bio

Rock artist and human rights defender Ramy Essam is considered to be one of the loudest voices of today. His resilient journey from the hub of the Egyptian revolution to the international stages has included viral hits and awards as well as moments of struggle. With his background in being the voice of the streets of his country, Ramy today stands for social justice and human rights worldwide.

 

Ramy’s music is rock with Egyptian flavor and hiphop influences, inspired by hard rock and grunge. He sings in both Egyptian Arabic and English.

 

Said to be a beacon of uncommon bravery in the Middle East, Ramy Essam exploded into international fame in the Egyptian revolution starting in 2011 as his songs spread like wildfire among the demonstrators. During the height of the uprising, Ramy performed in front of hundres of thousands of people in Tahrir Square and became the voice of the revolution. His song Irhal demanding resignation of then-ruler Hosni Mubarak is referred to as the real anthem of the revolution. Irhal was listed as #3 Song That Changed History by Time Out Magazine.

 

In the revolution I was born again. The struggle became the purpose of my life. -Ramy Essam

 

But fame came with a heavy price. In 2011, Ramy experienced brutal torture and arrests. Since late 2013 his songs were banned, and he was forbidden from performing publicly. 

 

Ramy has lived in exile in Sweden and Finland since 2014, e.g. working in artist residencies hosted by ICORN and Artists At Risk. In addition to touring worldwide and releasing music, Ramy has performed in theatre pieces gaining five stars reviews internationally.

 

Ramy’s videos have been viewed nearly 30 million times across different platforms. One of his biggest hits is Segn Bel Alwan (feat. Malikah), a song about imprisoned women and gender equality, which has over 5.5 million views on YouTube.

 

In 2017, Ramy and PJ Harvey released song The Camp with music video built from footage by photographer Giles Duley. The artists donate all net profits from the track to Beyond Association, a Lebanese NGO which provides access to education and support for displaced children in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.

Music is the strongest peaceful weapon
in the world.
 -Ramy Essam

 

In February 2018 Ramy released a controversial song and music video Balaha aiming to raise discussion on the violence, oppression and corruption in Egypt. The video went viral with over millions of views in just days. Since then, the lyricist of the song, poet Galal El-Behairy as well as the director of the video Shady Habash have been arrested, and in 2018 Galal was sentenced to three years in jail. Read more >

 

Ramy has received plenty of awards for his music and activism. The latest prize, Václav Havel Prize of Creative Dissent was honored by the Human Rights Foundation in May 2019. Watch Ramy's speech >

 

Ramy is like a "Rock Bob Dylan of
the Middle East".
 –Tom Morello 

Albums

  • Manshourat (2011)

  • El Masala (2012)

  • Mamnoua' (2014)

  • Resala Ela Magles El Amn (2017)

Other releases

  • The Camp, with PJ Harvey (2017)

Awards & nominations

  • Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent (2019)
    Human Rights Foundation / Oslo Freedom Forum

  • Spirit of Folk Award (2017)
    Folk Alliance Festival

  • Music Rights Champion (2016)
    International Music Council

  • #3 on the list 100 songs that changed history
    Timeout Magazine

  • Freemuse Award (2011)
    FreeMuse

  • Freedom To Create Prize (2011)

Theatre Shows
  • Smash Up (2015)
    Unga Klara, Sweden

  • Ramy – In the Frontline (2016–)
    Theatre Viirus, Finland

Artist Residencies

  • Malmö, Sweden (2014 to 2016)
    by ICORN

  • Helsinki, Finland (2014 & 2016)
    by Perpetuum Mobile, Helsinki International Artist Programme,  Finnish Musicians’ Union and Finnish Music Council

  • New York, US / 2019
    by El Barrio's Artspace 

Articles

  • This Egyptian musician's passport was revoked for his political songs. He still can't wait to go home again.
    PRI The World, Marco Werman, 2019
    Read >

  • Ramy Essam at Paste Studio NYC live from The Manhattan Center
    Paste Studios, 2019
    Watch >

  • PJ Harvey, Ramy Essam Address Syrian Refugee Crisis in ‘The Camp’ Video
    Rolling Stone, Elias Leight, 2017
    Read >

  • Ramy Essam on life in European exile, his new album and his plans to return to Egypt
    The National, Saeed Saeed, 2017
    Read >

  • Vancouver Folk Fest 2017: Ramy Essam’s songs are beacons of hope
    The Georgia Straight, Alexander Varty, 2017
    Read >

  • BBC Documentary features Ramy Essam among musicians who “risk dying for a song”
    Enterprise, 2017
    Read & listen >

  • Meet Ramy Essam – The musician who led the 2011 Egyptian revolution in song
    Fuuse Voices, 2016
    Watch >

  • Ramy Essam needs to stay famous so he doesn't get killed
    BuzzFeed, David Peisner, 2015 
    Read >

  • 100 songs that changed history: #3 Ramy Essam – Irhal
    Time Out Magazine, 2011
    Read >

  • Ramy Essam at 60 Minutes
    CBS News, 2011
    Watch >

  • Ramy Essam: The Singer Of The Egyptian Revolution
    NPR, Steve Inskeep, 2011
    Read >

  • Ramy Essam: Singer catapulted to fame on Tahrir Square
    BBC World, Stephanie Hegarty, 2011
    Read >

Photo: Tim Bonea
Website: Sanni Kahilainen