Already hours before the launch of the Freemuse/AFTE study ‘Censors of Creativity’ on 21 May 2014, dozens of young Ramy Essam supporters started gathering outside the entrance of the Townhouse/Rawabet Theatre in downtown Cairo. The famous ‘singer of the revolution’ was one of the artists who performed at the launch.
This was a reminder that artists voicing people’s frustrations over corruption, repression and “no future” make a real difference and continue to inspire thousands of young people, because they feel they are given a voice.
Within minutes, more than 300 copies of the censorship report was picked up by the audience. The atmosphere in the theatre was intense and compact. Report writer Ahmed Ezzat gave a brief introduction to the findings of the report, followed by recitations of the ‘Tahrir Monologues’ by actor Sondos Shabayek.
To many of the young Essam fans, this would have been their “first ever theatre experience”. But they listened, and when Ramy Essam followed on stage, he hardly had to open his mouth before the crowd joined the songs they love and know by heart.
What followed was a half-hour set which included Essams highly political songs critisising anything from police violence, corruption to the military take-over – the very songs that also have created a lot of problems for Essam.
Talking to Freemuse before the event, Ramy Essam said:
“This is the only place I am allowed to perform. Several concerts have been cancelled by the police. They are afraid that I attract large crowds, so I have chosen to be in the streets again, fighting injustice and corruption.”
Ramy Essam hardly gets to finalise a full sentence before we are interrupted by supporters, who would like to hug him, ask questions and make a “selfie” with the popular singer. After the performance he is surrounded by supporters expressing their gratitude, while the satirical music group Like Jelly rounds up the event.
» Read more about the 84-page report: ‘Censors of Creativity’