A new song called Kazeboon (“Liars”) by the popular Egyptian hip-hop group Revolution Records is making the rounds among Egyptian activists following the launch of a new opposition campaign also called Kazeboon.
The movement, which launched late last month, is an educational initiative focused on countering state-run news coverage of Egypt's continued unrest following the February 2011 ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Volunteers are screening videos and photos of violence used against protesters by police and security officials in neighborhoods around the country.
While Mubarak's overthrow spawned a host of new media, most Egyptians continue to get their news from the country's state-run radio and television outlets. These stations are often critical of the protest movement, painting it as the work of minority elites or suggesting it is aligned with foreign interests.
Political debate in Egypt remains a struggle given the dominance of state media and the number of issues still considered outside the confines of civic discussion — among them, criticism of the country’s provisional rulers, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).
The opposition accuses SCAF of rights abuses and their Kazeboon campaign is meant to increase awareness of violations amongst ordinary Egyptians by airing, for example, footage showing security forces allegedly using live ammunition against protesters or beating female demonstrators.
It isn’t exactly easy viewing, which is perhaps where catchy lyrics from the Alexandria-based Revolution Records (@Revrecords) come in. “Kazeboon,” released on Jan. 22, calls on Egyptians to stand up and reject “lying SCAF,” asking, “What did the revolution change? / The media is still the same / The ministries are still the same.”
The call to continue the revolution that saw the historic overthrow of Mubarak is common among Egyptian protesters today. But 25-year-old Mohamed teMraz, the group's producer, says he and the rappers saw it all coming years ago.
TeMraz, who asked to be interviewed over instant messenger after explaining by phone that he was uncomfortable speaking directly in English, told GlobalPost on Monday that the group “dropped a lot of revolutionary tracks after wa2t el thawrageya,” using the Arabic shorthand for “time of the revolutionaries.”
He says the nine-man hip-hop collective, which formed in 2006 and claims to be Egypt’s first underground rap label, sensed frustration growing in the country. TeMraz attributes the unrest to “poverty, rampant unemployment, government corruption and autocratic governance.” The band’s name, he says, came out of a feeling of foreboding.
“We think that Egypt wants a revolution, not only a political revolution but an everything revolution: revolution for the way of thinking, revolution for our life style and the old bad traditions."
TeMraz says “Kazeboon” is not an official anthem for the Kazeboon campaign. But it seems likely to have been born out of similar feelings. He and all the Revolution Records rappers were “in the streets [protesting] from day one,” he says. “We didn’t miss any.”