News / Middle East

Egyptian Singer Tackles Real, Metaphorical Walls

Elizabeth ArrottJaphet Weeks
The Fair Play international music awards honor young musicians for their work exposing corruption and oppression around the world.  This year's winner, who will travel to Brazil in November to receive her award, comes from Egypt. 

Egyptian songwriter Youssra el-Hawary is new to performing, but she won the global music award with her first video Al Soor, or The Wall.

El-Hawary set her video against walls built by Egypt's military rulers earlier this year around government ministries in Cairo.

Youssra El Hawary, 29 at her home in Cairo. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)Youssra El Hawary, 29 at her home in Cairo. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
x
Youssra El Hawary, 29 at her home in Cairo. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
Youssra El Hawary, 29 at her home in Cairo. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
In a light and lilting voice, el-Hawary tells the story of a “poor man” who stands before a wall and “peed - on the wall, and on those who built it.”

It's a cheeky dig at the authorities, at one with the sunny scenes protesters painted on the imposing walls.

But the lyrics, from a poem by her friend Walid Taher, were written in 2005, well before last year's revolution. "When Walid wrote it, he didn't mean this wall, of course.  It was more like a philosophy, about any wall," she said.

The military's walls have since fallen, like the old government before it.  But even after democratic elections, el-Hawary says, other barriers remain.

"For the government, I see that nothing changed.  I don't see that we have more freedom now actually.  It's still the same.  Actually, I face more problems in the arts after the revolution,” she said.

El-Hawary lives on a bustling street not far from Cairo's Tahrir Square.  In general, she is optimistic, heartened that her fellow Egyptians have been empowered by the revolution.  And despite growing concern for women under an Islamist government, she says she has not suffered for not wearing the veil.

Watch Youssra el-Hawary perform Al Soor, or The Wall (Video by Japhet and Yuli Weeks)

There is a freshness to the 29-year-old singer, who also is an actor and a mime - a contrast to the pop trends common among her contemporaries.

And then there is the accordion. "I wanted to play an instrument that I can take anywhere because I was very jealous of my friends," said el-Hawary. "They can take guitars on trips or something.  And I play piano, so I can't take it anywhere.”

Although the instrument is played in Egypt, el-Hawary evokes a French style that she balances with Middle Eastern melodies.  She says the novelty of “a young girl playing the accordion in Cairo” helped make The Wall a success.  She recalls posting the video late one night.

"I woke up the next morning with my phone saying that I had 350 emails and 400 notifications on Facebook and I said, 'There's something wrong with my phone,'" she said.

The song went viral, catching the attention of the Fair Play judges in Brazil, where she will receive her prize in November and take part in a “Voices Against Corruption” festival.  Hers is a political voice, and a strong one, yet light, cheerful and sly.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Haanh
September 13, 2012 10:37 AM
That's great

by: sinan from: Turkey
September 12, 2012 7:53 PM
it is very nice to read this article and listen these good musics.

by: SAma
September 11, 2012 8:24 PM
congratulations Youssra , keep it up

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More