Rage against the regime: The hip-hop artists spearheading Egypt’s underground social revolution

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Long before the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 sparked by protests in Cairo’s Tahir Square, local hip-hop artists had already been making music from underground spaces that rallied against the policies of then-president Hosni Mubarak and his regime.

From parkour to skateboarding to rapping, a network of artists in Alexandria has united in the purpose of expressing personal freedoms while denouncing what they feel are political injustices. Though similar in its form, the message of Egyptian rap artists is distinct from Western hip-hop in that it is rooted in anthems of protest. It speaks specifically to struggles within Arab countries while mixing traditional sounds and instruments. The rappers continue to speak against policies that were implemented during Mubarak’s regime, as well as those that persist under the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Some groups use percussion instruments made of recycled materials to comment on the need for environmental conservation. And now with fewer limitations on technology in the wake of the Arab Spring, artists are seeing more opportunities to release their message through audio and visual clips via YouTube and other streaming services.

Artists like prominent group Arabian Knightz, whose lyrics speak on behalf of rights for women and freedom from oppression, are increasingly anxious to continue the legacy of rallying for change and speaking on issues of human rights.

“Most of them have lyrics about political revolution. But nowadays this is not the main aspect,” photojournalist Gianmarco Maraviglia tells In Sight. “What is completely revolutionary is that a new generation of artists is taking a new approach, breaking the rules of tradition that is very different from the previous generations.”