The Lion of Egypt in Amsterdam

by Hatim Suleiman

20170921_204303Amsterdam – The Egyptian pop star Hakim (aka the Lion of Egypt) gave an unique performance on the 21st of September in the Melkweg in Amsterdam.  The announcement of the concert on Melkweg’s website accurately described Hakim as an innovator of both the Jeel, popular youth music style, and the more folky dance Sha’bi. This is a story worth telling as it gives an idea not only about an important chapter in the development of popular music scene in Egypt, but also about how it always relates to and interacts with the different social classes. For decades there has been a musical answer offered to fit the social mobility and changing tastes of different classes. Let’s go briefly over this story before commenting on the fantastic show he gave in the Melkweg.

The story begins at the second half of the 1970s. There was a kind of a gap in the popular music market in Egypt. On one hand, the young audience of the urban middle class did not feel attracted to the folkish nightclub music of Ahmed Adaweyah. This music was socially regarded as that of a lower class that has become the nouveau riche.

On the other hand, Continue reading

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Rapping about social troubles – an interview with Sadat El3almy

Hatim Suleiman and Sadat

Hatim Suleiman and Sadat in Amsterdam

by Hatim Suleiman

In an evening lecture (Amsterdam, May 21st) organized by the North Africa and Middle East department of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the serious title, “Youth Unemployment, Counter-Culture and Instability”, we (Charlie Crooijmans and me) were surprised to see the name of the young Egyptian rapper Sadat among the speaker guests (young political activists and a professor economist). The young street rapper – a star in the new wave of Egyptian popular music called “mahragan” (rap on electronic music with heavy use of Auto-Tune ) – doesn’t speak English. Unfortunately did not get a chance to speak out in such a foreign and formal setting. However, in a 5 minutes rap at the end of the evening, he kind of wrapped it all up.

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Muslim Brotherhood ridiculed in belly dance video

sama al-masry
by Charlie Crooijmans

The art of belly dance has always been controversial in Egypt. As long as the body is covered it is not obstructed, but the dance is hardly shown on public television and more or less in decline (Gulf News). This doesn’t mean that this traditional oriental dance is completely out of sight. It has even become a tool of protest! The actress, singer and belly dancer Sama al-Masri uploaded some satirical songs while dancing seductively. She is not pro-revolutionary as she voted for Ahmed Shafiq, but she is not a fan of the Muslim Brotherhood either.  Continue reading

Youssra El-Hawary, a strong yet cheerful political voice

by Charlie Crooijmans

The winners of the Fair Play global music video competition were announced more than a week ago. Young bands from all over the world sent in their songs about anti-corruption, this year’s theme. The 29 year old Egyptian Youssra El-Hawary won the global music award with her debut video El Soor, or The Wall (Fair Play).
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Egypt: Singing a revolution.

by Hatim Suleiman

Egypt is back in the news, like one year ago: demonstrations, millions marching and sitting in Tahrir Square, clashes with security forces in the heart of Cairo. One year after  the 25th of January “planned demonstration” that turned into a revolution getting millions out, in what came to be known as “the liberation squares” around the country. Named after the biggest: Tahrir (liberation) Square in Cairo. “Occupying” – or actually – regaining control of  their squares and streets from President Mubarak’s security forces and refusing to leave until their demands are met. Mubarak eventually stepped down the 11th of  February 2011, handing over power to the army’s military commanders known as the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces). SCAF immediately paid homage to those killed in the revolution and vowed to carry on with its demands in a transitory period.  One year later however the revolution continues, the  slogan DOWN with SCAF rule replacing last year’s down with Mubark’s rule.

All along songs are used. There’s no way to document the songs of a revolution that simply had not ended and that continuously evolves. Loads of young musicians, amateurs and professionals took the chance to present their music directly to the street public or via social media. This is only a quick sketch of some of the musical moments of this revolution that gave it part of its soundtrack and image (due to the inseparable video clips).
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