The 27-year-old Egyptian singer and Freemuse Award winner Ramy Essam will be residing in Malmö, Sweden, for the next two years. This is a direct consequence of the interogation in June 2014 by the National Security Police and the continuous censorship of his music in Egypt.
Ramy Essam was hailed as the “singer of the revolution” at Tahrir Square during the uprising against President Mubarak’s regime in 2011, and he has continued to criticise subsequent groups in power – whether it be the Muslim Brotherhood or the current military-backed government.
In June 2014, Ramy Essam was able to give a small concert in Cairo as part of the launch of the Freemuse/AFTE report on artistic censorship in Egypt. But apart from this single event, Essam has not been allowed to hold major concerts since general Sisi came to power, and he has systematically been harassed by the police in Cairo.
In October 2014, Ramy Essam joined Freemuse Director Ole Reitov in Geneva for talks with diplomats and UN representatives about the situation for artists in Egypt.
“Ramy more than anything wishes to perform and create his music in Egypt, but this is simply not possible at the moment,” explained Ole Reitov. “The generous offer from the city of Malmö to host him as ‘musician in residence’ will provide Ramy with great opportunities to create music freely and to tour around the world.”
Denied permission to leave Egypt
At several occasions during the last three years, Ramy Essam has been denied permission to leave Egypt, and because of this he has had to turn down several concert and lecture offers abroad.
In September 2014, however, he was finally granted permission to leave the country, and in the past month he has been talking and performing in Finland, Switzerland and Germany. On his way to Malmö, he was offered a short term residence in Helsinki.
Malmö is a member of ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network, which is an association of cities around the world dedicated to defend and protect the value of freedom of expression. The cities offer safe residencies for persecuted artists. Originally dedicated to support writers in trouble, the network recently decided to open up for persecuted musicians and other artists as well.
Freemuse started advocating for the inclusion of musicians in the recidency support-network in 2008, and several cities in Norway and Sweden have since then been supporting this cause. As a consequence, the Swedish Arts Council no longer talks about “safe city writers” but instead uses the term “safe city artists”.
» Articles about Ramy Essam on www.freemuse.org
» Swedish Broadcasting Corporation – 21 October 2014:
Ramy Essam blir Malmös första fristadsmusiker
28 seconds audio recording with Ramy Essam’s comment to the news (in English language)