Asia Time Online - Daily News
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese

    Middle East
     Feb 20, '14

Egypt back to her old ways in song
By Mamoon Alabbasi

LONDON - A catchy new tune is circulating in Egyptian social media pages. The song, which gives a symbolic description of current events, is sung by an artist who is known for his strong leanings towards the revolution of January 25, 2011.

Yasser Elmanawahly stayed true to his ideals even when they clashed with those in power following the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. He was scathing about the reign of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and he did not pull punches in criticizing the rule of the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

Today, following the coup that overthrew Morsi and the

subsequent crackdown on dissent and on freedoms of conscience and speech, the stakes are much higher. When public and private media outlets sing the praises of the de facto ruling military regime under General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, and when political disagreement with that junta could have you put behind bars on trumped up charges or simply six-feet under, now is not an ideal time to release a song about the emperor's new clothes.

Which is why Elmanawahly's song Rima is not only a work of art in the aesthetic sense but is also a noble act of bravery. It sings truth to power without compromising on form for the sake of content. There is cohesion between the melody, lyrics and video clip, which are tied together by a folkloric flavor.

The lyrics, by Mohamed Elsyed, are themselves highly idiomatic - what is left unsaid can be understood from the little that is said. Here is a rough translation of the lyrics:
Rima is back (to her old ways) after the change
With an old tale, that we've witnessed times before
With raised batons and banned speech
People are dying from bullets and hunger
Now she is back, but why is she back?

You see, the ill-fated one had a lamp
And brave children that he left to decay
He did not know how to drive without exceeding the limit
So he crashed into a post, especially prepared for him
Rima saw him and overthrew him
Now Rima is back

You ask why Pharaoh is acting like a Pharaoh
Rima is back (to her old ways) after the change
With an old tale, that we've witnessed times before

You see, the ill-fated one had a lamp
Now Rima is back with repeated words:
"A movie hero is coming, o kids"
"A trustworthy statesman"
"Although he is affectionate, he is tough and brings down mountains"

With few drummers and capitalists
And permissible
fatwas and filmmakers
Rima is back

Now Rima is back wearing many faces
Covering up a crime by crying for help
You won't fool us with your games, mean one
We've encountered fake ones times before
To hell with Rima!
In a phone interview with Elsyed, the lyricist confirmed that Rima is "a reference to the police state". The choice of name is based on the old saying "Rima is back to her old ways". Why is the police state back? Well, it's because Morsi, referred to in the song the as "the ill-fated one", did "not listen to the revolutionary youth". Instead, "he left them to the old regime".

The combination of Morsi's mistakes and the traps set by the deep state (like deliberate electricity outages, gas shortages, other orchestrated crises and misleading media campaigns) is beautifully captured in the lyrics: He did not know how to drive without exceeding the limit, So he crashed into a post, especially prepared for him. Even though Morsi had a "lamp" (a reference to his presidential post) he remained "ill-fated".

For those who follow the current events in Egypt, the rest of the lyrics are pretty much self-explanatory: the glorification of the military by "drummers" (propaganda praise), the idea of a superstar savior (who is in effect a pharaoh), the welcomed fatwas of pro-military clerics, the factious news and the capitalists who fund the media. The lyrics are indeed powerful, which is what prompted Elmanawahly - who usually relies on his own lyrics when singing - to contact Elsyed in order to use them as soon as he saw them on the wall of the lyricist's Facebook page.

In a phone interview, Elmanawahly stressed that "the revolution is still ongoing" and expressed his "full faith in today's youth" to carry on the struggle "for freedom, dignity, and real independence".

He is still daring to ask, "What happened to the martyrs of the revolution?" And he also asks about all of those who have died since, including members of police.

Elmanawahly said many of the revolutionaries are "in a state of shock" but are still committed to the path of the January 25 revolution. He doesn't have to choose between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military rule, because he sees a third way.

Whether that third way ever sees the light is hard to predict. But unlike many self-proclaimed revolutionaries, he hasn't sold out to the returning dictatorship. In the meantime unfortunately, as the lyrics note, with raised batons and banned speech, people are dying from bullets and hunger.

Mamoon Alabbasi is a writer, news editor, and translator based in London.

(Copyright 2014 Mamoon Alabbasi)

Egypt's dark tunnel of violence
(Oct 31, '13)



All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
Copyright 1999 - 2013 Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd.
Head Office: Unit B, 16/F, Li Dong Building, No. 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110