Comparing and Contrasting the Music of Protests (Taryn Zira)

How did the music that evolved during the Tahrir Square revolution reflect the social struggles of the people and help to unite them, and did this change influence pop culture after the revolution?

Music and art provide excellent insights into certain time periods and the eras that they reflect because these art forms are derived explicitly from the culture they were created in. This is evidenttahrir guitar if one was to study the history of music in the United States, for example. The music of the times help to reflect and demonstrate the political and social norms of that time period. The blues, for example, echo the immersion of African Americans in American society and shows how it originated from the songs of the planation slaves, singing songs that evolved from African rituals, drum music, and hymns ( This same concept can be applied to all cultures around the world during different monumental times in their history and now, it will be applied to Egypt and Tahrir Square.

The Tahrir Square revolts were a huge accomplishment for the people of Egypt who had always been fearful of the government and the backlash that followed speaking out against it. The demonstrators in the square were all types of people: old and young, educated and uneducated, Muslim and Christian, men and women. But, regardless of all of these differences, the people united under a common cause and the music they sang while in the square acted as a “ballad of hope” and helped to strengthen the movement. While their strength in numbers grew, and those who were once afraid were motivated to rise up and join the movement, speakers emerged and songs were sung in order to keep the hope and fight alive. The protesters were risking a lot and singing as a united Egyptian society about the hardships they were facing and the reason they were all gathered together only brought those individuals closer together.

The music of the revolutions spoke about the changes that needed to take place and the demands the people wanted met. Ramy Essam’s music was especially impactful during this time because he camped out in Tahrir Square with all of the revolutionaries and played his guitar and united them all through song. He spoke of Mubarak’s tyrannical legacy in his song “Taty Taty” when he writes, “When you work so hard, worried about your nation’s welfare/Work seems useless, because here only low and lame people rise/When your words function as evidence against you, and when you hide your true religion inside your heart/And when I see humiliation in your eyes, give me your depression and take mine.” His music repeatedly inspired the protesters to continue to fight because they were constantly reminded of the struggles they had to endure, but also of the bright future they could work towards and one day achieve. Another great example of this can be found in the song Sout al Horeya by West Elbalad where the lyrics are, “We lifted out heads high (in the sky) and hunger no longer bothered us, what’s most important are our rights and to write our history without blood” ( This is a very powerful message because it shows how passionate the revolutionaries were for change. They did not care about being hungry anymore or the problems they had to face because the goal of attaining their rights were the most important aspect to them and they were willing to gain that through bloodshed if it came to it. This music was more uplifting with guitar in the background so that feelings of hope and unity were conveyed in order to appeal to the people. However, a variety of forms of the music arose across the country carrying the same message as Elbalad. Another famous group, Arabian Knightz, a hip hop and rap group gained popularity with their different style of music that spoke about the revolutionaries’ desires and dreams. One song, “Rebel” has lyrics that say, “Egypt us revolting against the shadows of darkness, the people want the regime down” ( Again, this music, made January 27th (two days after the January 25th Revolution began) helped to unite the Egyptian people and remind them why they were fighting and what they were fighting for. “Long Live Egypt” is yet another form of music of the revolution that emphasized the same social injustice, poverty, and strife the people were no longer going to endure and how they demanded basic human rights and would not remain silent any longer. The lyrics, “We will no longer be quiet and will not hide what we think, enough injustice and poverty and enough of what happened to us. Long live Egypt and long live freedom, revolution until victory in Egypt, the Mother of the world.” Again, the popular music around the time of the revolution spoke out against the injustice and political corruption and demanded freedom of the Egyptian people.

The music from the revolution did not die out after the fall of Mubarak, or even after Morsi, but continues even today and changed the face of the pop culture and Egypt for good. Haaretz, an online Israeli newspaper, claims that the music from the protests “has revolutionized its pop culture scene, from language to music and art, bringing in a vibe of rebellion and voices from the urban poor” ( New phrases and slang have emerged as a result of the songs and efforts of the January as well as a music form called Mahraganat. These musicians are in the early 20s and late teens and speak about poverty, drugs, and the struggles of the unemployed which are echoed in some of the lyrics like, “Poverty has taken hold, we reached the stage of hunger, if the hope goes, I will stage another revolution.” This need for change continues to be a popular theme among artists and created a new platform for others to voice their complaints throughout the social hierarchy in Egypt.

The music of the revolution directly emulated and expressed the Egyptian people’s social struggle as well as their fight for justice. It not only told the story of their oppressive past, but also spoke of the bright future they were determined to fight for. It also served as a means to unite and strengthen the revolution by providing a platform for people to voice their grievances that otherwise would have remained silent. All of the music and expression that emerged from the revolution was not silenced once the revolution was stopped, but continues to influence Egyptian society and culture today, continually encouraging the people to not settle for tyranny and remain strong to one day earn the rights they deserve.



Egyptian music:

Soundtrack to 70s