A large crowd of music lovers gathered on Thursday evening 7 April at El Sawy Culturewheel (El Sakia) River Hall to enjoy a night of music, marketed as a festival to celebrate the success of the Egyptian revolution. “We have proved to the world that there can be a bloodless revolution, so let us come together to promote peace as one of the values of our revolution," said the promotional flyer
It all sounded very noble and earnest, but I couldn't help sensing an overwhelming lack of ease from the audience - mostly fresh-faced and obviously middle-class hip teenagers - dressed in a variety of t-shirts with patriotic slogans or artfully-styled black, white and red outfits.
This uneasiness was intensified when Nour el Mahlawi, one of the organisers of the event announced, “Egypt's four best bands are here to celebrate patriotism, peace, national unity and respect for authority." He then asked the audience to stand for a moment of silence in memory of the martyrs.
The band ‘Blue Notes’ performed several rousing blues numbers, including covers by Gary Moore’s “Walking by me” and “Roadhouse blues” by the Doors.
Though the band themselves played well, it was hard to see how their music celebrates the Egyptian revolution in any way. I couldn't help but wonder how Jim Morrison would feel about having his music played at a festival calling for “respect for the authorities” - something that any revolutionary worth his salt would find conflicting and contradictory.
There seemed to be a disagreement between the band and the organisers on when they should leave the stage. For several minutes there were heated discussions onstage in full view of the audience, and after the lead singer Hate Hassam declared that the organisers “Don't want us to play anymore,” the band left the stage. It is diffcult to see this as part of the much-praised ‘revolutionary conduct’.
The other bands seemed more in harmony with the patriotic theme of the night and offered stellar performances with uplifting music deeply-rooted and inspired by what it means to be Egyptian.
The band “Taxi” played acoustic guitar- based songs, “So7ba” used a subtle fusion of both oriental western music and elements from Egyptian folkloric music, while “Ana Masry” presented unadulterated Egyptian music, paying homage to the past while looking towards a better future, through Ehab Abdou's patriotic lyrics.
Despite the heartfelt performances by all the bands, the whole evening was yet another exercise in airing revolutionary clichés and the word ‘festival’, only to market a three-hour cultural event for commercial ends. This concert was sponsored by ‘Pro Gym’ who offered the audience a free day at any of their branches.
All this makes me wonder… how long will ordinary concerts and events continue to be ‘revolutionary’ in name but not in content, while in fact they only serve to commercialise the Egyptian Revolution?