(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
On February 9, which now seems so long ago, I wrote a post called "Music of the Egyptian Revolution." Included in it was the now famous youtube vid
of Ramy Essam singing "Irhal" (Leave, or, Go Away). I also included a vid
of a song about a donkey refusing to step down for a younger one, but I was unable at the time to identify either the lyrics or the singer.
Since then many have written about the music of Egypt's revolution, and I'm able to identify the song and the lyrics. It's Ramy Essam (again), and the lyrics are by the celebrated revolutionary poet Ahmad Fouad Negm, the lyricist for Egypt's beloved revolutionary singer Shaykh Imam.
An article in The Los Angeles Times about Essam gives the story of his performance of the song on Tahrir:
One song that he relished, and that late at night the crowd would want to hear again and again, was an ode written by well-known poet Ahmed Fouad Negm: "The Donkey and the Foal," which everyone knew to be a commentary on Mubarak and his son Gamal.
Essam had written the music and played it for himself alone at home before the revolution. And now everyone shouted for the scathing lyrics of the aging poet, who had been jailed under Mubarak's predecessor. He felt honored when the poet stood with him and recited the words.
The foal said to the donkey, "Father, hand me the cart. Father, you have aged and now it is my turn."
The donkey coughed too strongly and the passengers panicked.
"It isn't about health, son," the donkey said. " Even the bridle is too big for you, son. Think and don't be greedy, or the passengers will rise up."
Since Hosny Mubarak's resignation, Ramy Essam has received a great deal of media attention, and has become something of a celebrity. Featured in the article in The Los Angeles Times, mentioned above, celebrated
by Mark Levine in The Huffington Post
(Levine produced a remix of "Irhal" as well--I respectfully prefer the original), an featured in an article
in The Guardian
by respected Middle East music commentator Andy Morgan, who calls Essam the Billy Bragg of Tahrir Square.
Before you imagine that Ramy Essam has gone all rock star, check out this video. It shows Essam performing his song "Irhal" on Tahrir Square to a big crowd. Later that night, the crowd at Tahrir is attacked by Mubarak's thugs. The pro-democracy forces keep them at bay. The video then shows Ramy Essam on the following morning. He stayed the night, and was wounded on the head by the rocks hurled by the counter-revolutionary goons. As far as I can tell, this occurred on the night of February 4-5, 2011. I don't know many "rock stars" who have the street fighting cred and the courage of Ramy Essam. I don't know if I know of anyone, in fact. Below is a screen grab of Ramy with his head bandage, and then, the full video.
shows Essam singing "The Donkey and the Foal" before a small group, on Tahrir, and also performing "Irhal," on another occasion, before a large crowd at the square.
vid is a full version of "The Donkey and the Foal."
Here's Negm's poem in Arabic:
الجحش قال للحمار *** يابا اديني الحنطور
يابا انت سنك كبر*** و وجب عليا الدور
كح الحمار كحة *** فزعت لها الركاب
مش يابني بالصحة *** ده كل شئ بحساب
وسواقة الحنطور *** محتاجة حد حكيم
وانت عينيك فارغة *** همك علي البرسيم
قوللي تسوق ازاي *** والتبن مالي عينيك
ده حتي حبل اللجام *** واسع يا ابني عليك
اعقل وبطل طمع *** لاتسخن الركاب
ما تجيش يا واد جنبهم *** لاتبقي ليلة هباب
دول صنف ناس جبار *** قادر مالوهش امان
يبان عليهم وهن *** لكنهم فرسان
يابا دا نومهم تقل *** وبقاله يابا سنين
كل البشر صحصحوا *** ولسه دول نايمين
يا جحش بطل هبل *** وبلاش تعيش مغرور
ركابنا مش اغبيا *** ولا عضمهم مكسور
بكرة حيصحولك *** ويزلزلوا الحنطور
وتلاقي في قفاك *** تمانين خازوق محشور
And you can find out more about Ramy Essam, and download some of his music (although not the songs discussed above) from his Facebook page