A Comparison Music of Tahrir Square and the Carnation Revolution

In 2011, Egyptian youth joined together in Cairo’s Tahir Square to protest the reign of Hosni Mubarak. They chanted and sang protest songs. A few weeks later, Mubarak stepped down, and the Egyptian Military took over.  In 1974, young military officers gathered in the streets of Portugal to overthrow the Estado Novo, the authoritarian regime that had ruled the country since 1933. The officers in Portugal played two songs on the radio; one was used to communicate the beginning of the revolution, and the other signified the start the second phase of the revolution. This revolution was later dubbed theCarnation Revolution.  In both of these uprisings, music played a large role in unifying the revolutionaries.



Music acts as a unifying force for the Egyptian protestors In Tahrir Square. The song”Sout Al Horeya,” emphasizes belonging along with freedom. In the second line, “The Sound of Freedom is Calling,” is repeated over and over again. The music video for this song focuses on several different individuals,while using language such as,  “We,” “Every street,”and “My country,” allowing the protestors to be seen as individuals as they are reinforcing a sense of community. This convinces the Egyptian people that by protesting they will be able to obtain a sense of belonging without relinquishing their separate identities. It promotes nationalism without promoting conformity. It also contains a call to action: “If you were one of us, don’t blather and tell us,” criticizing those who support the cause but do nothing to further it.

Sout Al Horeya

The protestors confirm that unification is a primary goal of the revolution by naming Ramy Essam “The Singer of the Revolution.” Ramy did not gain this popularity until February 2nd, when he was injured in the Battle of the Camel by a rock thrown at his head. Despite being injured, he still preformed that night. Salma Said suggests this action showed the protestors that “he wasn’t just an entertainment figure who comes to sing songs and then leaves, but is someone who stays in the square, living the sit-in like everyone else.” (qtd in Lynskey) One of Ramy Essam’s song’s, “Leave,” combined chants from the square into one protest song, forging the work of many protestors into one finished product, thereby reinforcing the unity of the people against the government.




In Portugal, songs used metaphors to demonize the current regime, with unity being a secondary result. Jose “Zeca” Afonso, a Portuguese singer sang, “A Morte Saiu a Rua,” which translates as, “Death Stepped out on the Street One Day.” This song was dedicated to Jose Dias Coelho, a sculptor murdered by the Portuguese police.  By using vivid imagery, such as, “A river of blood flows from an open breast,” Zeca showed the brutality of the police under the Estado Novo. Zeca claimed that many people “are spreading the news that the painter is dead,” and that “Your body belongs to the land that hugged you,” reiterating the idea that revolution involves everyone.  The line, “the land that hugged you,” suggests that the land, and therefore the people, support Coelho’s ideas and reject those of the regime. Finally, Zeca instigates a call for action by stating, “Your blood, Painter, calls equally for death.” One of Zeca’s later songs, “Grândola,Vila Morena,” would act as one of the two signals to begin the military coup. Another song, “Tourada,” by Fernando Tordo, iterates that the Portuguese are dissatisfied with Estado Novo, and that they intend to revolt against the current regime using a bullfight as a metaphor. In this song, Fernando Tordo refers to the regime as “fears” or “beasts,” claiming, “We fight the beasts shoulder to shoulder.” Using the word “We,” here in forces the unity of Portugal against the regime, especially when its context is considered. “Tourada,” was Portugal’s submission to Eurovision in 1973. Eurovision is a song-writing competition, in which European countries compete against one another. This means “Tourada” represented all of Portugal to the other European countries. Portugal’s submission to Eurovision 1974 was the other signal that instigated the coup.

A morte saiu a rua       Tourada

Both the Egyptian military and the Estado Novo responded by arresting musicians. OnMarch 9th, Ramy Essam, was incarcerated. They tortured him, electrocuting him,beating him, and cutting his hair. He was released the next day. A video of his wounds was uploaded on March 10th. In Portugal, the PIDE, Estado Novo’s police, arrested Jose Zeca Afonso multiple times. Neither, Essam or Afonso stopped writing songs against their respective governments.

The Egyptian military and the Portuguese military reacted differently to these antigovernment songs. The Egyptian military arrested and tortured protestors like Ramy Essam.  The Portuguese military used Afonso’s song as a signal,because Afonso wrote anti-governmental songs. When the Portuguese officers committed the coup, average Portuguese citizens flooded the streets, buying carnations to celebrate their victory. Portugal was successful in defeating corruption where Egypt was not, as the Portuguese military acted as the revolutionaries and supported the people. The Egyptian military acted against the protestors. The music that inspired the Carnation Revolution focused on over throwing Estado Novo. Unifying the Portuguese civilians was a side effect,whereas the Egyptian protestors used music as a tool to unify the people. After musicians spread that sense of belonging, they inserted a call to action in their music. This caused a problem in that the people were unified just because they were unified and not because they had a common goal. Some citizens desired an Islamic state, while others wished for a more secular government. Portugal was able to stabilize after the Carnation Revolution as they had the support of the military, and one main vision of the future of Portugal. Egyptian protestors failed to gain the support of the military and purpose for the revolution, so they split into different contingents. These different contingents are still fighting for power in Egypt today, preventing it from becoming a peaceful, thriving state.



1974 – Paulo De Carvalho – E Depois Do Adeus.mp4. Perf. Paulo De Carvalho. N.p., 15 Jan. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 “Death Stepped out on the Street One Day.” Translation of “A Morte Saiu a Rua” by José Afonso from Portuguese to English.       N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 Eurovision 1973 – Fernando Tordo – Tourada. Perf. Fernando Tordo. N.p., 2008. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 José Afonso – A Morte Saiu à Rua. Perf. Jose Afonso. N.p., 10 June 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 José Zeca Afonso – Grândola, Vila Morena. Perf. Jose Zeca Afonso. N.p., 3 Jan. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 Lynskey, Dorian. “Ramy Essam – the Voice of the Egyptian Uprising.” The Guardian. N.p., 19 July 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 Moorman, Marissa J. “The Hiatus: Music, Dissent, and Nation Building after Independence, 1975-90s.” Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times. N.p.: Ohio UP, 2008. N. pag. Online.

 Ramy Essam – The Real Revolution Song of Tahrir Square. Perf. Ramy Essam. N.p., 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 Roberts, Adam, and Timothy Garton Ash. “Portugal ‘The Revolution of the Carnations’, 1974-75.” Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. N. pag. Print.

 Sout Al Horeya صوتالحريه Amir Eid – Hany Adel – Hawary On Guitar & Sherif On Keyboards. Perf. Amir Eid and Hany Adel. N.p., 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

 The Camel Battle. Dir. Omar Hamilton. N.p., 9 June 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

The Square. Dir. Jehane Noujaim. Perf. Ahmed Hassan and Khalid Abdalla. Noujian Films, 2013.

Wasfy, Issra. Ramy Essam in Cairo. 2011. N.p.