The lyrics of songs composed during or immediately after the Egyptian Revolution in the spring of 2011 are a topic that is worth to be shed a light on. About 25 songs covering different genres from mainstream pop to hip hop and rap will be analysed with regard to their underlying messages. What kind of atmosphere did the composers of these songs create? Are martial revolutionary themes preponderant or does Hani ‘Adil and Amir ‘Id’s song “The Voice of Freedom” (sot il-hurriya) typically reflect the spirit of Midan at-Tahrir during the “hot phase” of the revolution?
With more than 2 million hits on YouTube this seems to be the most popular of all songs. One hypothesis is that the songs that were sung at Tahrir Square or uploaded during the first weeks of February 2011 do represent the voice of those parts of the opposition that were actively involved in the revolution. Particularly little-known or new singers like Ramy ‘Isam created an encouraging atmosphere of non-violence and mutual understanding, above all the bridging of religious and social boundaries. In this regard the phrases and metaphors of Egyptian revolution songs much more resemble the music of the 1968-movement than, for instance, songs from the revolution of 1848.
Very striking is the almost complete absence of references to the Islamic religion and to “external enemies” such as Israel or the West. Stars of the Egyptian music scene entered the stage only very late and composed often sentimental and emotional songs glorifying the martyrs of the revolution. A theme common to almost all songs can be interpreted in the light of cultural motion, namely the wish to shape a better society based on freedom (hurriya) and dignity (karama), which are the two concepts most often mentioned.
Stephan Procházka is Professor of Arabic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Vienna, Austria. His main areas of research are Arabic dialectology and popular religion and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. He is the head of several research projects and has published widely on numerous topics related to contemporary spoken Arabic and aspects of everyday culture.