For a couple of months now, I have been trying to interview a rapper from Cuba. His name is Maykel Osorbo. This is a collaborative interview with Freemuse, a non-profit organisation that advocates for and defends freedom of artistic expression worldwide.
The reason why this interview is coming along slowly is because Maykel is constantly being arbitrarily detained by Cuban authorities. We can only deduct that he is being detained for his music, lyrics and activism.
“Both Otero Alcántara and Osorbo are active members of Movimiento San Isidro – the collective of artists that fight for freedom of artistic expression and demonstrate against Decree 349 which came into effect on 7 December 2018 and continues to curb independent artists’ expression in Cuba. “
Shady Habash, the young Egyptian director of the video for the protest song Balaha has died inside the walls of Cairo’s Tora Prison. Habash was only 24 years old. He had spent 26 months in the prison after being charged with terrorism for taking part in creating said music video that authorities stated used insulting names for the Egyptian president.
The musician and activist in the video, Ramy Essam, paid tribute to his friend on Facebook saying that Habash was “the kindest and bravest of people. He never hurt anyone”. Essam is currently living in exile because of the Balaha video.
Essam finished his post by saying that it wasn’t a song that killed Shady Hasbah.
“What killed Shady was the dictatorship and the horrendous violation of his human rights, and we have to demand for the investigation of his death caused by denial of medical care. We have to stop the same violation happening to Galal El-Behairy and Mustafa Gamal, who are still behind bars because of a song, suffering from human rights violations as thousands of others.”
Essam created the Balaha Case campaign which raises awareness of and fights for the freeing of the rest of his artistic crew that are still in prison in Egypt.
Moroccan artists have long had to face serious oppression and attacks on to their freedom of expression. The latest victim of Moroccan government and police system is rapper Gnawi (real name Mohamed Mounir) who recently rapped on a track that criticizes the government and the economic division that young and older people experience on a daily basis.
The track’s lyrics cover a lot of ground and even criticize the king of Morocco which is a criminal offense in the country.
Apparently Gnawi can appeal the court’s decision. We at Shouts call upon the Moroccan government to stop oppressing free speech and artists’ freedom to create and work.
One can only wonder why governments are so afraid of music. After all, they are the ones with the big weapons – how much can a rap song harm them? A protest song is supposed inspire the masses though, and if successful, the people who listen and take the message to heart can join hands and tear down fascist governments.
That must be why governments put singers in prison. To prevent such possible damage to their powers. That is also why we must all keep on singing, and fight for the rights of those currently locked up.