Egyptian Band Massar Egbari Offers New Perspective on Changes in the Middle East and North Africa

August 3, 2011

On July 21, 2011, we walked over to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to speak with Massar Egbari, a five-member band from Alexandria, Egypt, to discuss the role of music in the Arab Spring. Their music presents a unique mix of rock, jazz, blues, and Eastern music. One of the few recipients of UNESCO's award for "Young Artist for Intercultural Dialogue between Arab and Western Worlds,"Massar Egbari has become a cultural ambassador for both Egypt and the global community. While promoting freedom of expression in Egyptian society, Massar Egbari's music enables the American public to gain a new perspective on the historic events of the Arab Spring.

Contrary to mainstream Egyptian musicians, Massar Egbari emphasizes the importance of hope, rather than love. The simple message they wish to convey -- "start with yourself" -- furthers the notion of selflessness and personal responsibility. “We let them hear our lyrics…it's not our role to give a solution to the problems, but to expose them,” said lead singer Hani El Dakkak. Ultimately, El Dakkak added, the goal of the band is “to encourage people to change society, to spread positive energy.”

Meaning 'Compulsory Detour' in English, Massar Egbari seeks to portray how an oppressive government tries to overpower an individual's free will and forces him to live a certain way. As drummer Tamar Attallah clarifies, "Even if someone has a dream [of] becom[ing] a football player, first they have to go to school, then to university." The band members expressed their sincere desire to incorporate the fundamental freedoms we enjoy here in the United States into Egyptian society. Through their lyrics, they emphasize the power of peace-building and have made a concerted effort to promote messages of change by infusing their audiences with energy and hope.

In our conversation, the group underscored the role of individuals in changing Egyptian society. As guitarist Mahmoud Siam noted, “Whenever I hear negative comments [from people] about the slow pace of change, I simply look at them and say 'this process for change was never going to happen over-night'." The band expressed the importance of the physical aspects of hard work, coupled with encouraging a mental toughness to stay positive.

Importantly, Massar Egbari described itself as politically neutral. Bassist Ahmed Hafez explained, “If we make a song about elections, it's not that we support any of the parties, but rather to encourage people to participate in the political process -- allowing people to express what they see and whatever they want. But we won't influence their opinion.”

Massar Egbari's role in the Arab Spring movement can be best described as the "quench for the thirst for change in North Africa and the Middle East." Using music as a vehicle to further global understanding of Egyptian society, Massar Egbari work as cultural ambassadors to make a difference for generations to come.

Comments

Comments

ed
|
Texas, USA
August 3, 2011

Ed in Texas writes:

So here is my proposal; since Lebanon is the only one on the eastern side of the Mediterranean that has a REAL constitution ask the UN and the world courts to declare Armistice and Annex the whole region. If Israel/Syria/Jordan/Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Palestine wants/needs to apply for statehood they can but only on condition they write a constitution that is correct; includes a secular judicial system, citizenship based on place of birth-reasonable naturalization and equal rights for all people. I realize how this might sound to people who have sanctioned or own constitutions legal problems since the National Security Act of 1947, Patriot Act and standing Executive order that side=lines the right of the free but it must be said. Kingofallclergy Ed

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 3, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Alexander I. Cohen and Shirin Mohammadi,

Thanks for posting the video, I really enjoyed their music.

EJ

John P.
|
Greece
August 3, 2011

John P. in Greece writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico

I’ll stick to 104,7 ALBUQUERQUE'S CLASSIC COUNTRY! (CHUCKLE)

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 3, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece,

Since four cheeky blokes from Liverpool invaded our shores decades ago, we've been invaded by just about every sound made by every musician from everywhere known in the civilized world, and some places I've never heard of before.

Change itself is an dominant scaled progression filling volumes of not so silently diminished status quo entropic discord, with powerchords and dissonance feeding back...leading the listener to the one.

Knowing where that one is, is what makes for hit records and packed concert halls.

I'd run sound for these guy's anytime.

Glad to see you made use of that link I provided...it's only rock and roll, but I know you like it...(chuckle)

EJ

Maureen
|
Massachusetts, USA
October 2, 2011

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

Alexander L.Cohen and Shirin Mohammadi:

@ eric

Good music and good food go a long way in diplomacy. Thanks

.

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