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A presidential musical
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 24 - 05 - 2012

Salonaz Sami discovers that campaigning for the presidential elections has taken on a musical dimension
From banners and posters to TV commercials, telling the entire history, of all different presidential hopefuls, campaigning for Egypt's first real democratic elections has taken all shapes and forms. Among the most popular means were the Internet and YouTube.com in particular, with hundreds of songs uploaded daily, promoting certain candidates. Although those songs never made it to big TV screens, still, they have managed to achieve their exact purpose; which is to get a message across to the masses of the society.
The verse "Matlob Dakar" ("Male wanted") has reached the hearts of millions over the past couple of months. Taken from the song Matlob za'em (A Leader is Wanted) by the band Cairokee, one of Egypt's most unique bands, the song talks about the qualities needed in a president.
"A leader is wanted for people who were betrayed, misled and absented by their rulers," the song goes. "Shape is not a requirement, age is not a requirement and religion is not a requirement. The only requirement is for him to be a male," it continues. A Leader is Wanted, aired frequently on different local TV channels, is the perfect example of the impact of the Egyptian revolution on the local musical theme. Another example, however, is the dozens of musical videos uploaded on social networks either praising or defaming Egyptian presidential hopefuls. Some of those videos were made by individuals in support of a certain candidate, while others were produced by some of the candidates' official campaigns. The noticeable thing, however, is that Egyptian folk-style songs took over the scene. "For our kids, he will protect our country, restore our rights and we will find our livelihood," one of the folk songs in support of presidential Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh goes.
The song's video on YouTube has been a big hit with more than 278,673 views from the time it was uploaded last February. The video features still photographs of Aboul-Fotouh along with some footage of him speaking at election gatherings.
Similar in concept but different in tune is another popular song for the same candidate, Gayeen l Aboul-Fotouh (We are Coming for Aboul-Fotouh) made by his Maadi campaign team. "Our revolution will not go in vain and we are with you to the end of the road," it says. Modelled on the famous ultras' songs, the music is more pop than folk. It also features footage of rallies and tours organised by the campaign team, and ends with footage of Aboul-Fotouh saying a few words about young people of 25 January in front of the Dar Al-Hekma (House of Wisdom) in Qasr Al-Aini.
Unlike Aboul-Fotouh, however, who only has songs of praise dedicated to him, presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik has more than his fair share of songs that both praise and defame. Perhaps the most popular song dedicated to Shafik is the one entitled Ahmed Shafik's Song by folk singer Essam Sha'ban. The song uses the same melody and rhythm as another song by the same singer entitled B Sab'a w nos (For Seven and a Half). "The people will go out and say it in the loudest voice, Ahmed Shafik, you are too bold and we love you dearly," Sha'ban chants. This video has had 59.603 views. Following the upload of the song, critics of Shafik responded with another video to the same beat f Shab'n's song. The video has had an astonishing, 74.383 views in only a couple of weeks.
And unlike the original video, this one enumerates Shafik's flaws instead of his qualities. Ironically, Essam Sha'ban is the son of famous folk singer Sha'ban Abdel Rehim, who has recorded and produced a song in support of presidential candidate Amr Moussa -- who also has his share of promotional songs. Like most of the electoral songs that try to sell presidential candidates as regular people, the song entitled I Love Amr Moussa runs: "If you knew Amr Moussa, you would feel he was your brother, neighbour, colleague, uncle or father." According to the song, Moussa's history and achievements are too many to count and this is why he is the one for Egypt.
Meanwhile, no matter how full of praise or defamatory those videos are, the one thing they all do rather successfully is get a message across. They introduce different candidates, one way or another, to the grassroots of society.
However, the similarity of many of the videos causes widespread confusion. "People should look at each candidate's history to find the one most similar to the ideas he is promoting," says presidential candidate Hamdin Sabahi, who has several songs posted on YouTube in support of him. Unlike songs of other candidates like Moussa and Shafik, which focus more on their qualities, those of Sabahi and Aboul-Fotou���h, for that matter, are different. Their songs are more youthful and optimistic, and focus more on what they have already done and can do for the country. "I swear by God's name, that I will stand up for all the oppressed, provide support for all the poor and help for those in need. No one will go to bed insulted or hungry in Egypt," says Sabahi at the beginning of one of his most popular songs, One of Us, named after his campaign slogan. This song by pop singer Ahmed Sa'ad, is one of several promoting his as a presidential candidate on the Internet. Another song is Hob al-Nas The Love of People by singer Ali Habib. The song portrays Sabahi, the man of the people. "The love of the people is a priceless gift, for this, continue with us and pay the debt," Habib chants. The video shows footage of Sabahi among protesters in various demonstrations wrapped in the Egyptian flag and carried aloft on his followers' shoulders. It reflects how he stood up to the former regime from his student days to his parliamentary days.
And while all candidates agree on major issues like education and health, the talented Black Thema band beg to differ in their latest song, Ana law ba'et ra'es lel gomhouria, "If I Became the president of the republic,".
"If I am the president of the republic, I will make laughing a habit, support happiness and those who drink their coffees black will have it with sugar instead," the song goes. And we will, certainly, be lucky if that happens.


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