Sound of the Arabic Revolution

The Sound Of The Arabic Revolution


This is a lecture on music and sound that have been apart of the uprising in certain Arabic States. First I will profile each countries soundtrack to their revolution, analyzing both the music and its cultural significance. I hope this lecture will educate us on how music is (still) the political weapon for mass mobility. I will also be addressing social media’s handling of the music produced, through creativity and broadcast. The social media of web 2.0 were modern tools in the Arabic revolution


Protests in Tunisia began in late December highlighted by the public burning sacrifice of Mohammed Bouazizi protests expanded on Christmas day to other cities across the country.  Tunisia was becoming active with pockets of protests often ending in Police Brutality. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali made live television broadcasts critizing the ‘minority of extremeists’ for harming the economy.

Hamada Ben-Amor or the THE GENERAL as he is known by fans had released the critical song ‘‘rais le bled’ (president, Your Country)’ to facebook early on in the movement on the 7th of November.  In this song Ben-Amor directly attacks Tunisia in an open letter to Ben Ali.

The 22 yr old El General was another MC recording some tracks from home and publishing them onto social media sites. The song, although confrontational posed no harm to a heavily policed state, because he was so far from commercial success. This all changed. When the unsettled society showed no signs of slowing down, Ben Amor (El General) was arrested in his home (by 30 plainclothed polivemen) on the 7th of July. Along with taking his cpu and hard drive his facebook page with 6000 friends was shut down, along with his mobile phone. Released a few days later after signing a statement saying he would no longer release any songs. without any charge this intervention only seemed to movitate the youthful rebellion further. The news of Ben Amor’s arrest and media shutdown gave his music the attention it needed to become the nations anthem.

ID also like to share some a recording from the protests, of Amel MAthlouthi, who performs a religious acapella in front of crowds of protesters. The video with other 72, 000 views on youtube also became musically an iconic momement in the counries uprising. The song, called ‘I am free, my world is free’. The lyrics talk about being the voice of the people who are not afraid and will not die.


Egyptian people confronted Mubarak and his government in mass force on January 25th called ‘the day of Rage’. This extraordinary day was the landmark for the bring down of the government, from that day the Egyptian people occupied Tahir sq until Mubarak eventual step down on February 11th. The censorship of Egyptian social media appeared a lot more visible (that is in the western press). The Egyptian authorities sparked a huge anger and unrest by arresting Wael Ghonim, the Google exec for the Middle East. Authorities abducted pro democratic campaigner, Wael for 11 days, reported missing, while being investigated for setting up a facebook page. The page was a tribute to Khaled Said, an active Internet campaigner and activist ho had been brutality murdered in a cyber café. Like Tunisia, The attempts to censor social media, profiled and instigated the mobilization rather than contain it. After blocking facebook, twitter and other media sites they then proceeded on 27th Jan to cut off Internet access. With phone calls, media broadcasting stations and radios all one after the other pulled the plug. On 1st February Google and twitter launched ‘Speak2tweet’ a service that converts sms messages to tweets. Although the profitable interest in this venture makes me very ethically uncomftable, the fat cats were commodifying the tools for the revolution.

The unprecedented media censorship in Egypt became the inspiration for songs and protest anthems.
The twitter hashtag #jan25 became the global forum. A selection of Egyptian born American based artists composed a tribute soundtrack to the Egyptian revolution.

Student musician Ramy Essam ‘became the billy bragg of Tahrir Square’
Essam went to Tahrir Square early in the uprising with his guitar and cobbled together a song called “Leave” from all the inventive slogans that were flying around the square. It became the hit of the uprising, going viral on YouTube and the Huffington Post, before being picked up by CNN and then TV networks around the globe. Essam lived in Tahrir Square’s tent village for the entire revolution, composing songs, and playing almost every hour on one of the many stages that had sprouted there.

Another example of social media working to give individuals a platform for publicity.
The internet as a publishing and mobilizing resource is a two way conversation. It can profile things that come from direct action and publicize it, whilst also organize and plan the events that get publicized. As an Egyptian protester tweeted

“We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.’

The empowering democracy of social media leaves commercially endorsed popstars fragile to attack.

On 9th Feburary Tamer Hosny – star of pepsi adverts – was saved by soldiers during his attempt to serenade the protesters. Regretting his pro murbarak comments he was latter caught giving a tearful confession – saying: “I want to die today. I thought I was saving the people.”

On 11th of February Mubarak finally, unconditionally stepped down. The following day I recorded this from a group of London based Egyptians celebrating in Trafalgar square.


Most recently the Country of Libya is still is civil war as Gaddafi supporters have operated an insurgency against the rebels. As this is being written major cities are currently under battle and many deaths and casualties have been recorded.

Traditional folk songs and patriotic songs have bought people together but due to such an uncertain time, when anti government supporters are under siege, locating revolutionary songs is difficult. I would like to stress that the music presented now demonstrates web cultures satire and parody of a serious situation. It seems that Godaffi’s western notoriety has lead to a novelty interpretation of the current affairs which by no means do I agree with.

It was recently reported that Usher, (in following of Nelly Futardo, Beyonce and Mariah Carey) will donate his concert earnings from playing at the Libyan leaders private gig. Popstars also reportedly Timbaland, Lionel Richie, 50 Cent and Enrique Iglesias have all allegedly played for the family, while celebrities including Jay-Z, Lindsay Lohan and Jon Bon Jovi were spotted at the performances.

The commercial success of this song and its composer (an isreali Jew) indicate a manipulation of both political movements and social media to simply sell music. Perhaps the same can be said of El General, but because of his roots and origin, is he protected from the same criticism?


I don’t know what conclusion I wanted to reach through this presentation. By profiling these artists I wanted to expose the application of media resources within social resistance. How a anthem for social uprisings are created and distributed are changing. Gone are the days of Band Aid, now we can create and publish are creative resistance all over the world. I hope these tools can continue to be developed to not only co-ordinate protests, but to distribute and mobilize creative responses to political action.

If you want to see a graphic timeline the guardian done a good one –

One response to “Sound of the Arabic Revolution

  1. Pingback: Ryder Ripps | absent art

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