Ramy Essam was interrupted by authorities of Cairo University while performing Wednesday, just hours after being named for a prestigious music award. The concert by Essam was organised to accompany opening of the exhibition "Transition stage, police and thieves" at the university.
Essam was stopped by the director of the Emergency Department, Dr Moataz. According to Mariam Emad, the singer's manager, the director wished to stop the concert before Essam sung the song entitled "Donkey", in reference to Hosni Mubarak.
According to information provided by Emad to the Swedish Freemuse, who awarded him the 2011 Freemuse Award: "The dean explained to the organisers that they had no permission to make such an exhibition or a concert. The students replied that this wasn’t correct because they had obtained all of the necessary permissions, and actually a number of other singers had already been performing there as part of the event."
After eight years spent trying to break into the music business, it took less than two weeks for Ramy Essam to turn from a struggling artist into a celebrated revolutionary vocalist. His song "Irhal" ("Leave") became an anthem of protesters in Tahrir Square. He is now working on an album of songs inspired by the events of the January uprising.
The Freemuse Award Committee stated: “Ramy Essam played an important role during the Egyptian revolution and suffered severe beatings and torture as a consequence. He personifies the powerful role that music played in the Arab Spring.”
Receiving the news in Cairo, Ramy said: “I was extremely happy when I got the news. I really respect this prize because it calls for freedom of expression in music, protecting musicians and advocating free art that is not subjected to any restrictions. At the same time I was proud because I would be able to achieve something for Egypt.”
Marie Korpe, Freemuse executive director, said: “Ramy Essam continues a long tradition of protest singers who have become symbols of civil rights movements and through their music express frustrations and hope in song rather than speech. In 2009, Pete Seeger received the Freemuse Award. Like Seeger, Ramy has shown that one musician with a single instrument can make a difference.”
Ramy will receive the award in Stockholm on 21 November 2011 as part of an international conference and concert, "Right! Freedom of Music & Speech", organised by the Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers (SKAP) at Södra Teatern.
Ramy Essam's appearances are very frequent in the midst of Egypt's revolution. He was among the protesters that were taken on 9 March in a violent army crackdown to end a sit-in at Tahrir Square and was beaten and tortured by the army in the Egyptian Museum.