November 8, 2011 Martin Fernando Jakobsen

The Voice of the Streets concert succeeds despite military crackdown

The biggest ever line up of Arabic rappers and the spirit and resilience of the Cairo youth made Friday November 4th a night to remember despite censorship and harassment from the Egyptian military regime.

The Voice of the Streets brought together political dissident rappers from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan on Egyptian soil in order to remind the world that the struggle for freedom of artistic expression and speech in the Middle East has just begun.  The organizers from Turntables in the Camps and Immortal Entertainment had been constantly reminded of the need for change in Egypt throughout the organization process, due to the persistence of corruption within the regime and the tight military control of all public events. But it was not until the very hour of the concert that the full extent of regime ruthlessness and censorship reared its ugly head.

At the scheduled hour of the start of the event the Interior Minister ordered the Gezirah Youth Club in Cairo who had lent its facilities to the organizers to shut the gates and cancel the concert. Thousands of people had gathered as a result of the successes of the seven day promotional campaign, where participating rappers used guerrilla freestyle rap spots in the streets of Cairo to spread word of the free show. When news of the large size of the gathering reached the military, along with the fact that a large group of wounded people from the revolution were invited as well, they closed the venue and threatened to send in troops.

Acting swiftly to the events on the ground, the organizers and rappers immediately left the venue and told the crowd that the concert would take place in elsewhere, no matter the cost.  A local entrepreneur provided a sound system and a roof as a stage and more than 500 people rushed across Cairo to make sure that The Voice of the Street would not be silenced.

In the end the concert took place. Hopefully the events of November 4th will be a reminder to us all that freedom of speech and artistic expression can never be taken for granted in a region where such human rights are still precariously fragile.

Turntables in the Camps and Immortal Entertainment would like to express our admiration and gratitude to the remarkable people that helped realize the biggest ever Arab Hip Hop even when the odds were stacked against us. We remain dedicated to fight for the Voice of the Street in the Middle East. We would also like to thank the Danish Center for Culture and Development for funding this endevour.

About the Author

Martin Fernando Jakobsen Martin has been running Turning Tables since 2009 establishing permanent DJ and rap schools and conducting workshops for refugee youth and internally displaced persons in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria since 2009. He has also been organizing and supporting rap and hip hop concerts in the Middle East. Martin has been a professional DJ and producer for more than a decade and holds a Master in international Relations from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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