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MIDDLE EAST: Rappers and musicians inspired by uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia

February 10, 2011 |  6:55 am

Sometimes, art imitates life, but other times it struggles just to keep up. So perhaps it is fitting that one of the most popular new songs dedicated to the uprising in Egypt is named after a hashtag on Twitter, news junkies' virtual lifeline to the popular protests sweeping the country.

Picture 11The song "#Jan25," produced by Sami Matar and featuring North American and Arab hip-hop artists Freeway, the Narcicyst, Omar Offendum, Amir Sulaiman and Ayah, has so far racked up more than 60,000 views on YouTube and injected new life into the discussion about the role of popular music in political activism.

"Something felt really special about what was happening in Egypt, and I wanted to take part by showing solidarity," the Los Angeles-based Syrian American rapper Omar Chakaki, a.k.a. Omar Offendum, told Babylon & Beyond.

His experience of the protests, like many around the world, was filtered through footage broadcast on Al Jazeera and posted online, which in turn shaped the lyrics:

I heard them say the revolution won't be televised
 Al Jazeera proved them wrong,
Twitter has them paralyzed
80 million strong
And ain't no longer gonna be terrorized
Organized, mobilized, vocalized...

Omar Offendum and his "#Jan25" collaborators are not the only artists to lend their voices to the protest movement that has erupted across the region.

The Paris-based Tunisian singer Amel Mathlouthi took part in the protests in the capital of her home country, serenading the assembled demonstrators and a crew from the pan-Arab satellite channel Al Arabiya with the protest song "Kilmti Hurra," or "My Words Are Free."

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice those who would not give in
I am free and my word is free
I am free and my word is free
Don't forget the price of bread
And don't forget the cause of our misery
And don't forget who betrayed us in our time of need.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Videos, from top: The song "#Jan25" was made by North American hip-hop artists to show solidarity with the Egptian protesters. Credit: YouTube. Tunisian singer Amel Mathlouthi serenades protesters in the Tunisian capital. Credit: YouTube

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