THE REVOLUTIONARY ARTISTE
Ramy Essam is best known as the Singer of the Revolution in Egypt. During the first revolution, the Arab Spring, his song, “Irhal (Leave),” calling for then-president Hosni Mubarak to step down, became an anthem, sung by thousands in Tahrir Square and spread virally on the Internet. During a crackdown on protesters in Tahrir Square the singer and guitarist was arrested and subsequently beaten and tortured in police custody. He was given especially harsh treatment because of his song, but the abuse only made him more dedicated to his cause. It also made him a bonafide hero to his fellow revolutionaries.
A student from the city of Mansoura in the north of Egypt, he started writing songs that were critical of the Mubarak regime three years before the revolution began, but he went to the demonstrations as an unknown. He brought his guitar and wove the protest chants he heard into song lyrics. When he performed some of them from a makeshift stage in Tahrir Square they struck a chord with his fellow protesters, especially “Leave.” Camping in the square, he didn’t know that videos of his performances had been uploaded to YouTube and become a rallying point for supporters of the revolution far beyond the square. The videos racked up hundreds of thousands of views in a very short period of time. He was just 24.
In 2011 he received the Freemuse Award for promoting freedom of expression. He remains dedicated to the revolution that he fought for and perform his songs at demonstrations. He has been outspoken against both the rule of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. He has achieved worldwide notoriety for his music and activism and has been profiled by news media around the world. He is featured in the MTV World series Rebel Music.