Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Incendiary lyrics and high-powered motorbikes: Egypt's revolutionary rock band won't keep quiet

By Sarah Sirgany, for CNN
updated 11:23 PM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egyptian band came to prominence during the 2011 revolution
  • Songs became anthems for a young generation of Egyptians
  • Band says the clash between older and younger generations is cause of country's problems

(CNN) -- Before releasing an album most bands would talk about record sales or concert dates. But for Egyptian band Cairokee the bigger talking point is whether they will get arrested.

"Only Amir because he writes the lyrics," the band's bassist Adam El-Alfy jokes, tapping the shoulder of his friend, the band's lead singer Amir Eid.

In a country currently polarized by politics the band are concerned some of the songs featured on "El Sekka Shemal" ("Wrong Turn") could make them targets for the authorities.

In another of the group's songs entitled "Nefsy Afagar" ("I Want To Explode") Eid sings: "A new order, just like the old one. And everything works with lying. I want to blow up the streets and roads."

Saving Syria cultural treasures
Millions of birds migrate in Galiliee
Cairo's thriving art scene

According to the band the song reflects the daily frustration faced by Egyptians, such as stifling traffic, drug use and sexual harassment.

"We have many fans that will get very angry if we didn't release these songs," says Eid, who claims the band speaks the mind of many Egyptians.

In doing so they realize they could face censorship and defamation campaigns, similar to those faced by television satirist Bassem Youssef who had his show cancelled last September after mocking supporters of Egypt's military. He is now on air again with a different network. Cairokee performed three songs on the first of his new shows.

We have many fans that will get very angry if we didn't release these songs.
Amir Eid, singer, Cairokee

Sitting at the makeshift studio within Eid's family apartment in which the band recorded most of their songs for the past 10 years, they insist they are not political.

"We talk about freedom, social rights, what we think will make a better place for all of us," says guitarist Sherif El-Hawary. "A lot of people kind of mix that, that we have a political agenda. We don't really."

After years of little success or recognition they rose to prominence through their participation in "Sout El-Horreya" ("The Sound of Freedom"), a song recorded during the Tahrir Square sit-in in 2011.

For the three years that followed they released other songs that also became anthems to Egypt's revolution, urging Egyptians to "hold their ground" in "Ethbat Makanak" and in another yearning for "The Square."

Their concerts included free performances at political sit-ins.

"The revolution is not politics. Dignity is not politics. This is what we sing about. We didn't sing about politics, but we sing about basic human rights," says Eid.

They have a committed and growing fan-base and when they released on YouTube "Nas Betroos We Nas Betmoot" ("People Die While Others Dance") it gained 1 million views in two months.

For the band the song symbolizes a clash of generations, which they think is the source of most of Egypt's problems: an older generation holding on to an idea of stability and a younger one trying to shape the future it will live in.

Eid's raspy vocals give the band's music a unique sound, while they cultivate an unconventional image, riding high-powered "muscle" motorbikes in defiance of the terrible Cairo traffic as an "escape from reality."

The band is honest about the potential violent consequence of taking a stand against deep-seated views, but they choose to remain optimistic.

"This voice is like a turtle. (We) work very slowly, but we never go back... Look at the past three years, regimes changed and we continued the revolution," says Eid.

Read: Saving Syria's lost generation

Quiz: Hollywood movies get an Ottoman makeover

Read: Bollywood dreams of Dubai's migrant workers

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:47 PM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
At first glance, the UAE seems ill-suited to ice hockey: the only snow and ice to be found is usually in fabricated form in a shopping mall.
updated 10:06 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.
updated 12:40 AM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Does faith have a place on the sports field? One Muslim NFL star believes so.
updated 11:02 PM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
The UAE is becoming a hub for plastic surgery with more Emiratis going under the knife each year.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Meet Erdal Inci, a digital artist from Turkey who is transforming the medium.
updated 9:39 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Iran is pumping billions of dollars into a scheme to save a lake. What's so important about it?
updated 10:18 PM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
A volatile Middle East has changed the tenor of Ramadan programming in Egypt. Now, no topic is too taboo.
updated 10:53 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Dubai has got some big animal attractions in its mega malls. But not everyone is wild about the idea.
updated 11:14 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel Prize-winning author, is neither afraid to confront the human condition nor the state his country is in.
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The smell of traditional dishes served during Ramadan fill the house of Iman, a Lebanese mother of four.
updated 7:22 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
Unmanned aerial vehicles aren't generally thought of as technology that improves lives; the UAE wants to change that.
updated 9:49 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
How an Iranian musician took ancient Persian poetry to the top of the U.S. charts.
ADVERTISEMENT