There are certain holiday songs that inject a nostalgic feeling everytime we approach winter, and for some odd reason, remain popular year after year no matter how old they are.
You walk into any restaurant and you hear “Last Christmas”. “Jingle bells” follows you down the supermarket aisle. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is played in every radio, and every advertisement.Most recently, Christmas-time musical hits have been streamed into malls and hotels as well.
But, in Egypt, there’s also another song that is played religiously every December: ‘Ice Cream Fe Gleem’ by Amr Diab.
There is no clear reason as to why these songs in particular have kept a firm hold of an entire season year after year, but one thing remains apparent for all of them is that they evoke personal memories of family and adolescence, or early adulthood. Apparently, the more the music connects with feelings of family, or with late teenage years or early 20s, the more it becomes iconic and memorable, as Psyche Loui, an associate professor of creativity at Northeastern university says.
The memories of youth – and early adulthood – is reflected quite clearly in Amr Diab’s 1992 song ‘Ice Cream Fe Gleem’.
Just two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the rise of modernized cities such as Maadi and Heliopolis, many Egyptian youth left their rural towns and homes to find a better, more promising future in aforementioned cities. Much like how immigrants would travel to chase an ‘American dream’, these cities symbolized a local equivalent.
Saif, who was played by Amr Diab in the film “Ice Cream in Gleem” (1992), embodied this exact experience. Dividing his time as a delivery boy and a singer, he was the face of a generation that was growing to become interested in a new industry – the creative industry. Not only is the story symbolic of youth aspirations, but the actors, Amr Diab and Simone, were also symbolic of youth.
Amr Diab provided a fresh voice and sound, and Simone provided a fresh face. Both looked modern, young and projected a different kind of future for Egypt. Featuring scenes of Seif on top of a motorcycle wearing a black leather jacket in the streets of Cairo, with background music clips from Elvis Presley’s songs, “It’s Now or Never” and “Baby I Don’t Care”, the visuals of the entire video and film takes us to see through “the minds and hearts of a new generation marching towards the next millennium,” Mohamed Hilal writes in the online publication Ida2at.
Yet, despite living in this very new neighborhood, Saif sings about never giving up his ice-cream eating habit in Alexandria, in December, and the memories of his lover that lives there.
The song, which centers on this basic emotion of remembering winter habits and sharing them with our loved ones, is one of the reasons why it became so popular. Not only is it identified by its funky and groovy sounds, it also carries a little softness and warmth in its lyrics, evoking feelings of the holidays, times with friends and family, and that cold winter feeling.
Whether you’re a 90s kid or not, the song remains an enduring hit. For some it reminds them of their childhood, and the years they spent in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. For others, it also reminds them of a different, yet simpler time, where people still held naive enthusiasm about the upcoming future, and there was excitement about the spirit of rebellion that was rising among 90s youth.
Youth, rebellion, family and romance – ‘Ice Cream Fe Gleem’ came from an era that can no longer, and never will, ever come back to existence or reality. Just as the future was a yearning for the youth featured in the song, the past is now a yearning for the youth and older generations of today.