The Egyptian state has long used culture as a means of propagating its political interests. Many nationalist songs have been beloved, like the music of Um Kulthum, a pan-Arab pop star and political dignitary who remains popular to this today, while others have been less liked, such as “Ikhtarna” [We Chose Him], a pro-Hosni Mubarak song popularized in the 1980s and 1990s whose beat still haunts many Egyptians.
Today, as the cult of General Sisi grows, a new crop of nationalist tunes are going viral.
1. “Teslam Al Ayedi” [Bless your hands]
With over 3.5 million views on YouTube since it was released in July, Teslam Al Ayedi is impossible to avoid in Egypt these days. The song, a whopping eight-minute’s long, features Mustafa Kamel and a slew of other Egyptian pop stars singing their praises for Egypt’s army as a montage of nationalist images plays.
The gist: Bless the army. They are the saviors of the country. Long Live Masr [Egypt].
Teslam Al Ayadi created quite the stir when it was first released. Egyptian intellectuals fretted that the song signified a new wave of state-sponsored cultural and media production. One Egyptian art critic wrote: “It is something of a musical tragedy in its lackluster production, but comically calls itself an operetta.The song’s bland production quality, brazen lyrics, and stolen melody have caused growing alarm in the local music community, especially since Kamel is head of the Musicians Syndicate. Many are wondering if its ripped-off melodies and blatant nationalism indicate the syndicate’s new direction under Kamel.”
2. “Thank you to the Arab Nations”
Reportedly intended as a sequel to Teslam Al Ayedi, this song sees Mostafa Kamel take a more traditional pan-Arab line. He thanks Arab countries that stood hand in hand with the Egyptian military and people during tough times. The song gives a personal shout out to several special friends: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan.
3. “We delegate you”
This song by artists Gharam and Hanin has all the usual elements: praise for Sisi, the military and their fight against the “terrorists,” a popular codeword for the Muslim Brotherhood (and others that too strongly oppose the military). There’s also of plenty for cheer for the Egyptian people, their revolution and the other Arab countries that have had Egypt’s back. The song ends with a resounding “June 30 was not a coup,” a reference to the massive protests which, with the military’s support, led to Morsi’s ouster. Warning: overload on pink lipstick ahead.
4. “Mesh Men Baladna” [Not from our country]
This video, accompanying a song by a singer named Angham is designed to delegitimize the Muslim Brotherhood as “not from our country.” Released in August, it did not get quite as popular as gems like Teslam Al Ayedi, but the song embodies nationalist anger against the Muslim Brotherhood and the violence they’ve been accused of instigating. The video’s opening scene credits the Ministry of Interior for Media and Public Relations Department. In a bizarre turn of events, Angham tweeted that she had written the song 17 years ago, a claim that seems to allude to to how long she has held these strong anti-Brotherhood feelings.
5. “You Obama, Your Father, Mother”
It may seem like a parody, but this video is for real. Egyptian performer Sama Elmasry released this song and dance back in July when Egypt-U.S. relations seemed at an all-time low. The song created quite the stir because of its provocative criticisms of Obama (and hard to stomach belly dancing). Here it is translated for your viewing pleasure.
And then there was Snoop Dogg…
If none of the above captures your fancy, then this collaboration between Snoop Dogg and Egyptian pop star Tamar Hosney, entitled “Si Al Sayed” [The Man], is sure to please. The song — devoid of any talk of Egyptian politics, but still repping a nice does of misogyny — has gotten over 3 million views on YouTube since its Oct 3 release (a full year after the song was released). Bonus: Sisi’s image is not included.