It's time to celebrate and dance with the habaaib-bi (sweet babies) of the Egyptian Revolution. And who better to do it with than the hot pop singers of Egypt: Amr Diab, Ruby, Tamer Hosny, Sherene Abdelwahab, Mohamed Attieh, Wama, and so many others. (See youtube videos below.)
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On my first trip to Egypt in the Winter of 1988-89, I hired a cabbie named Nasir, who quickly became one of my best Egyptian friends. Not only did Nasir drive me everywhere in Cairo, but everywhere in Egypt for about $20 a day--which after a month amounted to a small fortune for him and his family. On our first excursion together into Cairo's streets, I heard one song blaring from boom boxes (remember them?) in every souk and kiosk we passed. I asked Nasir to stop so I could buy a cassette tape for his car player. I thought it would be a present for him but it ended up being one of the most played tapes I've ever owned. (And, yes, I did buy another for Nasir, before parting.)
The tape was Amr Diab's just released Mayyal (In Love), one of the first of a long string of hits to make the 28-year-old Diab the supernova of Egyptian and Arab pop music and a fixed star in the firmament of international pop. If you think being a superstar in North America is something, just imagine it in the far more populous Arab-speaking world with its then near-nonexistent competition of pop musicians.
From that day on, I was forever hot on Amr Diab and his unique brand of pop music that would become known as Egyptian el-geel, with its honey-sweet melodic hooks. Some twenty years later, el-geel has become more lushly produced and very much up to, if not at times surpassing, the standards of Western pop recordings. With more than 50 million albums sold worldwide, Diab, now the old man of Egyptian pop (at 50), remains the biggest Egyptian superstar. But in the last decade he's been joined by a generation that cut their teeth on his tunes and grew up to make their own marks on the el-geel that Diab has made synonomous with Egyptian and Arab pop music.
There are now scores of Egyptian pop singers beside Ruby, Mohamad Attieh, Sherene Abdelwahab, Tamer Hosny, and the group known as Wama. They can be found amply represented on the Egyptian Singer page of the Fanos Encyclopedia at http://www.fanoos.com/encyclopedia/egyptiansingers/ And all are on youtube, if not always in HD.
With the newest releases yet to hit youtube and other free download sites, the selection below spans the last decade, yet is still fresh to Western Ears. And they bring great accompaniment to the empathy we hold for our Egyptian friends as they wage their revolution, be it swift or slow.
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**ADDITION 2/12** - Since I posted this, I've been made aware of a totally hot new music video called The Sound of Freedom, just put on youtube by Egyptian Tahrir Square Dissidents, Amir Eid and Hany Adel, with Hawary on Guitar and Sherif On Keyboards. It now leads the videos below.
**ADDITION 2/13** - Some news travels more slowly than others, which is why as I wrote this on February 10, I still had not heard that Tamer Hosny, and to a lesser degree Amr Diab, had been branded by the Tahrir Square protestors as traitorous to the Egyptian people. Hosny went so far as to come out to the square on February 9 to tell the protestors to go home while calling President Mubarak a father figure. When the angry crowd charged him, the army had to fire shots to keep them back. Hosny was later filmed crying and shaken by the experience. In despair, he issued a public apology, telling the people he was misled by the Mubarak administration. He has since issued a new music video, entitled simply, Shoadaa 25 (January 25, see below), which Hosny wrote in commemoration of the day the protest began, as well as about the protestors and their sacrifices for the Egyptian revolution. Meanwhile, Amr Diab and his family was reportedly among the Egyptian celebrities who flew on private jets out of Cairo, their destination, London. Tweeters will find the Twitterspehere inundated with commentary about both singers, though already Amr Diab seems to be forgiven since his views on the revolution have not yet been aired and because many of his loyal fans are reluctant to give up on him.
The Sound of Freedom (subtitles), by Amir Eid and Hany Adel, with Hawary on Guitar and Sherif On Keyboards.
Amr Diab - Wala Ala Balo (It's Not On Her Mind)
Amr Diab-Ana Ayesh (I'm Alive)
Amr Diab - Tamally Maak (Always With You)
Ruby - Awel Marra
Ruby - Ana Omry Mastenait Had (subtitles)
Tamer Hosny - Taarfy (subtitles)
Tamer Hosny - Shoadaa 25
Mohamed Attieh - Aleh
Mohamed Attieh - Ana El Habib
Sherene Abdelwahab - Enkatabli Omr
Sherene Abdelwahab - Kattar Khairi
Wama - Kan Nefsy
Wama - Tehlefli Asaddak
Read other posts by G. Roger Denson on Huffington Post in the archive.