Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s art scene has become increasingly diverse since the country’s 2011 uprising, with various projects reflecting the mood on the streets. Graffiti painted on the walls of Egypt’s squares and coffeehouses documenting the upheaval of January 25, 2011 became one of the symbols of the revolution. In fact, the country has seen the emergence of numerous artistic movements in theater, music, singing and fine art—most visible at the monthly culture festival, Al-Fan Midan (Art is a Square), held in Cairo’s Abdeen Square.
In line with this spirit, Tahrir Lounge—a cultural–social project sponsored by the Goethe Institute in Cairo—is hosting a workshop later this month to teach young women the art of writing and performing rap and hip-hop music, an art form associated almost exclusively with men in the Middle East up to now.
Hip-hop music has spread widely across the world in recent years, including in the Middle East. It is especially popular in the region due to the low technical barriers to entry, as any budding rapper can compose the accompanying music using readily available software.
Hip-hop originated in the US in the 1970s as a cultural movement among African-Americans. The trend was aimed at establishing an independent cultural and art scene through which the community could express itself and its day-to-day battles with poverty, unemployment, racism and injustice.
Tahrir Lounge says it is launching workshops to to train young women aged 16–26 in how to express themselves through writing and producing music. Apart from giving them a brief synopsis about the history of hip-hop, the workshops will also teach them to perform in front of a public and studio audience.
Sarah Hussein, one of the tutors, told Asharq Al-Awsat that in most countries the hip-hop scene was no longer the monopoly of men, unlike in Egypt and the Middle East where it is still considered a masculine practice.
Hussein said that the drift towards this particular art form reflected the increasing role of women in all fields and activities and their expression of their status and creativity. She added that numerous issues would be explored during the workshops, such as Egypt’s battle against rampant sexual harassment.
The workshops will be held during September 14–18 at the Goethe Institute in Cairo, and will include the Egyptian band Asphalt, who blend rock and rap in their music. The band was founded in 2005 by two Egyptian rappers seeking to express the struggles of young people in Egypt.
Tahrir Lounge was established in April 2011 under the slogan, “Be positive and participate in change.” It works as a joint German–Egyptian project to foster democracy in Egypt, with funding from the German Foreign Ministry.
The project aims to consolidate the principles of democracy and build a strong and tolerant society, as well as to serve as an open platform for the various political and social currents in Egyptian society. While it provides numerous activities such as workshops, sessions, parties and photography exhibitions, the project’s officials say their objective is to back the initiatives put forward by Egypt’s youth, regardless of their social or political background.