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Last on

Wed 18 Jan 2012 11:00 BBC Radio 4 FM only

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 18 January 2012

Palestinian singer Reem Kelani has a unique perspective on the tumultuous events in Egypt in early 2011 - while in Cairo to research the music of Sayyid Darwish (1892-1923), she found herself watching history unfold. Caught up in the revolution, she saw Darwish's music taking on a new and urgent topicality, alongside the creations of contemporary songwriters.

Reem recorded protestors raising their voices against Mubarak, by singing Darwish's songs - not only those dealing with nationalism and social justice: even love songs by Darwish moved protestors during the days of mass protest. Protestors also sang songs by Egyptian greats such as Sheikh Imam, delighting in a body of artistic work which had long been denied them because it was deemed subversive. Many adapted folk songs, and at the same time, contemporary musicians created new compositions, some of them capturing brilliantly the spirit of the moment. But in Tahrir Square, the overwhelming reality was of a host of unknown and unsung singing heroes who led those around them into a musical formulation of pent-up political frustration.

In a return visit to Cairo for Radio 4 Reem met up with the activists, poets and musicians with whom she spent time on Tahrir Square in the early months of 2011, to explore the role of music in the Revolution and Darwish's importance to Egyptians now. She spoke to them about the creative spirit of the popular uprising, and the underground music that accompanied the protests. Reem arrived a week before elections in November, and found anger but also optimism and determination that Egypt will set itself on the track to democracy after years of dictatorship and decline.

Music Played

8 items
  • Image for [unknown]

    [unknown] Hayaat el-Midan [Life of Tahrir]

    Performer: Maryam Saleh (soloist), Performer: The Choir Project

  • Image for El Shaykh Imam, Zein Alabdin Fouad

    El Shaykh Imam, Zein Alabdin Fouad Itgamma'ou el-'Ushshaa' [Lovers Have Come Together]

    Performer: Eskenderella (Singer)

  • Image for Sayyid Darwish

    Sayyid Darwish Aho Da Lli Saar [This is Where We're at]

    Performer: Massar Egbari,

  • Image for [unknown]

    [unknown] Irhal! [Leave]

    Performer: Ramy Essam,

  • Image for Sayyid Darwish

    Sayyid Darwish Recordings of

  • Image for Ibrahim Hammouda

    Ibrahim Hammouda Recordings of

  • Image for Muhammad Bakhit

    Muhammad Bakhit Recordings of

  • Image for Various

    Various Location Recordings February 2011

  • Singing in the Camp, Tahrir Square

    Singing in the Camp, Tahrir Square

    Singing in the Camp, Tahrir Square
    8th February 2011

    Photo: Chris Somes-Charlton

  • Depiction of the 1919 Revolt, with Sayyid Darwish & nationalist leader Sa'ad Zaghloul

    Depiction of the 1919 Revolt, with Sayyid Darwish & nationalist leader Sa'ad Zaghloul

    With the permission of the Association of the Friends of the Music of Sayyid Darwish

  • Prof Fathi al-Khamissi singing in cafe near Tahrir Square

    Prof Fathi al-Khamissi singing in cafe near Tahrir Square

    Fergus Nicoll, BBC World Service recording Reem with Prof Fathi al-Khamissi singing in cafe near Tahrir Square, 10 Feb 2011

    Photo: Chris Somes-Charlton

  • Coptic protesters singing hymns

    Coptic protesters singing hymns

    Coptic protesters singing hymns, Tahrir Square, Nov 2011

    Photo: Chris Somes-Charlton

  • Our Contributors

    Khaled Abol Naga,
    Award-winning Egyptian film actor, producer and filmmaker

    Tamer Abu Ghazaleh,
    Cairo-based Palestinian musician and composer

    Zein Alabdin Fouad,
    Egyptian poet

    Sally Hamarneh,
    Syrian-Jordanian architect and urban planner

    Samia Jaheen,
    singer with the Egyptian band Eskenderella

    Lina Megahed,
    Egyptian student activist

    Salam Yousry,
    Egyptian painter and theatre director

  • Special Thanks

    Dr. Fathi Alkhamisi, Professor of Musicology, Academy of Arts, Giza: for his expertise and invaluable insights into Sayyid Darwish, and the role of music in the Egyptian nationalist movement

    Khaled Abol Naga: for fitting us into his tight schedule (on his birthday!), and for his helpful suggestions

    Aladdin El Kashef, Ultra Productions Studios, Mohandessin, Cairo: for technical assistance, and for talking to us about the music scene in Egypt

    Fergus Nicoll & Helen Merriman, BBC World Service: for allowing us to use their recording of our sing-a-long in a local café on the eve of Mubarak’s resignation,
    10 February 2011

  • Reem's Radio 4 Blog

    click here

Broadcasts

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