Since last year there has been another revolution brewing  in Egypt — a musical kind. The soundtrack to democracy starts with the phenomenon of the artist simply known as Abou El Leef. Here is a sample of his lyrical comedic genius in his breakout song Taxi

What pissed me off is that I used sing from third year primary
before Tamer Hosny and Mohammed Hamaki
Taxi! Take me to Abdeen my brother!
Everything’s good with my family, friends and my neighbours
I’ll get into your hearts without any bribes or favours
I went and got me a university degree
But I am still poor and I’m trying to get my cigarettes for free
They told me to go Libya and save up some cash
I got into the stock market and that badly crashed

Not withstanding the linguistic and cultural complexities that are lost in translation from Arabic to English, Abou El Leef’s song conveys the youthful energy that has rocked Egypt’s political landscape for the past fortnight.

Aptly called Taxi, the song pays tribute to those drivers who transport the messages of the Arab street in their vehicles. Cabbies in Egypt capture the hospitality and social frustrations of the population at large while trying to make money off tourists and their fellow citizens. Most of them drive a taxi in order to make ends meet. And, this is where Abou El Leef’s pedestrian observations and catchy tunes come together in musical mix of political commentary and genuine humour about the miserable social situation of Egyptians under Mubarak for the past 30 years.

Mentioning Tamer Hosny in the first line of the song is an ominous sign as he was considered the romantic singer of a generation with his sultry voice and boyish charm.

Yesterday, Hosny collapsed among the thousands of demonstrators in Tahrir Square and was transported by ambulance to a hospital. This was because hundreds of protesters were booing and shoving him shouting “Get out” to the singer who once praised Mubarak’s regime. He was later captured on YouTube crying and aplogising for these sentiments.

Along with another controversial media anchor Amr Adib, these cultural icons wanted to shed their sellout image as government mouthpieces and join in solidarity with those calling for a new constitutional era of freedom and democracy. Yet, they were soundly reminded that any remnants of the old order be it political, journalistic or artistic were to be duly kicked out of the new Egyptian bodypolitic.

Abou El Leef as a cultural phenomenon on the other hand embodies an ethical energy that is ultimately youthful and lacking direction post-Mubarak and Suleiman. However, Western leaders and pundits should monitor the political theatre, improvised slogans, impromptu poems and many satirical signs mocking the ageing ruler by protesters in Tahrir Square and other regional towns in order to get a sense of what the new Egyptian political landscape will look like.

Or they could just download a copy of Abou El Leef’s album.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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