It is possible, dear reader, when you next log onto You Tube, to happen upon the latest video clip by the legendary Egyptian singer Amr Diab, the song with a very special title: “Wahed Mennena”- which can be translated as: “One of Us”. Would the title not astonish you, and could you resist finding out who this ‘one of us’ is?
As soon as you play the clip, it will be immediately evident who it is about: the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. How lovely! The best Egyptian contemporary artist sings for the best leader in Egypt - and for his birthday!
In spite of the fact that we thought very hard and hesitated a lot about whether to classify this article as artistic, social or specify a new class for it (we considered ‘sucking up’), we decided to go on with it for many reasons. Most importantly, it is worth mentioning that this song is one of a kind. Until now, nothing compares to it in the entire Egyptian musical world, regarding its lyrics, music, and the very idea itself.
And if you think that there are songs that resemble it such as: Akid fi Masr (“Surely in Egypt”), Fi Hobb Masr (“For the Love of Egypt”) or even Ana Masri (“I am Egyptian”) - you are surely mistaken. “One of us” is different from all of the above on every level.
The main quality that distinguishes it as a truly unique production is that it is dedicated to the person of the President, at least the majority of it is. It is true that Amr Diab hasn’t neglected to mention some of the Egyptian qualities that are very far from being described as clichés, such as: the good heart, and the Nile that runs in his blood. But the song remains dedicated to the President, and the video clip doesn’t leave any room for doubt. If you insist on comparing it with another artistic work, at the most it can be seen as similar to Shaaban Abdel Rahim’s wonder, Benhebbak ya Rayyess (“We Love You oh Chief”) - which runs: “We thank God for your Healthy, oh chief, the overcomer of every difficulty, the overjumper of every fence”.
That brings us to another point that makes Amr Diab’s song so peculiar - its lyrics. They can be described as a poem, whose verses send a shiver through the spine: “He who has given sacrifices for his country, in order to get the daylight back, and for whom the name of Egypt had inspired victory, whose dream is ours, and sorrow ours, and who like us, has the Nile running in his blood, is then one of us, oh yes, one of us.”
How beautiful! How sensational! The video begins with historical scenes, in which the President is seen wearing his military uniform, the one that granted him his ‘eternal’ political rights. If you are asking yourself: “Why did Hosni Mubarak become the President of Egypt?” You should know, oh dearest reader, that the answer lies in the fact that it was he who opened the October War with the first air strike. That should stop you wondering about the connection between these two things, about why the author of the first air strike occupies the presidential seat for 27 years. Perhaps the reason is his sharp eyesight, without which no-one could be assigned to the Air Forces, and therefore he is truly the only one that can clearly see far ahead.
In another introductory scene of the video clip - that lasts for thirty seconds!! - the sheikh Shaarawy gives his blessing to the then new President, telling him these famous words: “If you were our destiny, may God reward you; and if we were yours, then may God help you prevail.” How amazing! How wonderful! The song begins - at last - after making you feel as if the presidential elections really were at the door, or as if the President really had passed away – and then you suddenly realise that it was only a video clip, after all.
Nevertheless, the scenes continue to revolve around the life and personality of President Hosni Mubarak. You see pictures of him in his flourishing youth, exhibiting his devotion to the country, expressed in his love story with the Air Force. Then the clip shows some photos of the President driving his private car (he is one of us, isn't he?), and then of him sipping a cup of tea with an Egyptian peasant, in one of the most famous scenes from the former presidential elections. Whether it was the peasant who prepared the tea or whether it was the president’s private cook, doesn’t really matter. What counts is that history remembered that he had afternoon tea, for that indeed assures us, in case we still had any doubts, that he is ‘one of us’.
That is followed by a series of pictures in which he shakes hands with common people, kissing children, and hugging young men. Everybody loves the President, so how can you not love one of us?
But don’t go thinking, dear reader, that the song is dedicated exclusively to the President. There are reports, from sources close to Amr Diab, that it was dedicated to Egypt and to the great Egyptians too! For at the end of the video, you see pictures of the Egyptian crème de la crème, and among them…Amr Diab! How modest! This modesty reveals to us another thing, which is that Amr Diab doesn’t contradict himself. If he sings a song called One of Us, placing himself on the A-list of Egyptian celebrities, it means that he is certainly one of them. Yes, Amr Diab is indeed one of them, and he insists on proving it to us.
There remains a confusing question: one of us or against us? Amr Diab answers without hesitation, surely one of us. What we know is that if Amr Diab sings, even if it is for the Egyptians – which is highly doubtful – he sings, most certainly, against all of them.
And here you have, dear reader, this masterpiece of Egyptian contemporary art.
Translated by Chimène Eid