Cairo, Asharq al-Awsat—If the referendum on Egypt’s constitution in January was anything to go by, some of the polling stations in the presidential elections scheduled for May 26–27 will witness carnival-like scenes of singing and dancing.
This time, however, the singing will be to the tune of a new song, Bushret Khair (“Good Omen”), which urges Egyptians to participate in the election. It’s a song that is now becoming as enormously popular, as Teslam Al-Ayadi (“Bless Those Hands”), which swept the streets following the June 30 revolution that ended the year-long rule of Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Mursi.
Teslam Al-Ayadi, which praises the Egyptian Armed Forces, greatly boosted the popularity of Egypt’s former Minister of Defense, the retired field marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, now the frontrunner in Egypt’s presidential elections. It has lyrics like “To those who protect our land/ To those who protect our honor/ Those who Egypt is always proud to call our sons/ Bless Those Hands.”
The music of Emirati recording artist Hussein Al-Jassmi, who sang Bushret Khair, has been a feature of the Egyptian political scene Mursi was ousted. For example, the song Teslam Edanak (Bless Your Hands) reflects the tense relationship between Cairo and Gulf capitals under the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in its fulsome praise of the former defense minister. Part of the song, which is about Sisi, runs: “Bless your hands/ Who in your love for Egypt has sacrificed your years/ Who has always carried Egypt’s woes on your shoulders.”
Patriotic songs have played a crucial rule in the course of Egypt’s various revolutions, as far back as 1919—the era of the legendary singer Sayed Darwish, who died in 1923. But patriotic songs experienced their golden age under Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and the 1960s, particularly with artists such as Abdel Halim Hafez. During the January 25 revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, songs by both legendary artists were played alongside more contemporary hits.
The scene changed after July 3, 2014, when then-Lieutenant General Sisi announced that Mursi had been removed from his post. He then announced the new roadmap for Egypt’s political transition, which involved a new constitution and fresh presidential and parliamentary elections. Since then, Teslam Al-Ayadi has become an anthem for supporters of that second revolution.
The popularity of the song among supporters of Mursi’s removal angered the Brotherhood’s supporters, causing them to adopt their own songs critical of the army’s former leader. It remains to be seen if the success of Bushrat Khair will prompt them to write their own anthem for this month’s election.