Music as tool for social change: Three artists and one goal

The underground music scene in Egypt flourished in the last decade which is indicated by the enormous establishing bands that are occupying this field. Different genres and different people are composing this music scene. There is no straight line but they have one thing in common: they are using music as a tool in order to raise awarness about the social and political developments that are happening in Egypt since 2011. Even if they don’t admit it directly they are part of a movement which is influenced by the events since 2011 and music went always hand in hand with a social movements directly or indirectly. They are not using music in order to show their artistic development but they are using it to show how they feel about the current situation. Cairo is a centre for the alternative and underground music scene in Egypt and this is the place where a lot of stuff is happening. In the context of Egypt “Music has always played an essential part of our societal existence and coexistence” writes Maha ElNabawi from Mada Masr. Being its new art space since at least a decade the independent music in Egypt tries to still find its footing and tries to define itself. Here are three groups and artists who are part of defining their independent music scene.

1. Kayan كيان
Defining grunge in Egypt: Between the Storms


“Kayan is one of the most succesful grundge band in Egypt. Their influences with classic rock bands highly appeared in their music…” says the flyer of RoomArtsSpace & Cafe in Cairo. Bain al-awasef (Between the storms) is the last song of their new album “صخر عربي أصيل“

The band was created in 2008 in order to show “Resistance for whatever you resist for” which is their slogan. By making their music available online they want to spread the Rock music spirit all around the world and through the social media they aren’t only confined to Cairo and Egypt. They want to play for all ages and want to crush the social barriers which exist in reality. Songs like ella-al jihad and nashret akhbar which is a cover by Shady Zaqtan. They are using both classical arabic and colloquial Egyptian in their lyrics which are dominated by political and social issues. Their soundcloud page says:

“This group has huge talent and drives and will soon be a staple on the Middle Eastern rock scene. “

which there is no doubt about it.

2. The Invisible Band الأيادي الخفية

Invisible Hands 2

Photo by Mada Masr

Established in 2011 the band are perfoming their songs both in Arabic and English. The Invisible Hands is a transcontinental collaboration between Alvarius B. (Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls) and four stellar young musicians from Cairo, Egypt: Cherif El-Masri, Aya Hemeda (both formerly of the popular Egyptian group Eskenderella), Adham Zidan and Magued Nagati. Their music, as their soundcloud page writes:

“it reflects the precarious political circumstances in which it was conceived and recorded. As such, it’s a vivid document not just of an unlikely musical collaboration, but also of a critical moment of hope, defiance, rage and sorrow in one of the world’s most venerable cities”.

They released so far two albums and their music ranges between indie, alternative and other complex soundclusters.

A very good example is their song “Soma”

3. Youssra El Hawary

neu_1nicolas_maslowski_22يسرا الهواري

I never dreamed about becoming a singer. It was all by chance. I guess that’s what makes my music pure and honest in a way. I don’t accept any offers from studios to publish my music. But something that intrigues me about the change in Egypt is that a lot of girls now have their own musical projects. Before, famous singers used to produce songs from texts by our writers. But now young girls express what is really on their minds.

One solo artist is introduced here due to her importance in the independent music scene. Youssra El-Hawary captures the public scene through her magical lyrics, her beautiful accordion and her out of earth voice. Capturing the ideas and thoughts she became famous through her song “The Wall” – “originally a poem and cartoon by Waleed Taher – is about a poor man who urinates on the wall, those who built it and those who protect it. It wasn’t originally written about the downtown walls, but Hawary’s video gave it new meaning. The simply shot, documentary style music video on YouTube quickly went viral. It was also picked up by television presenters Youssry Fouda and Amr Adib who played it on air. ” below you can watch the music video of The Wall. Being born in Kuwait she says that she feels like Egypt is her home. She doesn’t feel that she is a revolutionary artists. She doesn’t plan her songs. She is basically singing about her feelings but her importance comes from the political and social context in which the songs were made of. Her soundcloud page writes: “She started her musical career performing only with her accordion; she sings about everything, and her songs tell stories and somewhat mock Egyptians socially and politically, some are songs that she wrote herself.” The Wall is being the best example of this description:

…and this is just the beginning.


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