egyptian hip-hop group Arabian Knightz contributed a rap early in the game calling on Egyptians to rise up.

Egypt Rise to Freedom - Natacha Atlas and Basha Beats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGiF2zLu39U

Belgian born indy artist Natacha Atlas who has roots in Egypt remixes a track from an earlier album with Basha Beats, urging Egypts to wake up.

#Jan25 Egypt - Omar Offendum, The Narcicyst, Freeway, Ayah, Amir Sulaiman (Prod. by Sami Matar)

A collaboration, mostly in English, between a number of artists in the U.S. and Canada who identify as either Arab or Muslim.

And finally, a post-Mubarak song: Sout al Hurriya - Amir Eid - Hany Adel - Hawary

This song is performed three members from the Egyptian band Wust Al Balad (Downtown), and was written specifically to celebrate the fall of Mubarak. The title means “The Voice of Freedom,” echoing the words of the chorus : “On every street in my country, the voice of freedom is calling.” The lyrics express the hope and relief many felt immediately following Mubarak’s ouster:

I went down to protest and said I wouldn't come back I wrote it with my blood in every street Those who didn't used to hear us heard us All the barriers were broken Our only weapon was our dreams And tomorrow is open before us For such a long time we've been waiting We were looking but we couldn't find our place On every street in my country, the voice of freedom is calling...

Comments on this post

2011-09-24 17:09:06 -0700
Power to the incredibly brave Egyptian people. The common people of America are with you. Don't become too impatient that change is so slow. Just be ever-vigilant and keep the pressure on. Contribute your ideas and help each other. It took our country this long, and we're not finished yet, because democracy, your version or ours, is just an idea...