Ramy: In the Frontline

We all saw the coverage of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, but who can say they’ve been in the same room as someone personally involved? Ramy wasn’t just a participant in the action; he became a musical icon during the public’s fight for freedom.

A story told with bravery that I’d challenge anyone not to feel humbled by.

Ramy is a singer-songwriter from Mansoura, Egypt with quite a story to tell. In his early years, Ramy describes himself as unassuming: a self-serving athlete with a quiet life surrounded by friends and family. His taking to the guitar wasn’t something that he would’ve predicted, let alone the attention he would one day receive for it. Ramy played an integral part in the uprising, where his songs (once played only to close friends and lovers) became the country’s soundtrack to liberty.

The minimal props – a desk with a lamp, a chair and a projector – allow the necessary room for a tale of this magnitude. Ramy uses visual aids to show us maps of his journey and videos of enlivened crowds that complete an inspiring picture of the Tahrir Square happenings. He’s casual in regarding his heroism, and throughout we are given the sense that, instead of him looking for a fight, the revolution stirred in him something that he hadn’t realised was always implicit: the desire to use his music as a weapon.

Aside from performances of some of his protest songs, which act as pleasant interludes to the tight chronology, the drama suggested in the description of the show as a ‘live report’ is somewhat misleading. In actual fact, the show benefits from an intimate approach, where we are made to feel more like a guest in Ramy’s living room than part of media action. His retelling is at its most impactful when stripped completely bare, for instance where he relays with method and diffidence the atrocities carried out by dictator Murbarak’s troops. It’s a story told with bravery that I’d challenge anyone not to feel humbled by.

‘The frontline,’ he says with characteristic valiance, ‘is the purest place ever, because you leave everything else behind.’ If only he could’ve spent five more minutes to explain his personal take on the country’s situation today as passionately as he described its recent past, he might have galvanised a room full of Europeans in the present moment, too. 

Reviews by Eva Hibbs

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Performances

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The Blurb

Tahrir Square, 2011. The Arab Spring. 22-year-old Ramy Essam stood singing battle songs with hundreds of thousands of other protesters, insisting on the resignation of President Mubarak. He became an iconic representation of the Egyptian people. Since then the violent events of the revolution have had a drastic impact on Ramy’s life and values. Today, he is exiled in Finland and Sweden, where he was offered sanctuary. He now tours internationally with his songs about democracy and peace. This is a live report where the audience gets to meet Ramy and takes part in his story.

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