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February 23, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 803

'Songs of the Revolution' – Egypt 2010-2011 (Part I)

February 23, 2012 | By Cynthia Farahat*
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 803

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

"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,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

[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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