The Sound of Freedom

Farah Montasser, Sunday 27 Mar 2011

The voice of the people is the voice of art and not the other way around. Young director Mohamed Shaker, one of the minds behind the 'Sout El Horreya' and 'Vote No' campaign speaks to Ahram Online

With many videos, songs and artwork, the 25 January revolution and the faces of the martyrs have become a trend in Egypt.

Art galleries and many culture centres have been organising exhibitions and displaying documentary films on the revolution. 

Political parties, live and cyber-networking groups have been using the name of the revolution, with members of such groups declaring themselves to be the voice of the revolt. Some claim victory with the end of the revolution, while many others still fear for the future and believe Egypt still has a long way to go.

Mohamed Shaker, director of the ‘Vote No’ campaign and the music video, Sout el Horreya (Sound of Freedom) maintains, “The revolution is not over yet.”

‘Vote No’ campaign

Just a few days prior to 19 March, the day for voting in the Egyptian constitution amendments referendum, Shaker and Shady Sherif, the managing director of Core Publications, the publisher of Campus, E7na and G-mag, decided to promote a “No” vote on the amendments.

The campaign was a national call to vote against the constitutional amendments using Egyptian public and political figures, including presidential candidates Mohamed El-Baradei and Amr Moussa, local celebrities Amr Khaled, Basma, Mona Zaki, Ahmed Helmy, Amr Hamzawy and Naguib Sawiris, to name a few including a well-known Islamic preacher and many others.

The idea behind the campaign was to support those who will vote “No,” and share their opinions.

“We wanted to raise awareness among the masses who don’t understand why they were voting and what their vote should be,” he explains.

“We never intended having it broadcast on television channels. It was supposed to be an online campaign, but businessman Naguib Sawiris liked the idea so much that he broadcast it on his channel,” he says.

The ‘Vote No’ campaign had minimal publicity, due to the negative response it received from all other private and public television channels - some things never change!

“Public channels supported the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign, following the current rulers (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces),” Shaker asserts. “The other private channels are owned by a number of political figures, who also supported the ‘Yes’ campaign,” he says.  

The visual campaign had some damaging comments, saying that it was a replica of the ‘Don’t Vote’ campaign in the US, a statement that angers the young artist.

“Again, this video does not serve any artistic vision. I chose a simple setting, using black and white to unify the different people being interviewed,” he points out. “There is only one solid ground that unites those people. The focus should be on the content of the campaign and such comments mean that nothing is understood from this video,” Shaker notes.

Sound of Freedom

Sout El Horreya (Sound of Freedom) was Shaker’s first project, a music video shot with members of Egyptian bands, Hany Adel from Wust El Balad and Amir Eid Hawary from Cairokee, with directors Moustafa Fahmy and Mohamed Khalifa.

They produced the first song about the revolution and Tahrir Square (Liberation Square), the epicentre of the protests that eventually ousted the president after 30 years in power.

“The main aim of this song was to help support those in Tahrir,” Shaker says. There came a time when people were less motivated to join the demonstrations at Tahrir. Moreover, with state television channels demeaning those at the square and spreading rumours, “We had to show people sitting passively at home the truth about Tahrir Square,” he clarifies.

Sout El Horreya is a tribute to the Egyptian revolution. In the name of the youth, it calls for change, freedom and reform. All footage was shot live from demonstrations and the Tahrir community, throughout the 18-day revolution. “We wanted to encourage people to go down to Tahrir Square and witness the revolution, if not play an active role in it,” he says.

Sout El Horreya was meant to be on Youtube only to serve its political purpose. “I did not even give myself credit for directing the video clip, hoping that only its idea will reach the masses,” Shaker explains.

But after former president Mubarak’s resignation on 11 February, Sout El Horreya became a hit featured on many Egyptian television shows and on CNN. “It became a symbol of the revolution, which was good,” he reflects.

“On referendum voting day, I saw someone writing part of its lyrics in chalk on the pavement,” he says. “But what I don’t like is that I should be gaining fame and profit from it,” he explains.

Since the song rocketed, Shaker has refused to appear on several television shows as a revolution artist, including Al Qahira Al Yawm (Cairo Today) by Amr Adeeb.

Min Alb Masr(From Egypt’s Heart) is another popular television show with Adeeb’s wife Lamees El Hadidi, and it invited the people behind Sout El Horreya over.

 “I only agreed to appear on this very special episode because Hadidi wanted to talk about the political reason behind the song, and what’s next for Egypt,” he clarifies.

“What comes next in Egypt is a sign of the song’s political success and I wanted to share my political vision,” Shaker comments. “What the song is today in terms of fame and publicity, I am not part of. I played my part and that’s the end of the song for me,” he says. 

In support of his belief, Shaker did not join the rest of his friends on the CNN interview via skype. “I sat there behind the laptop screen when my colleagues were being interviewed,” he says. “There are no personal gains for me, I am not among those who want to profit from this revolution, either financially nor publicly,” he maintains.

“Today I am against anything that is associated with the 25 January revolution.  A lot of people want to gain something out of it although they did not take part in the demonstrations,” he observes. “No artistic documentation of the revolution can be made today,” he says.

Shaker has decided to create awareness among people through Youtube, and he is determined to make shows online to educate and make the people aware of what is happening.

Art stands as a voice to unite people. “Yes, the people got rid of the president but not the regime,” he states. We still have a very long way to go.”

He sits quietly editing his next project. “How can anyone now document the revolution when it is not over yet,” Shaker concludes.

More awareness is what Egypt is waiting for, as the people’s revolution has only made a few steps and is nowhere near completed.

Sout El Horreya
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