A Facebook group calls for solidarity with underground music

Ahram Online, Thursday 1 Nov 2012

A protest in solidarity with alternative bands will be held outside Elsawy Culturewheel on Friday 9 November

Logo of the Facebook group calling for a protest stand to take place on Friday 9 November

A Facebook event has appeared calling on alternative musicians and their fans to participate in a protest on 9 November with the object of protecting their right to perform in public. The protest is in response to the cancellation of a concert that was to be held in Minya on Sunday 28 October to affirm the unity of Muslims and Copts during Eid Al-Adha (the Muslim feast of sacrifice).

Entitled “From the Heart of Egypt, Hand in Hand”, the concert included performances by several alternative bands; it was reportedly stopped by a group of Salafis and other Islamists who stood at the entrance to the concert preventing people from going in after the event had already begun.

The incident prompted an outcry in many circles, with the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) publishing a condemnation of the assault on freedom of expression on 30 October in which it called on "civil society organisations and political forces to adopt a clear position on this and similar incidents, since the last period has seen a semi-organised attack on the civil functioning of the state that threatens to suppress the basic rights and freedoms of citizens. The matter, it said, requires developing a collective effort to tackle that campaign and to put pressure on the authorities to perform their duties... to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens from any domestic party who violates it”.

The protest is to take place at Elsawy Culturewheel, one of the most popular cultural centres, which has provided many young, alternative and underground musicians with the space to preform. The Facebook event stresses the fact that alternative musicians already have difficulty finding access to an audience in Cairo; the protest, it is hoped, will help to both reclaim the freedom of alternative bands and facilitate their access to a greater number of people.

“We all know that underground musicians give concerts in which they present their talents to their own specialised audiences, and express thoughts and opinions about issues that matter to our society. We also know that such concerts are often limited in size and don’t yield as significant a profit as commercial music, yet it is a movement that represents an entire generation of youth,” the statement reads. “There is no rule saying that we must be members of a syndicate, especially since this is not a formal industry...”

The Facebook announcement blamed Elsawy Culturewheel in particular for "contributing to the problem" by staying silent.

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