DEARBORN/DETROIT — The free Concert of Colors series is an annual tradition for fans of world and cultural music in the Metro Detroit area, and this year’s edition, running through Tuesday, July 18 in multiple locations, includes a guest whose name may be familiar to those who followed the Egyptian revolution of 2011: Ramy Essam.
What began as a simple song in Tahrir Square played for small groups on acoustic guitar quickly transformed into performances for millions of protesters, all as Mubarak’s military looked on with a searing mix of disdain, anger and frustration.
Essam said he was not nervous during the historic performances.
“Nervous is not the word I would use”, he said to The Arab American News. “At the same time, in the beginning this was the most powerful experience I had as an artist.”
While Essam said he doesn’t like to use the word “scary”, he couldn’t help himself in describing his biggest performances, during which he led chants of “Down, Down Hosni Mubarak!”
“It was not a gig, it was human beings standing for their rights, protesting for their freedom”, he said. “The kind of energy I was receiving from the beginning wasn’t easy to handle in the beginning but after awhile I was nourished with this energy, then you just feel like the most powerful ever at that moment.”
Eventually, he fell victim to state-sanctioned violence: he was dragged 100 yards to a prison, beaten with sticks and clubs, and even electrocuted with a cattle prod.
But Essam stood his ground, and did not allow the harsh experiences to dampen his enthusiasm for the Egyptian people: four years later he was back in Tahrir Square, performing in support of a new revolution against the country’s military rule.
Essam performs in Detroit this weekend
Essam is currently an established rock artist with over 680,000 fans on Facebook, touring at five different locations this July.
The 32-year-old artist was expected to perform at The Arab American Museum in Dearborn on Thursday, and is scheduled to perform on July 13 at 3 p.m. at the Detroit Film Theatre’s main stage at the Detroit Institute of Arts on John R. Street in Detroit.
On July 14, he will also perform at the Michigan Theatre of Jackson from 7-9 p.m on 124 N. Mechanic Street.
A versatile artist capable of shifting between heavy and acoustic rock with equal skill, Essam performs with a band of both Swedish and Egyptian musicians and was recently awarded the Spirit of Folk Award by the Folk Alliance International.
For more information on Essam, visit his Facebook page @RamyEssamOfficial.
For more information on the Concert of Colors, which was established by former head of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) Ismael Ahmed, visit ConcertofColors.com.
You can also learn more about Essam’s story in the 60 Minutes interview below: