Throughout Egypt’s critical moments, artists have always been primed to step in and create an alternative reality for the people. Subsequent to the Egyptian revolution in 2011, the music scene in Egypt has remarkably changed.
Independent music has been on the rise since 2011 onwards, and those who, once, used to be underground musicians are now known regionally. Independent musicians have come to light, presenting new, divergent music that takes over the music scene. With the feelings of freedom surging with the revolution that primarily called for “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice”, alternative music also engaged with the revolutionary sentiments.
Having targeted youth in Tahrir Square, Egyptian underground bands managed to cultivate a wide base of an audience that continues to grow.
Additionally, Egypt’s social and political problems have acquired their share of the music scene and notably contributed to its growth.
Here are a few songs that allowed the music to take the lead to point out massive issues when all other attempts to point them out failed.
Ya Hanah (“How Lucky”) has been one of the most creative songs that tackled the problem of education in Egypt. Hamza Namira wasn’t newly introduced to the music scene following the revolution, he had significant contributions ahead of 2011, mostly songs that have social aspects.
The song touches on the failed education system in Egypt and the range of problems it has including the rather poor quality of the educational curriculum, private lessons that are deemed as a must for students, unclean bathrooms at schools and students escaping school.
The lyrics of the song reads:
“Who said that education in our country is old-fashioned?
No, We’are good. I swear we are.
Incredible uniforms similar to curtains
We have classes lined with ceramic floors
and a bathroom that is always clean”
The satirical description of the faults in the educational system and schools continues throughout the entire song.
However, education was not the only problem that made it to Egyptian songs. Other problems were featured in a more serious tone.
Politics and Nepotism
Cairokee was once one of Egypt’s underground bands that gained sudden popularity following the revolution. The band has been actively feeding the revolutionary sentiments and tackling the political happenings since 2011. Last week, Cairokee’s concert was canceled for the third time in one month, which raised concerns that these cancellations might involve security agencies.
By criticizing the political and social problems, Cairokee gained ground in Egypt’s music scene and are ranked amongst the most listened to bands in the entire region, not only Egypt.
In one of their heavily-toned political songs El-Sekka Shemal (“Wrong Way Blues”), in their banned album, the band discusses how Egyptians are experiencing a heavy atmosphere of censorship in Egypt, particularly when it comes to politics. They further castigated how nepotism and (“Wasta”) are the only way to be someone of significance in Egypt.
They lyrics reads:
“Be straightforward and you will suffer
Take the winding path, and they will lift you up
No Politics, take drugs instead
We are being driven by failed old people
Don’t ask for your rights”
Prominent actor and singer Ahmed Mekky chose the satirical way to shed light on one of Egypt’s most weighty problems –traffic. The song kicks off with Mekky trying to go through Egypt’s traffic in a rush hour to deliver Mahshi (“Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and Vine Leaves”) to his aunt.
Throughout his journey, he faces traffic jam, microbus drivers, TukTuk drivers, and car horns.
While the song is a humorous one that doesn’t explicitly criticize the traffic problem, it still represents the dismal reality of millions of Cairenes who suffer on a daily basis from Cairo’s traffic.
The lyrics read:
“The moment I hit the streets, I noticed the traffic
Between a person and another, there is someone. God, mercy
Why this traffic? Is someone distributing free meat?”
Massar Egbary band touched on the problem of unemployment among recent graduates in Egypt in their famous song E’ra el Khabar (“Read the News”). It is usual that recent graduates don’t easily find a job after graduating, and when they do, they have to settle for a rather low salary or they work in irrelevant fields to their studies.
The problem of unemployment has been alleviating since 2015, according to Trading Economics. However, the problem still persists. The song discusses the hardships Egyptians go through to find a proper job and focuses on the one dream the majority of Egyptians share– traveling and escaping the country for good.
The lyrics read:
“Newspapers are filled with ads for graduates
Lots of Jobs, High Salaries
A new happy recent graduate and tonight is the Eid’s eve
And Eid needs a lantern, but he doesn’t have money
But he has a passport, and this seems like a sane solution”