195 - Sheikh Imam: Egypt's Voice of Dissent

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A blind oud player from humble beginnings, Sheikh Imam’s destiny changed drastically when he met a dissident poet called Ahmed Fouad Negm in 1960s Cairo, and they formed a duo. Together, they would go on start a new era in Egyptian popular music.

Their songs would shake regimes, travel the world on cassette tapes, and transcend their own time to become part of the soundtrack to Egypt’s revolution decades later. And they managed all of this while dealing with constant harassment by the state - including long periods in prison.

The story features two historians, one of Sheikh Imam’s collaborators, and a university lecturer who’s parents used to host Sheikh Imam’s concerts in their living room. The songs in this episode were composed and performed by Sheikh Imam and written by Ahmed Fouad Negm and Zein Alabidin Fouad. Lyric translations by Ahmed Hassan and Elliott Colla.

This episode was produced by Kerning Cultures Podcast—Nadeen Shaker, Heba El-Sherif, and Alex Atack, and edited by Dana Ballout. Fact checking was by Deena Sabry and sound design, music, and mixing by Monzer El Hachem. Voice over by Eihab Seoudi, and translation help from Maha El Kady. Cover art by Ahmad Salhab.

Many thanks to Kerning Cultures / Stories from the Middle East, North Africa, and the spaced in between.

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