Since Freemuse announced that the Egyptian singer and musician Ramy Essam has been offered a two year residence in the Swedish city Malmö, rumours and tweets in Egypt have speculated whether he is seeking asylum. This is not the case, explained Ramy Essam, who issued the following statement on 23 October 2014:
“Malmö, Wednesday, 22 October 2014
It has been rumoured in various Egyptian articles and social media that I am seeking asylum in Sweden. This is not true. The reality is the following:
After the revolution I have continued to address social and political issues in my songs. As an artist and citizen I feel an obligation to be engaged in my society and positively add to the democratic process.
In the past year I have not been able to perform freely in Egypt. Permission has not been granted to give concerts to large audiences. My songs are being censored by state media. I have been harassed by individual policemen and interrogated by National Security Police.
At several occasions I have also had to turn down offers for concerts and lectures abroad due to travel restrictions.
As a musician you need to play in front of an audience. You need to meet the audience. If people disagree with my lyrics or dislike my music, I have always been willing to accept this. But I also expect my society to accept that I may have my personal views.
Democracy is about dialogue. It is not about shutting down ideas or artistic expressions, which is oppositional to the majority or the ruling system. Due to all restrictions and censorship this dialogue is not possible in Egypt now.
When the city council of Malmö generously offered me a two year residence as artist I was more than happy to accept this. It is a great opportunity for me to develop as an artist and meet my international audience. During my stay in Europe I will probably also disagree with many issues, and as an artist I will comment on this. And I will – from a distance – try to keep contact with my beloved audience and supporters in Egypt.
Let me repeat: I am not seeking asylum. I will return.
Photo: screendump from article on www.malmo.se: ‘Malmö City’s first musician in residence’
“Musician and activist Ramy Essam from Egypt becomes Malmö’s first musician in residence. Malmö has been a sanctuary for the authors since 2010 and now has expanded its residence programme to include activists from other art forms as well, in this case: a musician.”